Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pondering e-books

Within my lifetime -- nay, probably within a decade -- ink and paper books could become as antiquated as leather scrolls.

Every day brings more news about electronic books, once a prop of sci-fi novels, now a reality. Borders is studying a plan to take over Barnes and Noble, and e-books are very much a part of the discussion.

It's exciting to think that I could carry around the equivalent of a thousand books or so, in my pocket, ready to whip out and peruse wherever I may be.

But knowing me, I would probably drop the thing in the washing machine or leave it in a meeting hall somewhere. Would my collection transfer to a new e-book machine?

What if some future government decided I had no right to read a certain book? Would it mysteriously vanish from my machine or be blocked from being loaded in the first place? Would Big Brother track my e-book selections to ferret out my seditious leanings?

Friday, December 3, 2010

What is it about dogs lately?

I was getting into my car preparing to go home last evening when I saw a large black dog wandering in the street. Back and forth went my thoughts: It's probably from nearby, it'll probably find its way home, it's a big dog, if I approach it, maybe it will attack ...

Then I thought about the sweet little furball who is now part of our family. What if that was her, wandering out in danger? Wouldn't I pray that someone would help? Wouldn't we be devastated to find her crushed in the road?

So I called Animal Control. The phone rang endlessly. Well, it was about 5 p.m. They have the right to go home to their families like the rest of us. Still ... wouldn't you think they would have someone on hand for after-hour emergencies? Dogs don't wander just from 9-5.

I dialed the police department non-emergency line. They made no commitment to do anything. I hung up, screwed up my courage and tried to approach the dog. It ignored me and kept wandering south. I got out a slice of bread left over from lunch.

And so passed the next half-hour or so. Horrible half hour. Dog continuing to wander down the middle of the street. Some cars slowing down and carefully going around the dog. Some cars occupied by lead-footed, hell-spawn who deserve to be reincarnated as lost-dogs-in-traffic if there is any justice in the universe -- narrowly missing the dog as they roared past it without slowing in the least. I give credit to the driver of a large bus who managed to bring his big vehicle to a complete halt and not hit the animal, without swerving into another lane. I give less credit to those who honked their horns at the poor animal as they went on by it. That doesn't help.

I think I've mentioned I hate UPS. That's one reason. Those ugly brown trucks blast along even residential roads like gunmen are chasing them. When one thundered past, I thought it would be over for the dog. Missed by a hair. I renewed my long-time vow never, ever to do any business with UPS. I will never forget the piece of human garbage who killed a huge turtle in front of me years ago that I was manuevering to save. If he didn't see me, and the turtle, he was blind as a cave shrimp. He was driving a UPS truck, no surprise. The turtle was so big his damned truck nearly tipped over. I wish it would have.

I followed the dog in my car, stopping each time I got close and getting out, trying to talk to it and waving the piece of bread. The dog resolutely ignored me. Finally, it wandered away from the deadly big streets and into a quiet neighborhood -- huge relief. I called the police again. I gave them the location. By now, it was dark and I could no longer see the black dog. He was somewhere in somebody's yard. There was absolutely nothing I could do. I drove around the area one more time, trying to see him. Maybe he had indeed made it back home.

So, not a happy ending, not one that I would witness at least. Sometimes, all you can do is try.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So now we have a dog ... again

It has been about six years since our black Lab passed away, a stray that wandered into our hearts.

Once again, we have been adopted. This time, the dog is a little Jack Russell -- very loving but a handful.

I am tired this morning. Tired from having had to find the temporary rescuer's home last night somewhere in the middle of the city. She could not keep her another night, and we have almost run out of possible friends to adopt the dog. Tired from waking up in the middle of the night to take the little dog outside since we are not sure yet how housebroken she is.

We were spoiled with our Lab. He liked being outside and when inside for storms and cold, he was unerringly house trained. This dog will need to stay indoors and needs some work ... has already made a pile in the living room.

But she is so cute running around the house with her mangled Snoopy doll in her mouth.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Honeybee

The amazing creature that is the honeybee ...


And the comments below the article reference the new (to me at least) idea of being a bee steward. Setting up a hive with no intention to harvest it for honey, just to give bees a chance at survival.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


While eating lunch with my mentoree today, I witnessed a typical interaction for that age group. Really, a typical interaction for any age group -- but as we age, we learn to refine the methods of our meanness.

On one side is a Girl who obviously has a crush on him -- maybe doesn't even realize that's what it is. We'll call Her Natasha. In the middle is my mentoree, a fifth grade student. Call him Michael. On the other side is some boy in the class who is friends with Michael. Call him Shawn.

At lunch today, Natasha obviously has a beef with Shawn. He is to be ostracized, apparently for resorting with his other friends to namecalling of Her and Her friends. Michael wants to be friends with both of them. Natasha instructs Michael not to. She teases him, pokes him, scolds him, warns him not to.

I am supposed to be a "buddy" to Michael. I am not supposed to lecture or compel him to make moral decisions. I presume that means his friends as well. The idea for the mentoring program is that I am to be a friend, not another authority figure.

So how do I proceed? I finally tell Natasha, gently but firmly, to leave Michael alone because I would hate to have to report Her behavior to their teacher. I don't know without reading Michael's mind how much of Her behavior crosses the line from teasing between friends to outright bullying. Certainly if the roles were reversed and some boy was pinching, poking and arm twisting a Girl, I would immediately intervene.

Then I say, "We should all get along." Gack, sounds like some pot-huffing hippie.

Then I talk with admiration about my best friend in high school who made friends with everyone, the cool kids and the ones on the edge.

Natasha thinks about it for a few moments. She has a murmured conversation with Shawn. Then She tells Michael: "You can be friends with Shawn if you want."

I have never been a parent. So I do not have the skills that parents develop. Did I intervene unnecessarily in this instance? Or should I have done even more?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The future is decidedly Female?

Matt Thornhill, president of the Boomer Project, has written a fascinating column this week, entitled, "The Future is Decidedly Female." He based some of his reasonings upon an article in The Atlantic, "The End of Men," by Hannah Rosin.

Their arguments are sound and convincing, for a thesis that the modern, post-industrial society may be better suited to Women.

In education, in industries showing growth patterns, even in life satisfaction studies for today's productive age-60 and up life stage, Women are taking the lead.

These are simple, emperical facts, not wishful thinking on the part of ardent Feminists.

For me, it raises a number of questions. I have always believed that Women have a slight edge of greatness over men in virtually every aspect of life, except the primitive application of brute force, which has historically been used to hold them back. (I.e, if you have an opiniated Woman in your village who won't kowtow to male leadership ... declare Her a witch and drag Her to the square to be burnt.)

But I am a man myself and must examine my place in the new reality. It is one thing to malign glass ceilings when they still exist and pat yourself on the back as forward-thinking and magnaminous. It is another thing entirely to behave appropriately in a day-to-day world in which glass ceilings have been shattered and the tide of change calls your bluff.

To make historical parallels: It was one thing to be a West German calling for the Berlin Wall to come down; another thing entirely to live in a reunited Germany. It was one thing to be an ardent, antibellum abolitionist, another thing entirely to handle the reality of post-Civil War free African-Americans competing for employment, living in your neighborhood and dating your daughters.

If the trends continue, and Women come to fully outnumber men in government, business and other fields of life, how shall we men react? Our options are:

To fight back, reimposing male domination;

Surrender and crawl into corners to lick our wounds and stagnate;

Or learn how to handle the new reality in a manner that benefits humanity overall.

Of course, I support the latter option. Fair competition for excellence, can only be a good thing. As Women can learn from men in some aspects of leadership and success, so can men learn from Women.

Very interesting food for thought.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feeling like Squidward

This comparison will make no sense to a person not well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of Squidward Tentacles. Watch a Spongebob marathon, then get back to me.

I feel like Squidward today after his encounter with Squilliam Fancypants. I just came across the Curriculum Vitae of my old college roommate, who is now Dr. So and So, a professor at Such and Such University, with a list of honors and published works that takes up two pages and is probably heavily abridged.

Me, I'm just me. Same old unremarkable job,nothing published, house in need of repair, growing old in obscurity.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled non-self-pity program.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Of course

It figures ...

That on the morning that my car satellite radio is broadcasting the last chapter of a very exciting book, promptly at 6:30 a.m. as I am on the way to work ...

I would be out of gas and have to stop.

And that the !^%$& pump wouldn't take my card so I would have to go stand in line and prepay inside.

And that three or four schlubs in front of me would be wasting their paychecks and all of our time buying lotto tickets.

And that the clerk would insist that the pump is just fine and send me back outside to try again.

And that of course the pump still wouldn't work and I would have to go back inside with my teeth grit and stand behind another schlub and prepay inside in spite of his protestations that the pump is working just fine.

Things like that are supposed to happen on Mondays, not Fridays.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dog saga

I saw her last week, a blur of white, as she darted away from my car as I pulled into the driveway.

Animals of all kinds come and go through my little neck of the woods and it's live and let live. Bird-stalking cats, my least favorite, get a hiss or a hose blast, nothing more.

But this little dog stayed around. A full day passed and I realized she wasn't passing through on her way back home somewhere. She had been abandoned. No collar, no tags. She was starving and miserable, scratching fleas non-stop. And she appeared to be pregnant.

That was Thursday. I made the decision to get involved. That is not done lightly. You can't get started, then quit when complications arise. I warmed up a piece of sausage and sat on the ground and nibbled a little of it to get her attention. She stayed a few yards away, watching warily. After about a half hour, she retrieved a piece that I tossed gently in her direction.

We bought some dog food and I laid it on a plate and put a blanket beside it. She came to the plate, ate her fill and went to sleep on the blanket. Still, was not willing to come close to me.

Saturday we sat apart on the ground for a while. Then I got up and went off to plant a pine sapling at the edge of the woods. Suddenly, she was there, beside me, sniffing at my shoe. She did not dart away as I petted her head. The gulf of fear had been crossed. There are no suitable words for such a moment.

Long story short: We can't keep her -- we have an old, fearful bird already in residence in our home. But a good, trustworthy friend has just agreed to take her in. The dog is not pregnant, the vet says. The fleas and the torment of their itch is gone, thanks to a bath and medicine. And no more will she ever need to fear the raising of a human hand.

What a tumultuous week we have had. How precious is a happy ending!

The Law of Give and Take

... If I remove a book from the shelf in my room and sell it somewhere, my library is slightly diminished, though I may gain a dollar or two for my wallet. Each time that I remove another book, the shelves grow more bare. Now suppose that thousands of books are being removed from thousands of shelves, for sale, and the ones not sold are being buried forever in massive piles outside the city limits.

When I see the glorious abundance piled up in my local grocery store these days, I sometimes think: Each apple, each cucumber, each banana, represents a little bit of vitality from the soil of some farm somewhere. Each one not sold will end up in a landfill, its quotient of biomass locked up indefinitely. Each one sold and eaten may fare somewhat better, spread as a bio-solid somewhere, but still, the farmland whence it originated is the poorer.

Will there come a day when our agricultural soils are impoverished beyond repair, our breadbasket lands as bare of nutrients for life as the blowing sands of a desert dune?

More and more as I grow older, I am recognizing there is no free lunch, no action without a consequence, no action without an equal and opposite reaction. It is natural law, whether in the wilderness or in the societies of humankind. Cutting down a forest to build a gas station has a consequence. Trees will be burned and carbon released. Those animals which cannot quickly flee, such as box turtles, will be killed and over their bodies and the soil a hard concrete shell will be poured, blocking the rain that for eons soaked into that ground and replenished life.

Passing laws to "give" everyone "free" health care has a consequence, too. When one receives, another must have given, somehow, somewhere, to make it happen ... by choice or by force.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Charlie Brown was the master of a certain expression of agony that is today largely replaced in pop-culture by reference to various forms of poop.


It always rose in shaky black font letters above his unhappy head.

Today is an aargh day for me. Today I know how he feels.

In spite of writing the event down on not one but two calendars ...

In spite of a personal phone call that I received yesterday reminding me ...

Still I went about my work this morning somehow believing that Thursday (i.e., tomorrow), not Wednesday (i.e., today), was the day of the big event.

It was no less than a very important community meeting in which I would not only represent the school district, not only make the announcement that our school district would host the next meeting, but also would receive a nice, hot lunch.

Someone called me from the meeting an hour into it. My absence had been noticed.

Not that it did any good but I drove on out there post-haste, too late to do much of anything, certainly too late for the lunch.

I missed kicking the proverbial football and I can't even blame Lucy for this one.

I sat through what was left of the meeting with my tummy rumbling. I drove back to the office in the rain and ate a cold tuna sandwich alone in the break room.

Why is there some stubborn, stupid, part of me that resists looking at my calendars, that fights so hard against the attempt of the rest of me to actually be an organized, productive human being? Why cannot I extricate that part of me, pluck it out like some kind of tapeworm, kick its sorry %$^, then throw it beaten and bloody into the cargo hold of a plane bound for Mogadishu?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mastery of metaphor

“I led him up the dark stairs, to prevent his knocking his head against anything, and really his damp, cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.” – David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

Friday, October 15, 2010

To be my friend ...

... To be my friend, requires a special kind of person.

You must be willing to endure what most people call being ignored, for indefinite periods of time, then take up where we left off. You must not take this personally. I have scatterings of friends all over the world and I attempt to tend to them all in turn. I stay busy with this frenetic, fascinating thing called life.

Plus, I am a military brat and shaped by ADHD, too. I'm not really sure I know all the rules or have the ability to form the deep, empathetic, sympathetic bonds that most people do. (How my Beloved endures me, is an unfathomable mystery.) I get uncomfortable hanging out and making small talk. I need to be doing. I'd rather help you tear up your deck than sit in your living room.

You must understand that I crave knowledge, but that to crave and to have are two different things. You must understand the difference between a know-it-all and a wants-to-know-it-all and not presume, when I bring up Augustus Caesar or Augustine of Hippo, or the Paleozoic Era, that I am challenging your personal intellect.

You must understand that when I make a promise to you, I WILL keep it, eventually,if it can wait. But if you need something immediately, like your furniture moved, I'm there.

In Chicago, of all places

I have heard it said, and I believe it:

The tropical rainforest is important and we should teach its conservation. But it is equally important for an American child to love and value the forest just beyond his own backyard, that he or She may mature into a grown-up who cares.

Only today I have learned of a tiny, unique little flower, believed extinct. In a purely material sense, who knows what pharmaceuticals might have been extracted from it for the benefit of humankind? Thismia apparently had a relationship with local soil fungi. Perhaps it produced botanical chemicals to ward off other fungi or bacteria.

Who knows what a study of its DNA and habitat might have added to the discussion of continental drift, and how it came to be so far from its only living relatives in Australia.

You see, this little flower, thismia, wasn't found on some pristine Montana prairie, not even in a deep Smoky Mountains forest. It was found, in 1916, in a wetland in ...

... Chicago.

And since the initial report by a sharp-eyed scientist, it has never been seen again. And in the years following, someone smothered the site in fill dirt. And no one really cared, because it was Chicago after all, a city, not some wild wilderness. And so we may never know its story.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The man from Tagaste

This week, I finished my reading of Confessions, by St. Augustine, described as the world's first autobiography.

I will not attempt to write a book review. The book was published 1,600 years ago and I am sure that whole libraries could be filled with the commentaries already printed about it. Plus, the latter half of the book was incomprehensible to me, reminding me forcefully, in paragraph after paragraph, of the severe limitations of my personal I.Q. number.

The logical next step is to read City of God, by the same. Logical, that is, for someone of my ilk who is either completely insane, a sado-masochist or an incorrigible optimist.

Some thoughts came to my mind that I will share:

Tagaste, birthplace of St. Augustine, is in modern-day Algeria. Scarely four centuries after Augustine, that whole region of the world was conquered by Islam and has remained in its orbit ever since. If Augustine had been born there in the seventh century A.D., rather than the third, would his astounding intellect have made history in the service of Islam, rather than Christianity? Would Christianity have gone down a different pathway without an Augustine to guide it from the Roman Empire into the Medieval Era? How different might Islam have been with him as its champion and a shaper of doctrine?

In City of God, Augustine will attack the premise of the day that the oh-so-recent sack of Rome (410 A.D., by Alaric, an event of huge pyschological impact, even though Rome's glory days were long gone and the heart of the Empire was now far east) was the fault of the Christian faith that the Empire had adopted.

It is not so well-known that the "barbarian Germans" who trashed the Eternal City, were in fact Christians. They were Arian Christians, believing that the Son was not equal to the Father. Arian (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ARYAN) and so-called orthodox Christianity waged war for centuries against each other for the title of true Christianity. The reach of Arianism extended all the way into China before it finally began to lose the battle.

I don't know everything about Augustine, obviously. I wonder how much time he spent in the contest between Catholicism and Arianism. I know he spilled quite a bit of ink attacking the Gnostic sect, Manicheism, that had once held his allegiance. If he had trained his cerebral guns on Arianism instead of Manicheism, would Christianity have been different?

Some historians consider Islam to be a sort of hybrid Christianity. After all, the faith accepts the New Testament and accepts Jesus as a prophet. However, anyone who has read the Quran, realizes early on that Islam fervently rejects the notion that God could ever have a son, let alone that such a son could be His equal.

Did Arianism help pave the way for Islam?

These are just a few of the questions now banging around in my mostly empty head.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Honey, about that hike to France we planned ...

In August of this year, archaeologists reported the discovery of the oldest-known house in Britain -- 6,000 years older than Stonehenge.

It was built, they said, when Britain still was connected to continental Europe.

That gets me thinking. That means there had to be some particular day when humans in Britain woke up and discovered that they were suddenly upon an island. What was their reaction? Was it cataclysmic -- suddenly a churning channel where children had picked flowers the day before? Or was it an oh-so-gradual rise, with a few inches of water between France and England building to its current depth over the course of centuries?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Upon contemplating the strong, young arms of Hilary Hahn as She plays Tchaikovsky.

Sturdy, strong
strutting like a stallion
pawing our piece of earth.

Supple sapling
we hold our fruit high upon
bold, brash branches.

We are first, fresh, forever.

Squirrely etymology

So ... the German word for what we call in English a squirrel, translates to oak-kitten. Cute.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Even happier post ...

I just got off the phone with my Beloved. It was such a pleasure to hear Her voice, soft and sweet in my ear, talking about what She has been doing today.

No man is more blessed than the man who has a Woman in his life to cherish, honor and uplift. Service, devotion and dedication to the happiness of a Woman, makes the life of a man complete, makes him whole.

My first childhood friend, as a mere toddler, was a little blonde neighbor Girl, followed a few years later by naive plans to marry Melissa Gilbert, star of Little House on the Prairie. I cannot remember a time when I ever believed Girls had "cooties," or a time when I did not count Them among my cherished friends. I was writing gooey love notes in third grade. From fifth grade, I still cherish the memory of a classmate named Dawn, who was truly a gifted artist -- and I still have one of Her drawings to remember Her by.

And then of course, adolescence turned the steady little flame into an inferno which has not yet burned out.

I read in a motivational book today about a fool of a man whose dear Wife gave him a picture of Herself for their anniversary. She had planned it elaborately, consulted with Her friends to pick out the prettiest dress, the prettiest pose, the prettiest hairstyle, even the perfect frame to put it in. She was so excited that She even gave the photo to him early.

And what did the imbecile do? He said that She looked like a slut and threw the picture down. The result was years of therapy for Her to rebuild Her shattered self-esteem, and, of course, a divorce from the caveman.

Some part of me should feel sorry for such a man, wandering alone in the mists of moronity, doomed to grow old with only his stupidity for company. Most of me wants to find him and throw him off a bridge.

But then I think about the beam in my own eye, the times that I have overridden my Beloved in conversation, the times that I have not taken Her ideas seriously, the times that I have initiated arguments because I was tired or whatever.

She still loves me, thanks be to heaven, in spite of it all. And I am a blessed, blessed man.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy post

Okay, I realize that some of my recent posts have been grouchy. Not today. Had a blast with my Sweetie at the county fair. Finished reading a wonderful book, Three Cups of Tea, about humanitarian work in Pakistan. Feeling great.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Apparently, some people really do not have a life ...

I was quite surprised to receive an ugly email this morning from an ugly-souled person regarding an ugly picture.

In some blog post here from more than a year ago, I used a photo from the internet of an ant -- an ant of all things -- to illustrate the point I was making.

Now, suddenly that appears to be a problem for that photo-snapper, who insisted that it be removed immediately. Big deal. It's down. Go find something else to whine about.

I don't make any money from this blog. I claim credit for a picture only when I have taken it myself. So lighten up. We are fellow enthusiasts of nature but your peevishness gives the passion a bad name.

I really hope, oh sad soul, that you do not waste too much of the time that you could be spending on your photography, policing blogs. You'll go insane.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Doin' the moron mosey

"You're bringin' on the heartbreak
Bringin' on the heartache." --Def Leppard

Oh, you child of churlishness
you stalwart of stupidity
didn't your parents ever teach you
to look both ways?

My laptop and my lunch go flying
from passenger seat to the floor
My blood boils
and I hail you with my horn

Consider yourself lucky
that I blasted your ears
and didn't break your bones
with my bumper

You give a shrug
you idiot you
"What, me worry?"
Oh, you'd worry all right

If you woke up shattered
in a hospital bed
or worse, in that corner of hell
reserved for the incorrigibly stupid

You are a man in body
but with the naivete of a newborn newt
and the cranial capacity
of a punch-drunk 'possum.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Duck dread

Anatidaephobia - The fear that some time, somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.

Cf. http://phobialist.com

I do not have this phobia. Just so's you know.

Nor am I bothered excessively by spiders and snakes, crowds, clowns or what lies ahead for me after I die.

I do fear needles and razor blades, claustrophobic situations, the rise of China as a 21st century military power, elevated superhighways, my own eventual old age and unemployment.

What do you fear? I promise not to laugh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Yesterday I was invited to a lunch meeting with several regional representatives for the kind of work that I do.

Now, if I do say so myself, I consider myself at least as smart as the average bear. So it was very humbling to struggle to keep up with their conversation and to feel, quite frankly, like a six-year-old accidentally dropped off on a college campus.

I will never be invited to join Mensa. From time to time, that is made painfully clear to me.

On a lighter note: I had one dollar with me that day, since payday is still several days away, so my Beloved and I had agreed that I could put my lunch on the credit card.

"Just don't spend a lot," She said.

So I scanned the menu and found the cheapest thing on it, some kind of cheese and artichoke appetizer for six bucks that I could have made at home with a 50 cent jar of artichokes and some Cheez Whiz.

I ate my little meal whilst my lunch companions dined on huge, fancy sandwiches, fries and other succulent fare. I felt sorry for myself but hey, that's life. I also ate most of the garlic rolls in the communal plate since everybody else was busy with their food whilst mine had taken about twenty seconds to eat.

The time came to pay our respective bills.

"I'll cover this, my treat," said the meeting-organizer to us.

NOW he tells me.

Poverty sucks.

The harvest ...

Last weekend, my Niece could hardly stand to finish Her dinner,so eager was She to get out into the backyard and help me, as She had been promised She could, to harvest the ripe Concord grapes.

She quickly dispatched the low-hanging ones, of course popping the purpley-est ones into Her mouth along the way. Then She took care of the ones that She could reach from a chair.

Since I have no ladder, the rest of them hanging from the top of the arbor posed a problem. Ah, but not to an enterprising nine-year-old!I was quickly drafted to put Her upon my shoulders.

"Am I too heavy?" She asked several times. With my face full of grape leaves and with bits of stems and detritus raining down upon me, I answered back, firmly:

"Absolutely not."

It was a bit of a fib. She is nine now, as noted, not five. My back and shoulders started to go numb fairly soon, but I gritted my teeth and said nothing, as She happily plucked and pulled grapes somewhere in the leaves above my head and I kept my grip upon Her ankles to prevent disaster.

Not if every disc in my back screamed at me was I going to give this child, who has been teased about Her weight [which weight, I hasten to add, is absolutely normal for Her age], any notion that She is too heavy.

So we persevered until She had a great big bag stuffed full of ripe, sweet Concord grapes.

"I hope," I told my Beloved later, "that She has a memory to cherish for a lifetime from this."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aint' fair, Momma!

I suppose that compared to being born in some horrible place like North Korea or Somalia instead of the United States ...

... or being diagnosed with a terminal illness when you've spent your life eating right and exercising ...

... my little whine is pathetic and I deserve to be slapped in the face with a wet fish until I cry.

But how is it that the summer working hours in my school district are M to Thu 7:30 to 5:30 with a half-hour lunch break, and I have just learned that the special gifted school in our city works from 8 to 4, M to Thu with an hour lunch break?

"Mama, Billy got more orange juice in his cup than me!"

"Shut up, you snot-nosed little cockroach, before I beat your backside! Your brother is recovering from scurvy, that's why."

[Cue sniffles and sobs.]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do the right thing for the Iroquois, Britain!

"An American Indian lacrosse team that refuses to accept U.S. passports will not be allowed entry into England for the world championship of the sport the Iroquois helped invent, the British government said yesterday," according to the Associated Press.

The Iroquois' own passports have not yet been fulled upgraded to a new, higher-security version, the explanation goes.

The chances of these lacrosse players turning out to be secret terrorists hoping to blow up Albion seem quite remote to me.

Change your mind, Great Britain. Do the right thing. The Iroquois (Haudenosaunee)have been a nation since long before there was a United States or a Canada.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Warhol morning

I am stuck behind a Ford Focus that is stuck behind someone else that is stuck behind someone else ...

The Focus is splattered with bumper stickers that are too small to read without risking a wreck, but the vanity plate intrigues ...


I presume the intention is to honor Warhol, Andy. The artist.

That someone would go to the expense and time-consumption of acquiring a plate to celebrate Andy, sets my thoughts a-spinning. I try to glimpse the driver, a man probably a few years older than me. Probably would be very interesting to sit down and chat with in a coffee house.

We are between cities and I wonder if he is traveling to mine. But my natural impatience eventually overcomes my curiosity and I shift lanes and leave him behind.

"Whammer Jammer" by J. Geils Band is playing on the radio. Great start-of-a-summer road trip kind of song. I thrash around appropriately in my car. But sadly, I am going to work, not play.

I think about that old country song, something to the effect that every day, a man pulls up to a certain stoplight in town and must make a decision: right means home to the Wife, kids, mortgage; left leads to the open road.

In the corner of my eye I glimpse a bearded guy sitting on a box by the side of the freeway, playing a guitar. Surreal. But since I am now going 81 mph in the left lane, I have deprived myself of the chance for a closer look, I am half a mile beyond him before my brain clicks into gear. Oh well. Surely in my life I will again see a bearded guy sitting on a box by the side of a freeway playing guitar and next time I will be going slow enough to pull to a stop and have a chat.

Billy Idol is screaming "White Wedding" on the radio. Against my will and the mood of the music, I slow down. Don't care to give a traffic cop a score for the morning.

I pull into the dismal parking lot of my place of employment just as Pink Floyd begins "Us and Them." I consider sitting there and grooving to the whole song and being rather late. I shut off the music and begin another day.

I will make the right turn at the stoplight tonight.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Word of the day: Ab


From the Egyptian.

The spirit of the heart. Seat of the will. After you kick the bucket, push up daisies, buy the farm, knock on the Pearly Gates, game over, your ab tells all and your afterlife is based upon its report.

So to borrow from the world of aviation, it is the "black box" of your life's journey.

Be good to your ab.

Monday, July 12, 2010

In praise of great Women -- Oriana Fallaci


One word in whose echoed sound reverbrates every horror of human history.


Philosophers ponder it. Other men covet it. Tyrants wrap their bloody fingers around it; the democratically minded try to control it by spreading it, by balancing it.

Power is like the elements of the ancients: fire, wind, water -- forces for great good, and for great evil.

The late Oriana Fallaci simply loathed it.

"I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomen," She once wrote.

Ms. Fallaci was the child of socialists. I see in Her life echoes of the late George Orwell, also a socialist early in life, who famously wrote against the horrors that it spawned.

I was too young to know of Ms. Fallaci in Her prime,during the 1970s and 1980s. But I am fascinated by this Woman who, according to the Washington Post, in Her long career as an interviewer "stripped apart the world's most powerful people."

She once confronted the Ayatollah Khomeini, no task for the faint-hearted. She also tackled Kissinger, Deng Xiaoping, even Sean Connery. The political left which cheered Her when She challenged what they spurned, was disgusted when She aimed the guns of Her intellect at their own sacred cows.

Continuing from the Post: "She [brought] to the interviews a ferocious manner that belied her diminutive, often-pigtailed appearance."

Ms. Fallaci was Italian-born, June 29, 1929 and passed away September 15, 2006. Like another Woman who I greatly admire,the late Audrey Hepburn, as a child She aided the resistance against WWII fascism. It is interesting to contemplate, though, the two very different paths those Women chose to take following that season of "bombing, terror and hunger."

Somewhere out there in the world are good and honest people who had the privilege of knowing this Woman -- and scoundrels whose pyschological clothing She ripped off in front of the world.

What an amazing Woman She was!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Adventures in the Amateur's Kitchen -- enter and dine at own risk

I set my heart on making a new recipe last night, Caribbean Shrimp.

I got home at the usual hour, 6 p.m., and discovered I had no rotini pasta, as called for. I fumed. My Beloved suggested that the "pasta" entry on last week's grocery list should have been more specific, because obviously I had only bought macaroni -- our contribution to the family Fourth of July.

So out to the store we went. Saw no rotini at the Dollar Store. Went to the regular grocery. Discovered there to my annoyance (readers, please cover your eyes if ignorance offends you) that rotini pasta is the same thing as "spirals," which the dollar store had had. A fancy foreign label that added about 50 cents to the price.

Got the $#%^ pasta and headed home. 6:45 p.m. Recipe called for green pepper. Minced. Thought we had a whole green pepper. We had one lonely little fragment up in the freezer. No big deal -- Sweetie doesn't like green pepper much anyway.

Never had found the required chili paste anywhere for sale, so tried to find a recipe online at home. Browsed about three that all called for three or four ridiculously exotic ingredients. Decided that chili powder would do just fine. Sweetie reminded me that She doesn't much care for chili powder, so I sighed and halved it.

You must peel and seed the tomato before mincing it, said the recipe. Do you know how hard it is to peel a tomato? I peeled as much as I could before reaching the danger point when a person is very close to simply beating the tomato to death with his fist. Remove the seeds, said the recipe. The hell with that. Who cares if there are tomato seeds in the pasta?

The ginger root was not much easier to peel than the tomato. Somehow, I managed, without also peeling my fingers.

Now things were rolling. Mix this, boil that.

The cheap salad shrimp that we bought, eschewing the pricier normal shrimp, shrank down to the size of watermelon seeds upon cooking. Ah well, you get what you pay for.

Of course, even though we had every other spice ever dried and ground and sold by man, we were out of curry. I ransacked the fridge before remembering that I threw our supply out two months ago because it was at least a decade old. Called the in-laws. They had some. It was about a decade old. "You can have it," Mom-in-law said. "The whole jar. I hate the stuff."

At long last, dinner was ready. Circa 8 p.m.

Sweetie did not like it.

"It's too hot."

"There is nothing HOT in this recipe," I said.

"The chili powder," She said.


I will not be making this recipe again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Incident Report

I crouched upon the top of a step-ladder, screwing a hook into the wood to hang the new wind chimes at the in-laws' house.

Hard as a fist, hard as the blow from a baseball bat, something struck me on the side of the head.

My attacker was the fast-spinning wooden blade of the porch fan, which had lashed out at my cranium's crass and clueless invasion of its orbit.

So I sat there for a while that afternoon, in the muggy porch heat, holding an ice-pack to my head, musing upon my talent for clumsiness -- a lifetime of broken toes, broken ankles, sprains, gashes, burns and concussions.

I am back at my work desk now, with a decent-sized gash upon my temple, contemplating. Years back, a little Girl, God forgive Her for She knew not what She did, whispered to a friend as I passed by, that I looked a lot like Frankenstein. Today, I am a little closer to that ideal. Maybe I will have a manly scar from it all and I can blame it on a bar-room brawl. Ya shoudda seen da other guy.

And not being a big-time celebrity, this may be the only time in my life I can report, that I was assaulted by a fan.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Strange things from York

Ah, York.

Little northern English town that started as a Roman settlement, much later inspired New York in the New World.

In old York lately they dug up a bunch of old bones -- headless human skeletons -- while clearing for a housing development.

Experts think they have discovered a cemetery for Roman gladiators.

We are conditioned to think gladiator=Colliseum-in-Rome, but apparently those tough dudes ranged all over the empire to satisfy the blood lust of the citizenry. Even, apparently, to old York, as far from the Eternal City as one could get and still be in the Empire.

One of the items of forensic evidence is that something very large and carnivorous apparently chewed on one of the poor guys in his last moments of life.

To quote Michael Wysocki, an expert who studied the skeletons, for those who suggest these might have been your average daisy-push-uppers:

"It would seem highly unlikely that this individual was attacked by a tiger as he was walking home."


Thursday, July 1, 2010

So goeth the year

(Above: Moon River by Jay Ouellet)
Here we are in July. With the dawning of this day, we have entered the seventh month, and passed the half-way point of the year. The summer solstice is already weeks behind us. And we are just a few months away from officially entering the second decade of the new millennium. (The experts will tell you that 2010 still belongs to the first decade).

I can remember reading "1984" in grade school, when it still referred to a future date. I can remember calculating in third grade, how old I would be when the millennium turned. Seemed so distant.

Gone are the peas and raspberries in the garden, their season of the year having ended. Silent are the spring peepers, yielding to the summer chorus of the katydids.

Time flows on and I am but a little twig, a leaf, floating upon its river into the sea.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


So I am a little behind but I just heard this song for the first time today. Like the song, love the string instrumental intro, hate the fact that I can't figure how to post a clickable link on this blog.

Well, if you are willing to copy and paste, you are in for a treat.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A man is a facade ...

I put on a clean shirt, clean pants and a tie every day. I scrape off the beard that insists on trying to grow anew each morning. I behave in a serious, respectable, responsible manner. I project dignity, gravitas and maturity -- or at least make an effort.

It's all a sham.

I am just a little boy trapped in this overgrown man-shell, who would happily spend the day examining ant hills and splashing in puddles if I could.

And I am just a teenager still riding the raging stallion of passions that will dog me,probably, until the day I die. I cherish the gold band upon my left hand and my beautiful Beloved is and always will be my Goddess, She and no other. But I would be a liar if I were to say that there is no other beauty in the world and even if there were, the presence of such beauty would have no effect upon me.

A visitor came to my office today -- like my Sweetie, a trim, brunnette Lady with a delightful smile. She wanted to talk about a computer system that we have installed. I kept a professional air, forced myself to look away when She leaned over the desk, refrained from drooling -- in short, struggled mightily in a manner that I certainly would not have, in the presence of some aging, balding man.

Why is it so hard in such a situation to even make eye contact?

Ah, I am pathetic. All men are pathetic. Marionettes dangling from invisible strings. Monkeys nicely dressed up to mingle with the crowd.

Do You Women just laugh at us amongst Yourselves?


Oh, life is an epic opportunity!

For a few short years, we sojourn upon this planet and then continue on, I hope, to even bigger and better things.

To every human being belongs the sunrise and the sunset, rain upon your face and the pleasure of food upon your tongue, however meagre your daily allowance may be. Some cannot see or hear or walk but still, there are joys to be found in your life -- no living being is without the gift of any senses at all.

To all of us belong hands or the equivalent tools, and a brain, whether that of a genius or just an ordinary Joe, or even a brain that has certain limitations -- still, we all have the tools to make our world a little better.

I wake up each morning with a list of things to do of which only a fraction will get done. Yet I persist. There are books I must read, music to experience, friendships to strengthen, new foods to taste, thoughts I must write down, places I have not yet put my feet.

There are times when I lay my head down on my pillow at night so tired that I immediately go to sleep -- other times when my mind is still racing with ideas and it takes a good,long time for the Sandman to conquer me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trekking through time

Like old-fashioned carnival bumper-cars, or like lovers swept up in passion only to bitterly break apart, the pieces of our world have come together, separated and come together again.

I know well the Appalachian Mountains that span my country's eastern edge and continue into Canada. A continental collision eons ago thrust them up. But not until recently did I stop to think about the tectonic partner, the spurned spouse in this titanic clash.

It is, of course, Europe. And so, it makes geological sense that a range of mountains spans western Europe, north to south, from Scotland all the way through Spain and even into Morocco, Africa. They are the trans-Atlantic reflection of the American Appalachians -- the eastern consequence of the crash.

Now I read that some enthusiastic folk are planning to expand one of our country's great ideas, the Appalachian Trail, across the Atlantic and down the spine of those European mountains.

Very neat.


Friday, June 25, 2010

India on the corner

I stopped by a place in town yesterday called Taj Mahal.

Yes, I'm very much still in Virginia, USA. This was a grocery store, not the overly-famous masoleum from all the postcards. I wonder if it irritates Indians to have that rather johnny-come-lately building, lovely as it is, be all that most people picture when they think India.

When I stepped inside, a tall man in a turban strode towards me, a Sikh, I am sure. A wave of fragrant spices filled my senses. I told him I had come for chana flour. He swiftly took me to its place of honor upon the shelf.

How I longed to linger, to pick up the boxes and bags of mysterious things that were emanating these delicious odors, and to read the labels and just wander around. But as usual, I was due home and could not.

As I cradled the bag of chana flour in my hands, for a moment I listened to the chatter in Hindi of the other customers, wishing as I so often have for the superpower of understanding every world language.

The chana helped me complete a delicious recipe for deep-fried string beans. As I sifted together cumin, carom, ginger and the other ingredients, home in my own kitchen that night, the sweet, spicy fragrances filled the air and gave me a peek into the pleasures of that faraway place.

Quote of the day

"I wouldn't exactly call you a liar honey but oh, how you prevaricate!"

-- Line from some old '40s song.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sharing our space

It hurts my heart every time I pass the dried-up remains of a certain turtle, on the shoulder of a certain stretch of I-95 that I traverse daily on my way home.

It takes a long time for a turtle to grow to large size. I wonder how long this one had lived before it met its demise on this unforgiving freeway. I wonder, too, if its ill-fated decision to try to cross the freeway was motivated by the recent obliteration of the adjacent forest to create yet another useless new development to put money in somebody's pocket.

I read a bittersweet column today by a resident of my city, offering ways that we can -- having stolen so much from nature -- give a little back. Poignant was her depiction of the annihilation of a large meadow near her home where killdeer birds once nested. It is now eye-sore sprawl and roadways.

We have claimed so much of the earth as our own -- cleared it, paved it, spread buildings across it. We never consult the previous occupants, whether plant or beast, as to their opinions in the matter. In some cases, we don't even regard the feelings of the human occupants. Ask any Native American, or the Bikini islanders, or the descendants of the Appalachian mountain folk driven out by 20th-century government decree, or the victims of that pernicious evil called "eminent domain."

Can we ever say enough is enough? Can we please just assess what we already claim as ours and clean it up and deal with it more efficiently? Can we accept as a fait accompli what we have done in the past and have the decency to wreak no more misery upon our beleagured world?

Can we end our addiction to destruction,and once and for all declare that what little we have left in a natural state should stay that way? There are thousands, perhaps millions of acres of so-called brownfields, homes standing empty, poorly planned industrial complexes. Those are ours. Let's clean them up and make no more.

If I ruled the world, the bulldozers would grow cobwebs and rust away, damn them all! No bloated developer would ever again waddle onto the edge of a woodland with his golden shovel and his Jabba-the-Hutt grin, announcing yet another gas station to go up where birds once sang, unless and until we had fixed the messes we have already made.

And even then, the lousy ogre would have to move every single plant on the site to another location at his own expense, even if he had to get down on his hands and knees with a trowel to do it. And if a single birdnest or rabbit burrow were found it's sorry Charlie, take your blueprints and stick em where the sun don't shine.

My kind of yum!

How about a two-egg, venison, feta cheese, tomato, hot pepper, cumin and paprika omelette for breakfast?

Won't find that at Denny's.

Nice way to start my morning.

A good day to all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


6 a.m. Up, not willingly.
Sweetie gets the bathroom first, a Lady's perogative. I check my Facebook account. Get annoyed because I am still blocked from adding friends because I have "added too many too fast," which according to the gods of Facebook, constitutes abuse.

6:30: Bathroom is mine. The usual.

6:45: Out and have a little breakfast of toast with homemade fig jam. Forget until an hour later and far away when I am writing this post that we have orange juice in the fridge, too. Put eggs on to boil for our lunches.

Give the cockatiel her breakfast and medicine -- flaxseed oil and powder for her achy little old joints. Listen to the weatherman gloat that the temperature could reach 101 degrees this week and it will most likely never, ever, rain again here.

Venture outside into the already murderous heat and put the sprinkler on the potatoes. Wonder for the 4,359th time why I am still using the busted-up old plastic sprinkler that requires being held in place with a stick and a rock and never remember to get a new one.

7 a.m. Help my Beloved with a few things that She needs done. Trek outside again to move the sprinkler onto the okra. Curse the fig tree for still being covered with hard green fruit that is determined never to ripen. Feebly attempt to uproot some tenacious wire grass that is thriving amidst the wilted flowers.

7:30: Fifteen minutes late leaving for work. Contemplate for the 4,359th time that I ought to start getting up a half-hour earlier. Reject the notion for the 4,359th time.

Sink into the blissful air conditioning of my car and immerse myself in a Dvorak violin concerto performed by Sarah Chang. Listen to the announcer inform me that 19th century violinists found this piece too difficult. Think to myself, they never asked a Woman. You want something difficult or impossible to be done, and done well -- ask a Woman to do it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Please stand still sir, so that I may more easily choke you. Much obliged.

Civilization is built upon the premise that harmony can be created by suppressing the urge we feel to squeeze the throats and punch the faces of the incredibly annoying, obtuse people we encounter in our daily activities and leaving the task of punishment to others.

Such a blissful ideal is rarely met. The stupid are rarely punished. That is why people go camping to get away from it all. Or take drugs. Or go insane.

Girl raises thousands for Gulf wildlife

I found this to be an inspiring story -- one person with a good heart can make a difference, no matter Her age:

"Olivia Bouler doesn’t have time for anything else these days except to draw and paint. But that’s OK for the artistic fifth-grader, because everything she does is for the birds.

The Islip, N.Y., girl, who turns 11 on Friday, has raised an estimated $80,000 by sending her sketches and paintings of birds to people who donate to organizations helping with relief efforts in the Gulf of Mexico spill disaster."


Monday, June 14, 2010

Eucalyptus in space and time ...

"The ordinarily musty interior smelled of pine and eucalyptus."

-- Julian, Gore Vidal, p. 47.

Eucalyptus: A genus of evergreen timber trees mostly native to Western Australia.

Eucalyptus, interestingly enough, is a Greek word for a tree that no Greek -- nor any other European, unless he were shipwrecked on his way to China -- ever saw before the 18th century.

You see, I may not be the world's expert on Australia but far as I know, Europe knew nothing of the land down under until about that time.

So unless that "mostly" means that some kind of eucalyptus is native to somewhere beyond the land of koala bears and wallabees ...

... or unless "eucalyptus" -- like corn in America -- is an old word that was in use for something else before it became attached to "a genus of evergreen timber trees mostly native to Western Australia..."

... yes, unless that is the case, then celebrated author Mr. Vidal goofed, in hanging eucalyptus boughs in the courtroom of a 4th-Century Roman building.

If so,it is a reminder to the rest of us, just how hard it is to write credible historical fiction. You must know when even the most ordinary objects were invented,such as a pocket watch; what foods they could not have eaten, such as tomato soup in the Middle Ages; and a thousand other sundry details, that, if neglected, will leave annoying know-it-alls such as myself clucking our tongues.

In spite of that, I am enjoying his book on that Roman emperor, Julian, who tried and failed to turn the ship of his state back on a course to the old paganism and away from its devotion to Christianity.

Friday, June 11, 2010

He said his name was ...

He said his name was Fred Raspberry.

I am used to kids that age trying to flash gang signs or cheesy grins when I take their pictures and write down their names as part of my school PR job.

But never has anyone made up a fake name.

I must surely have flinched. But I kept my composure. I said, in a calm, even tone: "That's your name?"

"Yep," he said.

I checked discretely with his teacher a few minutes later.

"The IIIrd," she said. "His name is Fred Raspberry III."


I felt a little guilty for doubting. But I can't be the first person to ever have been caught off guard by his exceedingly unique name.

Hey, if you have a name like that, don't be sensitive about it. Enjoy it. Embrace it. In a world of John Smiths and Jen Jones' -- you, my friend, are Fred Raspberry III. Obviously, Fred 1 and 2 understood that concept.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oak babies

Although I did not have the good sense to take any pictures today, I can happily report that the five native oaks our school children recently planted in a local park are flourishing.

That is in addition to the four pines we planted last year.

I wish these little baby trees all the best. Someday, birds will nest in their branches and squirrels will hoard their nuts and pinecones.

It is a little thing, in the scheme of things -- eight little trees when greedy idiots are obliterating forests many times that size even as I type these words. But a little thing is better than nothing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Evening in the yard

I sat upon the front sidewalk last evening and attacked the mat of weeds that had spread over our flowers since last I was there. We have the usual vegetative villains here that everyone has -- dandelions and crabgrass -- as well as some that may not be as familiar to you, such as a horrible creeping calamity called wiregrass.

A few minutes into my work, I was joined by a small, warty neighbor. A toad emerged from somewhere and sat upon the sidewalk observing me. I addressed him every now and then; he did not reply. Seemed content just to sit there upon his small haunches and watch. I gave him a slight sprinkle with the hose, which he appeared to enjoy.

By now,it was getting dark and the weeds no longer were strangling the flowers but lay in a defeated, wilted heap upon the grass. I got up, satisfied.

My amphibious companion bounced away into the lavender bed and I headed inside.

My kind of evening!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The pen is back ...

I celebrated the completion of a huge work project -- the labors of nearly a month -- by eating lunch out. Chez Taco Bell.

Sometimes when I pull up to the drive-thru of such a place, I think of a column I once read by some delightful old curmudgeon. Never, says the man, does he ever go through the drive through. He stops his car, he goes inside, he talks to people, not a speaker-box and he eats his meal around other people, not in his car.

So today, I did likewise.

My order was about $6. Just for kicks, I calculated the percentage that I paid in taxes. Nearly ten percent. That would be, in Biblical reckoning, a tithing. Tithing belongs to God, not the guv'mint. The implications were disturbing.

How many times a day do we calmly hand over nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes, more nickels and more dimes, to the government,without any thought at all?

"I'm sorry, my son picked up your order by accident," said a Woman approaching the table where I was waiting for my food. "He just put napkins on the tray, he didn't unwrap anything."

I assured Her that I wasn't the least bit bothered. Then I pondered for a while on the society in which I live, where every stranger has now become a disgusting bag of germs in our eyes, where they actually wrap plastic forks in a coating of plastic in a restaurant such as I was in, lest the filthy fingers of strangers brush across them or their breath blow out a blast of baleful bacteria.

It wasn't so long ago that people ate out of communal bowls, shared the same Communion cup at church, even slept double in beds with strangers at roadside inns. Then again, people died young back then.

It is Schumann's 200th birthday today. Great composer. I listened to the melody of his composition for string orchestra and wondered about the precise moment when it entered his head. Was he munching schnitzel in some inn, on a rainy, cold night? Walking the street in spring? Or just sitting quietly in his study contemplating life?

Taco Bell is not celebrating Schumann's birthday. Their PA system is playing Stereo Mc's "Connected."

"If you make sure you're connected
The writing's on the wall
But if your mind's neglected, stumble you might fall
Stumble you might fall, stumble you might fall."

Perhaps Stereo Mc will be remembered in 200 years. Perhaps not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who's who? Not me

In matters religious, my skeptical nature annoys me, as I envy people with simple, happy, child-like faith.

In other realms, I am everlastingly grateful that my shell of doubt and suspicion is a hard, hard thing to crack.

Today I got an email offering me free placement in some online who's who thing.

Pfft. Ain't getting no info from me.

I did a little research and found validation. This is why you don't want to give even such an innocuous pitch as I received an inch, as they will fight to win from you a mile:

A Who's Who scam is a fraudulent Who's Who biographical directory.[1] While there are many legitimate Who's Who directories, some individuals have created Who's Who scams that involve the selling of "memberships" in Who's Who directories that are created online and through instant publishing services.[1] These are essentially thinly veiled scams designed to get individuals to part with their money or personal information.

The target is initially interviewed in order to validate personal information which can be included in the fraudulent directory, sold to other marketing firms, or used in future attacks (see Phishing). The interview often takes the form of a telephone conversation or a web form claiming it is to verify the target's qualifications. Once the personal information has been gathered, the next goal is to acquire the target's credit card number. The target/candidate is congratulated as having passed the interview, and then asked to provide a credit card number to finalize the process. Upon further inquiry the target may be told a credit card is required to receive a certificate and copy of the directory, at a low price of $850 annually. Upon disputing the cost, the price will repeatedly drop in an attempt to acquire the credit card number by any means necessary.[2] In the event a target tells the scammer they have no credit card, the target may be told to take someone else's credit card number, or may simply be hung up on.

Often the companies that "own" these registries are recently incorporated and the few individuals listed in them are people who are having themselves listed as a marketing tactic. That makes the publication in these directories a simple form of vanity publishing, with the listed persons often posting their listing on their own web sites.

Online blogs or forum posts that discuss these scams often have posts from people stating they have used the directory to make valuable business contacts. However, these posts cannot be verified and are much like other online reviews that provide no verification of the consumer's or user's identity.

Some of these Who's Who websites have closed their websites and disappeared from the Internet without a trace. You can still find people listing them in their online credentials.[2]

Despite the existance of these scams, there are Who's who companies that filter adequately their entries and provide value to the people listed in them. The most notable examples of legitimate Who's who companies are Marquis Who's Who, Strathmore's Who's Who, Madison Who's Who, and A & C Black's Who's Who.[2][3]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I picked up an interesting book the last time I hit the local university library, People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil, by Dr. M. Scott Peck.

Tis true, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so I ought not to read too much into my miniscule comprehension of his theories about the nature of human evil.

But the doc makes some very, very valid points. As others have noted, evil can be quite banal. Evil people are not necessarily and perhaps hardly ever, wild-eyed, drooling cartoon villians. In fact, they are often quite the opposite -- seemingly successful and highly civilized ... even cordial and pleasant until their true depravity is probed.

Normal people who encounter evil people quite typically feel a peculiar sense of confusion, Dr. Peck writes. That goes to the heart of his thesis: that evil is all about a lie, a web of lies built up to shield oneself from any sense of personal imperfection. Instead, a scapegoat is sought, a fantasy constructed, so that the narcissist within can remain untouched.

There have been times in my life where I have indeed met people who left me with a highly disturbing sense of confusion. I couldn't put my finger on it. Now maybe I have an answer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feeling piney

Why is it that "to pine" in English connotates a bad thing? I like pines. Pines in the sunshine smell like summer to me. A forest of pines is soft underfoot (except for the cones), and still, and peaceful. A pine is also the tree you are most likely to meet gripping the rocky edge of some wind-blasted mountainside.

While the oaks and maples stand stark and skeletal in winter, pines persist, presenting their display of green even in the depths of December.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Interface ... when one thing meets another.

I stopped by our local urban greenspace today, parked my car, made sure all the doors were locked. Looked around me carefully. Crimes happen here. Evidence of illicit nocturnal activity lay on the ground around me.

But once I had left the parking lot behind and plunged myself into the woodland, my fears calmed. I observed waterfowl skipping across the lake, squirrels scrambling through the pines, and found the tightly wrapped buds of trailing arbutus, a few days away from their moment of glory.

In the woods, I was at ease. At the interface, at the border of man and nature, my hackles were up.

Thus is it always. The interface is the most dangerous. Cautious are the steps of a stray dog as he approaches a potential rescuer. The outstretched hand could pet, or it could smite. Every sailor knows that he is at more risk when approaching land than when he is out to sea. Every couple began as utter strangers who for the prize of perfect intimacy took the chance of a broken heart, or worse.

But what are the alternatives? The moon has no interface, unless one counts where sterile space meets the dead landscape of rocks and craters. There are no crashing waves upon a shore, no tortuous tangles of mangrove swamps between river's flow and land's comfort.

Without interface, is isolation, is sterility. Life requires it, life demands it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Orcas and such

When I first heard the news about the trainer in Florida recently killed by an agitated orca (killer-whale) at some sea-life park down there, my thoughts were:

Why the hell don't they let the poor beast go?

What height of cruelty to take an animal meant by nature to wander the high seas, and force it to spend its life in a cramped tank!

Later, listening to more discussions, I have changed my views a little.

We are told that the orca would have no idea how to live life on its own, having spent its life in captivity. Orcas are social animals, with strong family structures. Without a "pod" of its own, it would be virtually helpless.

So this particular animal endures the lesser of two evils -- captivity but steady food and some degree of social contact with its kind.

Then I thought, well, at least ours will probably be the last generation that even sees these marine mammals in captivity, since it is now illegal to grab them out of the wild.

Then I thought, well, is that a good thing? You cannot love what you do not know. The child who visits a sea life park and sees, up close, in the flesh, one of these powerful and enigmatic animals and feels the salt spray upon his or Her face and hears the mighty creature utter its unique song -- in short, experiences the beast for his or Her self, will never forget it. And chances are, that child will grow up with at least some degree of awe and appreciation and sympathy for the creatures of the deep. Given the chance, they will support marine conservation measures. Perhaps they will think twice about dumping paint down a storm drain.

If a few animals must spend life in captivity for that greater good, perhaps such captivity is not an unmitigated evil.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of spices and travel

A very interesting page. My kind of guy -- unafraid to venture into new languages; a world-traveler; and a lover of knowledge and great food.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Beloved and I dined at Her favorite restaurant for Valentine's Day, Cracker Barrel. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, it attempts to replicate an old-fashioned country store setting, complete with enough weird old things on the walls to make an estate-sale addict die of envy. Snow-shoes, deer heads, faded sepia-tone photographs, vintage ads, etc.

On the wall over our table were several framed front covers from a magazine called Child Life, dating to the 1930s. We smiled at the chubby-cheeked cherubs depicted thereon, looking vaguely as if they were drawn by the same person who drew the Campbell's Soup kids, having the sort of outdoor adventures few children seem to have these days.

It was also a far cry from what is peddled to children for literary entertainment today, Teen Cosmo and the like.

I went Internet searching today and was surprised to find that Child Life Magazine kept publishing for quite a while -- lasting until just a year or two ago.

My childhood was spent exploring fields and forests, climbing trees and bounding over boulders, exploring holes in the ground and the wide open desert. I wore whatever I found in my dresser drawer -- the word "style" didn't enter my vocabulary until high school.

I would not want to be a child today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In the drowsy stillness of a Monday afternoon, as a few of us sat around Her hospital bed, as Her pulse grew fainter and fainter according to the two who were holding Her hands, one on each side, She raised up and She breathed Her last, gasping breath.

And She left us.

And She began whatever new phase of life awaits beyond this mortal moment.

Never have I been there, at such a time, in such a place. Never will I be the same again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The reaper is indeed grim

The movies never get death right.

They make it sudden and dramatic. Or as if one simply went to sleep one day.

In truth, death is more often a tortuous, slow decline. Good days and bad days. Hopes raised, then dashed.

Reminds me of the very words used to describe war, by those who truly knew war: A mingling of terror and tedium and numbness. No glamour. Nothing to write home about.

Death is paper-thin skin splotched with purple bruises from the IV needles. It is itching from the morphine drip. It is night after night keeping vigil, never knowing when the moment will finally come. It is frustration, exhaustion. It is laundry piled up at home and Christmas lights still on the roof and knowing the routes through the hospital hallways virtually blindfolded. It is a parade of relatives that ebbs and flows, day in and day out, withering by nightfall to only the closest of loved ones.

Happy picture

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Maintaining the vigil ... and a new theory on assault

...So we take turns going to the hospital, sitting by my Grandmother-in-law's side, marveling at Her continued lucidity and humor in the face of the inevitable ...

...and life goes on, or some semblance of it.

I was looking for news on the Senate race in Mass., and stumbled somehow across a shocking interview on a very sensitive, very important subject: sexual abuse of children.

The interviewee has been made a pariah for Her controversial new theory, as are so many people who dare to confront the scientific/medical establishment. Her revelation is this: In the vast majority of cases, children who are abused are not traumatized by the incident, they are confused. There is in fact often physical pleasure in what takes place.

What occurred is still very, very, very wrong -- absolutely a loathsome, horrific crime, the author is quick to note -- because a child cannot give consent. But by insisting that a child who has been molested, is always traumatized and feels no pleasure in what is done, as if the scenario were always a violent rape by some stranger in an alley, we do an injustice to many victims of the crime. Namely, those victims who did not feel raped or terrorized. Who felt only confused at what their bodies told them during the molestation and who may have been well-acquainted with, and even cared for, their abuser.

What happened to them was still a crime and they need to know that, and that they were not wrong or abnormal or sick in how they felt about it at the time.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Dealing with it for the first time

Up until now, I have led the wandering life. When older relatives passed away, I was either too young or too far away to be greatly affected. When two of my siblings lost children in infancy, again, though older this time, I was too far away, out of the regular loop, to do much or to feel much – I never laid eyes on that nephew or that Niece.

Today, my Wife called me at work to tell me that Her Grandmother’s kidneys are failing, on top of the congestive heart failure that She is already experiencing. She’s in the hospital, going down.

We all know what is coming. And for the first time, death is calling on someone I know well and love well. And I will be right here in the middle of it all. And I don’t quite know what to do other than to be a shoulder to cry on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brilliant behavior

My morning has been quite busy, keeping administrators in the know about some junior high school pea-brain who called in a bomb threat to his school.

... From his school.

On a cell phone.


His cell phone.

Not some stolen phone that could be tossed in the trash without a trace.

Not a corner pay phone from which one could walk away anonymously.

His own phone.

In the school.

Yeah,he's been arrested. Ought to be charged with egregious, felonious public stupidity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Twitter temptation

Somebody named "Tracy" sent me a request today to join Her in the world of Twitter.

Okay, first off, the new verb "twittering" just feels annoying upon my eardrums and in my brain. Twittering is an activity that should be reserved for birds.

Secondly, Facebook alreadys chaps my hide enough with its limitations on length. Twitter would be more salt in the wound.

So I could just hit the delete button, like some old luddite with hair in his ears slamming his door shut so as not to hear the neighborhood noise. Or I could acknowledge that "Twitter," like the Internet itself, is not going to go away, and give in and give it a try.

Doubt I will use it much. Famous last words, those.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Evolution Revolution

When history began, when people first began to write, the consequences were tragic, at least from one perspective. The ancient art of the oral account, the prodigious memories that were required to be a teller of tales or a wise man/Woman of any repute, withered away and something was lost from humanity.

Only in what few great sagas were transferred to writing, such as Homer's Iliad; and in the captivating tales still told by peoples on the fringes of "civilization," peoples for whom literacy is still rare, do we gain a glimpse into that lost world.

Today, the pundits and purists fret about a new onslaught: The electronic word, displacing paper and ink. Nearly extinct is the grand art of great letter writing; gone from popular magazines and many newspapers are the erudite essays that used to entertain and enrich us all. Popular culture today aspires to the low height of the picture book.

Each new invention seems to squeeze expression a little more dry, in the name of speed and efficiency. Already, teachers fume about students using electronic shorthand instead of actual words in their assignments: 24/7, B4, lol, etc. Alas, they "kick against the pricks."

Progress will be progress and one fights it in vain.

I wrote actual pen-and-paper thank you notes for my birthday gifts recently. I fully intend to write a letter to my uncle this week, in response to his recent query. I love to write and if that makes me a silly old-fashioned fool, so be it. I shall to my dying day cherish the feel of a stout, heavy pen in my hand, a sheet of fresh paper beneath it and my thoughts becoming loops and lines of ink. It is a peaceful art, far more soothing to the pysche than the nervous clicking and clacking of a computer keyboard.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The writing blues

This has been an odd week.

I have been asked by a Facebook friend to translate a letter from Hungarian to English on behalf of two families that I have never met;

to write a customer-service playbook page in football coach format for someone who works at a bank - -and I know little about football and nothing about banks;

and, speaking of football, to write a recommendation letter on behalf of a coach I have never met, who is employed in another state.

And the number one best invention from a jail cell is ...

The toothbrush.

William Addis of England is credited with creating the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770 he had been placed in jail for causing a riot. While in prison, he decided that the method for teeth brushing of the time – rubbing a rag on one's teeth with soot and salt – could be improved. So he took a small animal bone, drilled small holes in it, obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them in tufts, then passed the bristles through the holes on the bone and glued them. He soon became very wealthy. He died in the year 1808 and left the business to his eldest son, William II.

From Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dreaming again...

I dream …

I dream of a world where every human being has clean water to drink, food to eat and a home to call his or her own. Where the needs, too, and the habitats of other beings, whether a palm tree or a panda bear, are no longer threatened.

Where there are no more borders, to keep anyone out or in. Nor any reason to do so.

Where there is no war. No tyrants who oppress. No bullies, no criminals, no abusers of any kind.

No need for armies, navies, lawyers, police, courts and judges. No locks on doors, no alarms.

No slums, no blighted inner cities.

Where people help each other by choice, not governments by compulsion and taxation.
Where resources are neither wasted by the cold hand of capitalism, nor made scarce through the schemes of socialism.

Where both security and freedom are present in equal measure.

I love the heritage of humanity, from the noble notions of the Jainists in India to the plays of William Shakespeare. I love English fish and chips, the rich breads of Germany and noodles from Vietnam. How delicious is a Magyar porkolt, and a Salvadoran-style papusa; and a glass of frothy, spicy Indian lassi!

What I know and have experienced, is a moment and a droplet. How little I still understand of Mani, the Yazidi, the Tao; of the poets of Mongolia, Malta and Madagascar. Unknown to me is the bite of a Dakota winter wind or a drift through the foggy fens of England or the sunrise in the Serengeti!

I have never seen the snowfields sparkle in Iceland, nor tasted kalamari in the Italian seaside sunshine. Nor have I walked through the ancient ruins in Iran, ascended the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan or climbed the craggy mountains of North Korea.

It is a dream. Just a dream.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I feel good.

A little short of breath, a little sweatier than preferable with the rest of the work day still before me, but good.

They say the human species evolved as walkers, epic walkers, and today I walked. Not to epic proportions, but for a good half hour.

In summertime, the stroll from your car to your office will kill you in my part of the world, when the temperature and humidity goes out of control. But right now, the air is brisk and chill and great for a lunchtime walk.

I observed a backyard full of rosemary, a bird that sounded like a rusty gate swinging back and forth, and way too much litter, including a plague of plastic bags swimming downstream on their way to kill marine life.

Now, it's back to work.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stupid little boy

Looking back upon my life so far, I see a few moments that make me proud. I also see great heaping piles of things that I have said or done that are at best amusing, at worst simply awful.

Though I feel plenty mature at the moment, so did I then. Six months, six years, six decades from now, some of my thoughts and actions of today may look just as stupid to me.

Wisdom is a will-o-the-wisp, a light ever dancing away into the darkness, never grasped fully by any mortal man or Woman.

I cannot use youth as a carte-blanche excuse, nor mere ignorance. And yet, they cannot be completely exonerated as accomplices.

"Crime is a young man's game," someone noted recently. So, as well, are stupid pranks, the tendency to walk off your job in a silly rage and the acquisition of bad habits that one battles for a lifetime.

It is a New Year. I have made resolutions. I am not of the crowd who refuses to do so because of the likelihood that they will break them. When I stop trying to self-improve, when I give up Death-of-A-Salesman-style on my dreams and determinations, I might as well head for the exit door of life.

I hope that I will be kinder this year, raise my voice less, waste less time, work harder, be better.

But I will surely at this time next year look back upon the annum and still wonder, "What in the WORLD was I thinking?"