Words to live by...
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.
Monday, August 31, 2009
So, now I am reading the novel and finding it fascinating. Not just because I am understanding what was alluded to, but not mentioned or portrayed, in the movie. Which I am, by the way because it is a classic But because I am finding myself with a picture of Los Angeles circa 1939. Also with American culture in that period.
Trust me, it is not politically correct.
I find myself understanding exactly why Bogart was cast in the leading role. And how poorly some others were cast.
In many ways, I am sorry I didn't live during the thirties and forties. There are some bad things that went on in our culture that we wouldn't tolerate today. But it was such an interesting period in the last century. The world was on the brink of war and was experiencing it in many countries and regions in the thirties, America was still struggling its way out of the Great Depression. So many changes were taking place. And many more changes were to come.
If I could travel through time, it is a period I would definitely visit.
And, in a way, with books time travel is possible.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I miss those days sometimes on gray overcast mornings like today.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
From time to time, I have published pieces that were snippets of my life. Stories of little things that drift around my mind, things out of my past, people and events that pop in my mind at odd moments. I usually title these with "Snippet of Life" as a prefix. I have started moving them into another blog which I call, oddly enough, Snippets of Life.
If you have read all of these posts then you may not be interested in visiting that blog. If you haven't then they are all there in one place now. Eventually, I will purge them from this blog completely and they will only be available on Snippets of Life and any future post of that type will only show up there.
I realize not everyone is into such nostalgic musings. I am only into them at random times. The Snippetsblog will therefore be updated, uh, randomly. I originally thought I would post more of them on here but that hasn't turned out to be the case. I guess I am less nostalgic than I thought.
Or maybe I am growing bored with my past.
Friday, August 28, 2009
But I played well enough... on the front nine. Not so well on the back. Still, good enough to get a few bucks. You don't think there isn't a little bit of money wagered on these outings? Not much... we're cheap. But losing less means winning less.
Fridays don't mean as much since I retired. They didn't mean much when I was working either... for most of the 34 years. My job was one that required someone to be on the job 7 days a week. So, we rotated our days. Each shift (days, evenings, and nights) would cover their own weekends. The smaller the shift crew, the more often you worked on weekends. Since I worked the night shift (12AM to 8AM) for much of my career, I also worked a lot of weekends since we were always the smallest crew.
On the plus side, it meant the other weekends were often longer than the regular two days. Four day weekends are nice but you are so tired after working ten days straight that you cannot appreciate them. Especically when you work a night shift.
Night shifts aren't bad... except that the rest of the world doesn't understand you. They think you are awake during the day because, after all, they are. So they call you up, knock on your door, etc. Even those who should know better (your boss, for instance) often think nothing of calling at 2 in the afternoon.
I had a boss who did this more than most. One day he called me on a Tuesday at around 2 PM to ask if I wanted to work on Friday (my day off that week).
Me: "Do you have to know right away?"
Him: "No, you can let me know later."
Me: "Ok, bye."
The next morning, about 4 AM, I called his home. The phone rang for many rings...
Him: "Hello?" (sounding really sleepy)
Me: "It's Douglas, at work?"
Him: "What's wrong?" (More alert now)
Me: "Nothing's wrong, things are fine. You called me up yesterday to ask if I wanted to work on Friday, remember?"
Him: "Yes?" (now sounding wary)
Me: "Well, I don't. Thanks anyway."
Him: "You called me up at this hour to tell me that?!? You could have told me when I came in at 7!"
Me: "Yep, and you could have asked me then too. Bye."
And I hung up. He showed up 45 minutes later. Quite angry. But he never woke me up again.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
San Diego City College wasn't exactly an ivy league school. It was more like your weeds sticking up from the cracks in the concrete school. Its language department was headed by the guy running the ESL classes. And it seemed the students most in need of those classes were actually born in California but were missing from those classrooms.
My then-wife (She Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken Without Spitting Twice) took classes in Women's Liberation. Scared the Hell out of me. She'd be in the kitchen fondling the knives when I got home, giggling, and studying the material. I tried to enroll in one of those classes one semester, they refused me on the grounds I would intimidate the women. Ha! Half of them could break my neck with one hand tied behind their backs.
I majored in GI Bill. This was a standard scam by those of us who were in the military during that great adventure called the Vietnam War. If you were a full time student and you had a dependent or two, you could get $125 a month or so to defray costs. Since City College was the closest thing to free to be found, and wasn't choosy about about your prior academic record, it was full of vets who just wanted some extra cash. I met most of them on the walkway behind the college library where we would swap stories while sharing a joint. The rest I met at the bar across the street. I never saw any in class. That is, when I went to class.
I did attend a few classes that interested me. Political Science, Art Appreciation, and a couple of others that I no longer recall.
It wasn't just fun and games, though. Wait a minute... yes, mostly it was.
I did very little, academically speaking. Some of that had to do with the atmosphere of the school (mostly hazy with a burning Popsicle stick odor), it being the early Seventies and all. None of the instructors (I hate to call them professors since they really weren't) seemed intent on instilling a desire for knowledge in his students. Most seemed to be there for the paycheck.
Some students wanted to move on to a four year school but did not have the grades to enter event the lax (at that time) California state college system. But most were there to pick up just enough schooling to impress a potential employer, collect GI Bill benefits, appease a parent or two, or take advantage of various "retraining" programs for which the state taxpayers foot the bill.
There were no rich kids there. No `up and comers.' No fraternities.
I dropped out after my third semester. I had moved up the "food chain" at my job and no longer needed the extra money.
Come to think of it, do you know any really successful people who got their advanced educational start at a community college? Or Devry?
Yeah, neither do I.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Still, you don't think with them (widely held beliefs about men and certain parts of their bodies, notwithstanding), do you? You do not have long, philosophical discussions with them on rainy afternoons. Your liver just filters and secretes, as do your kidneys, your bowels just constrict and loosen and move things along, your lungs just contract and expand, and the chambers of your heart throb in some kind of syncopated rhythm that makes sense.
They have no extra hidden personalities to converse with. It is your brain which holds those mysteries. In my brain I found a guy who had the answer to every insult (almost) but who usually was out to lunch or something when I needed him. There was also that brave soul who would smack the bully right in the eye but, alas, he was often away on some adventure somewhere when I most needed his services.
But on those rainy afternoons when I was alone in my room, they would all be there. Along with several others. You probably know of them, too. The silver-tongued Lothario (though he didn't come around much until I was in my teens), the risk taker with the reflexes of a jungle cat, the poet and writer who had such a great command of word and verse, the clever artist who could paint and draw the sometimes complex and bizarre images that only he could conjure up, and, of course, the dark ones.
The dark ones were the ones who got you into trouble. The most influential of these was Mr. Dare who told you that you wouldn't get caught reading your sister's diary, or filching a couple of dollars from Mom's purse, or stealing that candy bar. He fled as soon as you did get caught, of course, he certainly didn't want to hang around for the punishment. No, you had Mr. Guilt, Mr. Remorse, and Mr. Resentment for those times.
Yes, it is your brain which holds those mysteries behind all those doors down all the tunnels throughout the maze of your mind.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Anyway, I came across a report about Burger King. It's a financial one. But it reflects on the American culture. It seems that Burger King has had a really good quarter. They made $58.9 million for the quarter, an increase of $8.2 million over the same quarter last year.
This is happening at the very same time that we (the collective "we" that is, the US) have been complaining about fast food and poor diets.
I see a pattern here. I spotted it a number of years ago. Remember back when we had that oil embargo thingy in the 70's? And everyone was complaining about how terrible it was that we were importing 18% of our oil?
Just look how we improved things...
Today, we are importing approximately 60% of our oil.
See the pattern yet?
Consider why your kids do the opposite of what you tell them to do.
Consider why Jerry Lewis movies were so unpopular with film critics and why the movie goers loved them.
Consider Rap music.
Monday, August 24, 2009
You know they are, especially if you've had an ex-wife or an older (or younger) brother or sister. Not to mention girlfriends and boyfriends. Why, it seems the only unselfish people on the planet are you and and me. Well, me anyway... I am not so sure about you.
It's inherent. No, I don't mean it's because your parents are selfish. I mean it is simply human. It is the first and foremost trait we exhibit.
Think about a baby. Each resembles no one more than Winston Churchill but is seen to be so beautiful and cuddly by its family. And what does that baby do? It cries, it excretes, it sleeps (seemingly rarely and never when its parents do) and above all demands. And the parents indulge its every whim. Mostly just in the hopes of a gas induced semblance of a smile.
Over the next several years, the parents will seek to suppress that selfishness and train the child to be gracious and giving. The parents are likely be most successful in that endeavor by ironically feeding the greed of the child. That's right, the parents reward the good behavior by indulging the very thing they wish to control. Eventually, the child learns to hide the selfishness in exchange for getting what it wants.
We are all selfish. Of this, I am absolutely positive. The most successful of us manage to hide this behind charity and kind acts. But even those acts are for our own glory. We fill our shelves and mantles with trophies, our walls with plaques and certificates, and blush with false modesty when others notice and comment on our achievements.
Except for me, of course. The proof of this are my bare walls and empty shelves. I have spurned recognition and avoided success. In fact, my greatest achievement has been to become a complete nobody.
And I revel in it.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
My primary use of my computer involves playing solitaire. Specifically, the game of solitaire called Freecell. It is just about the most productive task I accomplish on it anyway. I take great pride in my ability to solve each game I play. I should not even call it play. It is so much more than that. Each game is a puzzle consisting of 52 different objects which are randomly assembled and which I must manipulate and move onto 4 piles of 13 objects each in a particular order. There are rules I must follow in order to do this. The computer is one that enforces those rules and determines whether I have won or lost.
Or so it would seem. If I used a physical deck of cards, rather than a virtual one, then I would be the enforcer of the rules and cheating would be easy... and tempting. (Oh, like none of you ever cheated at solitaire) The computer keeps me honest, for the most part. I rationalize a little. After all, I do engage in backing up the cards.
Backing up entails reversing the moves I have made and trying a different tactic. One which, hopefully, allows me to solve the puzzle. At one time, the computer version by Microsoft did not allow you to back up more than one move. So you might be doomed to lose if you made one mistake and did not catch it immediately. Fortunately, cooler heads finally prevailed and the game was modified to allow you to back up to the very beginning.
There are 32,000 variations of how these cards can be initially dealt out. That means there are 32,000 different puzzles. Some of them, it is said, are impossible to solve. Since the deals of each game are random, I could be facing one of these at any time. It is also possible to select a specific game by number and walk through all 32,000. I choose the random approach.
Last night, I faced what appears to be an unsolvable puzzle, an unwinnable game. A catastrophe. A crushing of my overblown and exceedingly fragile ego.
I faced losing the second game since starting to play them on this computer. And the first in 1590 straight games.
Some of you may have noticed, and wondered about, the numbers that appear at the bottom of many of my posts. The code to them is simple:
[wins/games played/length of current winning streak]
But last night I faced a horror, a disaster of great magnitude. I could not find a way to solve game # 13751. I tried one way, then another, then yet another. I spent twenty minutes trying different approaches, different strategies, all to no avail.
I was desolated. I was sinking into a morass of misery and depression the likes of which I had not seen since learning I was not an alien from outer space but was, indeed, human. I was crushed.
Trapped in a corner, my mind squirmed and wriggled, trying to figure a way out of this trap.
And then it came to me, purely by accident, at the moment of my darkest hour. I backed up to the beginning of the game and hit the little "x" in the upper right-hand corner, defeated and resigned to face the sad dirge of my utter failure. At that point, it just went away. Instead of the usual prompt that asks you to admit defeat with a dialog box that asks if you wish to save or abandon the game (or cancel so you can return to pulling your hair out), nothing happened. The window just closed.
And the best part? The lesson learned? The record of wins and losses remained as it was before I had started.
I am saved.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
"You shouldn't have robbed that grocery store. That felony conviction will follow you the rest of your life."
If I had a nickel for every time I heard that!
They never seem to warn you ahead of time, do they? I do not count the store manager asking "Are you sure you want to do this?" He really isn't offering you advice.
No, you rarely hear someone say "Let's not rob that store. If we get caught, we'll be branded as criminals forever." None of my friends ever did. No, they would say things like "Not that place, the owner has a gun."
Let me point out that I am being facetious. I have never robbed a store at gunpoint. Honest. If you read anything to the contrary, it is likely to be just a malicious rumor by someone who dislikes me. And is just making things up. And is probably a criminal.
No, most of my mistakes were made by others. Especially one other. You see, I have an older brother. And he was no angel. When I got into junior high school, he had already been there two years and had established a reputation.
So the first time I was sent to have a little chat with the dean, it started this way:
"Are you going to follow in the footsteps of your brother?"
Now, granted that question would not have been asked if I hadn't gotten into some kind of trouble. But I swear I was mostly innocent. It might have even been ignored if the teacher hadn't known who my brother was.
My choices were to be bad or completely innocent. If I couldn't be completely innocent (and who can?) then I might as well be as bad as possible. I was not given the benefit of the doubt in any situation.
Then, too, there were my friends. Not exactly stalwart citizens. So there was that guilt by association thing going. But the good kids shied away, understandably. So who else was I supposed to hang out with?
I think about all this when I look at political candidates.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I played golf today. Well, as usual, I went out there with golf clubs, golf balls,a golf cart and made fairly feeble attempts to advance the little white ball toward the green and into the hole.
In the process, I consumed about a gallon of water and secreted a tad over twice that amount out of my pores. In case you wonder why my sanity is questionable... here's the weather report:
Read the Realfeel temperatures... Click on it if you must to blow it up a bit.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity Ha! Here is it both.
Pity me... I am obviously not an Englishman so I must be the other.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
But that is not why I write today. Or any day, for that matter. But today I have an announcement (cue the trumpets).
I have decided to open Yet Another Blog. One about which I hinted yesterday.
It is called Sanity is Optional. This is not to be confused with the blog "Sanity is optional in Texas" (which it actually may be but I am no expert). The blog owners of the latter seem like nice people and I sincerely hope they will not be offended by my co-opting a portion of their blog's name. There are two other blogs with URLs which are close but these two have not been updated since 2003 and 2006, respectively. I figure the name I chose is ok.
Sanity is Optional is a political blog. There, I can rant and rave, ask stupid (and not so stupid) questions and generally be... well... political.
I do this because I have been chewing the end off my virtual tongue repressing urges to comment on political events and issues. This has migrated in Real Life which has resulted in biting my actual tongue. And, as we all know, it is difficult to eat with a ragged and flayed tongue.
So, in order to maintain my health and (not yet) overweight figure, I decided it is time to branch out into the political world.
Feel free to join me there. Or not. The posts there are likely to be sporadic. I am hoping there will be at least weekly postings. Maybe bi-weekly. We shall see.
At this point, there is only the introductory post.
If you like gawking at traffic accidents and train wrecks, you may find it interesting.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
From Tea Parties to Town Hall protests, the country seems alive politically. Sure, it's divided but it has been for some time and the protests were mostly tepid. The mood of the country seems to be one of backlash and anger. As if the Sleeping Giant of the rank and file citizen has been awakened from a rather long hibernation.
Maybe it's because the Baby Boomer set is approaching retirement and perceiving it to be slipping away before their eyes? I retired early. Because I wanted to and because circumstances made it possible. I do not foresee Bad Times for me, personally, but I am no accomplished seer. I am also pragmatic and know that just one successful terror attack involving a dirty bomb or mass destruction will throw this country into a bigger tailspin than I have ever witnessed before. Much smaller things have interfered with other plans in my life.
You cannot protect yourself from that possibility... unless you are Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. Money has a way of easing all sorts of pain and discomfort. So I take a slightly different approach to the future. Que Sera Sera was a song in my youth. And it is a major part of my philosophy of life in general. As I cannot accurately predict the future, I choose to not worry about it either.
There is also the phrase from that song we all sang as children...
Row, row, row your boat,
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream.
Also well defined by Edgar Allan Poe's poem... A Dream Within a Dream
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Just enjoy the ride.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Jack Reacher is an anti-hero. He is the modern equivalent of the Clint Eastwood character, the man with no name, in those Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. He drifts around the country. While drifting, he happens to come across interesting events in which he gets entangled and then resolves. He seems to want to avoid these things but is always drawn into them by the participants.
He is also an interesting character in himself. Unlike Eastwood's character, you know his past (or some of it anyway). He is ex-military, a former major in the military police. But not just any MP, an elite force which handled sensitive, risky, missions.
After 13 years, Reacher was furloughed out by the downsizing that took place in the early 1990's. He decided, at that point, that he would travel around and see the country he had been defending. He also, for reasons that are not quite clear, decided he would be as anonymous as possible while doing so.
I found that last to be odd because I was in the military and it has always seemed to me that there is nothing more anonymous than a member of the military. I certainly felt anonymous. Almost invisible most of the time. Of course, I wasn't a major (or the Navy equivalent... Lieutenant Commander) or even an officer. There are none more anonymous than the enlisted man.
Maybe the character appeals to me because I have always had that urge to drift. I think it is an American thing. The lone cowboy, the frontiersman, has always been a favorite of the American public. He rides into town and tries to avoid trouble but is inevitably drawn into it. And, in the end, justice prevails because of him.
And that is just what Jack Reacher does.
I highly recommend this book. And all of the Jack Reacher novels.
For what that is worth.
Monday, August 17, 2009
But this isn't about Dave Barry... or the column I was perusing. Which was very funny but was also about 6 years old. It's about an ad that was on the web page where the column appeared. (Sorry Dave)
The ads change each time you go to the page. The one that caught my eye was offering cruise deals for people in Altamonte Springs. The reason it caught my eye was:
A. I am not in Altamonte Springs.
B. Altamonte Springs is about 75 miles from the nearest cruise port.
Altamonte Springs is near Orlando. And Orlando is about as far from any coast as you can get in Florida. So that bothered me. Why would there be cruises in Altamonte Springs? I can't even think of a lake large enough near there to be worth cruising on. That means the ad is offering cruise deals for residents of and, I assume, visitors to Altamonte Springs. I am neither.
So why did that ad appear? That town is not all that big. Easy. The new "thing" for internet ads is to have them appear to "local" to the page reader.
This is done by tracing IP addresses. Obviously, we are not as anonymous as we think we are (remember that the next time you are drooling over that porn page). Also, the IP addresses are not as accurate a locator as they are portrayed to be on TV. You know, where the super hacker good guy locates the bad guy by his IP address and they storm the apartment building clear across town in about 5 minutes but the guy escaped?
I first noticed this on Blogs that have those widgets that show who is logged in and where they are from. It never once got me right. I was in Lakeland, or Orlando, or Winter Haven (or Winter Park... we have a lot of Winter somethings) but never where I actually was.
But now the ads are starting to annoy me. Especially since they often think I am an overweight woman looking for a way to shed 40 or so pounds.
I thought the internet was supposed to be brilliant.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I ran across the above article in the Boston Globe about the usage of "way". I read articles like this because I am pedantic at heart and I want to know I am not alone. That there are people who not only are interested but that some even make a living from this quirk.
James Kilpatrick was one. Though it was not his main source of income. He, a staunch conservative, was best known for his part in a segment of "60 Minutes" called "Point-Counterpoint". In the segment, he and Shana Alexander would debate some current political issue. You may know of this only by the parody on Saturday Night Live with Jane Curtain and Dan Akroyd.
Kilpatrick also wrote a conservative political column that was syndicated nationally. In addition, he wrote one which was called "The Writer's Art", which is why I bring him up. These columns would mull over the usage of phrases and words and how they were improperly, or properly, used in various print media. He also wrote a number of books on the subject.
The reason that I remember his column is that he disappointed me so in one of them. I wanted to write to him and complain. The column of offense included a piece on the use of the phrase "try and..." vs "try to..."
I bring this up because the phrase "try and..." has become acceptable. Not to me, of course, but to the Powers That Be (henceforth, PTB) who decide what is acceptable word usage. It seemed to me that the PTB gave in much too easily to the masses on this one.
The phrase is used in this manner... "I will try and pick that up for you when I go to the store." You cannot try to do something and then do it in the same sentence is how I look at it. Doesn't it make more sense to say "I will try to pick that up for you...?" It also rolls off the tongue more easily.
Perhaps it bothers me because I move my mental lips when I read. That is, I read out loud to myself inside my head. I even envision speaking to an audience while reading, as if I am reciting passages or reading a story to children.
The worst thing is that it, the "try and...", has become the norm. I read books and it is rampant throughout each. And I mentally correct it as I read. I can't help it.
But that is not what that Boston Globe column focused on. It focused on the use of the word "way" as an adjective. It was quite informative. I hadn't ever thought about it as proper or improper usage. I mean, I did consider "way cool" as likely to be improper usage but I never thought of "way off" as such.
Now I will. I will be mentally replacing it with "far" as I read it. Even though the column points out that it has become acceptable usage.
I sometimes think the world is out to make my life way miserable.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Put another way... Frankly, I tweak.
I try to avoid mistakes before posting, of course, but it is inevitable that there will be an extra or missing word, or an improper spelling ("their" for "there", for instance), or just a word that I find wanting in the context.
So, I revise and amend. Sometimes soon after posting, sometimes days after.
It is why I will never be able to write the Great American Novel. I'd never finish it.
I would proofread repeatedly, never quite satisfied, constantly rewriting parts and pieces. My publisher and my agent would eventually conspire to filch the manuscript or dump me altogether (most likely the latter) and that would be the end of my serious writing career.
And I would find myself posting insipid stuff in an obscure blog somewhere.
Friday, August 14, 2009
So, during a 30 day period we sold our townhouse, purchased a house in Jacksonville, and moved all our belongings. Another car trip with the cats went well. We had learned our lesson. I took the cats in my car, Faye drove her car cat-free.
A couple of months after I was settled into my job
Since I am an easy mark, I picked an off-white cutie with brownish ears. It was almost Siamese looking but had longer hair.
I called Faye. Reminded her that she said she missed having a kitten around. Listened patiently to her explain that she didn't mean she wanted another cat. And then told her it was too late to back out.
Since we had two perfectly healthy cats in the house, I dropped by the vet's office to have the new kitten checked out.
The next day, at work, the vet called to tell me about Feline Leukemia. The kitten would not make it and she would give it to our other cats before she died. I passed this on to the woman who gave me the kitten and listened to her denials and rave about how healthy the others were. I never saw that woman in the office again.
I stopped by the vet's office on the way home to pay the bill. While there, the vet offered a replacement kitten. It seems that he had 4 left of a litter of 6 that had been left with their momma at the back door of their other clinic.
I chose the one who shied away from me. He was gray, dark gray, short hair. And angry. I picked him up, he bit me. He clawed at me. It was obvious that I should take him home.
He took to the car like a fish takes to the desert. He hid under the seat. And complained all the way home. Incredibly loudly for a tiny kitten. It took me five minutes to get him out from under the seat once we arrived. It was a true bonding experience.
Once inside, I introduced him to the two other cats. Bimbo took an immediate dislike to him and walked away with her nose in the air. Floozie was confused. In the next few months, Floozie would exhibit symptoms of having had a litter. She thought, somehow, she had given birth to the new one and had forgotten. She had to go through hormone treatments to allow her hair to grow back. Cats often lose hair after giving birth.
The new kitten ignored Floozie completely. He fell in love with Bimbo. He followed her around, he tried to snuggle up to her, it was obvious he worshipped her. She, in turn, would knock him for a loop whenever he moved within paw's reach.
Ah, his name. We had not settled on a name for him. Cats don't care what you call them, they won't answer to it anyway, so you can name them anything you like. But it should fit the personality of the cat, reflect their nature.
It took a couple of weeks. But it became clear what his name should be once he settled into a pattern of behavior.
We had a three piece entertainment system along the wall. To the right of those cabinets was the hallway which led from the bedrooms. He would hide behind the cabinets and when you walked out from the bedroom attack your ankle with gusto... and claws... and teeth. And hang on for as long as possible.
And so we called him Carlos... because we thought Illich Ramirez Sanchez was a bit long.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The waifs were the usual sort; a little scruffy, a little smudged, dressed in what appeared to be hand-me-downs. Inside the cardboard box was some shredded newspaper and the odor of pee. On top of the shredded newspaper was one of the likely causes of the odor... a tiny kitten, barely out of "closed-eyes" stage. It was alone in this huge box.
It mewled. Plaintively. Annoyingly. As kittens will do. It seemed only slightly larger than my less than large hand. It continued to mewl.
Sensing a "sale" of sorts, the waifs went into the spiel...
"Please, mister, she's all that's left."
"Our dad said if we can't find homes for them, he'd drown them in the creek behind our house."
"We can't take her home."
This little brown and orange mottled thing with the loud voice mewled right along with the spiel. The she-waif picked the kitten up and placed it against my T-shirt. The thing attached itself quickly, like a vampire to a neck, sinking its tiny little claws into the fabric (and a bit of my skin) and continued its plaintive cries a little more loudly.
And looked up at me. Pleadingly.
Like my T-shirt, I was hooked.
The waifs knew they had closed the deal and scattered quickly as I mumbled...
She was the tiniest thing and I noticed the patchiness of her fur as I put her in the laundry basket in the car. She nestled down and disappeared like a sniper in camouflage. A bit of mange, perhaps. Vet bills, likely.
And so I continued to Faye's house. With items from the supermarket, my laundry, and a kitten.
The kitten turned out to have a fungus, or some such thing, which caused the hair loss. "No problem", said the vet. "Just bathe her twice a day for a week with this iodine solution and she'll be fine."
Ever bathe a cat? No, I didn't think so. No sane person would actually try. But a kitten, one that is barely larger than your hand, can easily be tortured with warm water in your bathroom sink and then lathered with a smelly iodine soap and then plunged back under the warm water without incurring fatal lacerations over 90% of your body.
And the vet was right. She was fine soon after. The hair grew back. She grew bigger.
And Bimbo eyed her with disdain, if she paid any attention to her at all. And swatted her out of the way if their paths crossed.
It was a couple of weeks before the kitten got a name. It came to me as I watched her lying on her back, spread-eagled, on the carpet.
"Hi, Floozie," I said.
*The name of a small city east of San Diego that translates roughly to "The Drawer" which makes no sense at all since it looks like a basin.
[disclaimer: The picture is not one of Floozie, just a look-alike I found on the web]
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Life is too short.
Way too short for some.
A good friend just passed away.
An uncle, only one left now, is approaching the end.
Good men, both. Better men than me, I think.
Too much death in my life right now. Never a good thing but it makes you think about your own mortality. I am healthy, now. I wasn't always. I had a couple of shakey years not so long ago. Lung troubles. Not cancer, just an infection that lingered and resisted and was mostly misdiagnosed. And only life-threatening a few times. Mostly just frustrating. It also made me consider my own mortality.
I'd like to cheer up, to think about happier times, to write something whimsical. But I don't feel whimsical.
There's always tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I was a not a cat person. I was not even a dog person. Frankly, I am not a pet person. Too much trouble. Oh, we had a family dog when I was young but she wasn't my dog. I didn't take care of her, I wasn't charged with feeding her, training her, or cleaning up after her as any primary duty. She was just there, an often ignored member of the family. And we had a dog when my son was young. But he (the dog, that is) was a hand me down from my wife's parents when they moved into a mobile home park where they had no yard. And they got the dog from my then-wife's sister who couldn't keep the dog after moving to an apartment.
So my experiences as a pet owner weren't remarkable except in their lack of bonding. And, of course, there was that incident with the German Shepherd...
Faye had a lot more of an affinity for pets. She picked up a cat, a kitten, while I was away in West Palm Beach for a year (I'll write about that year sometime) and she still lived in San Diego. She named him Smaug.
Smaug did not like me much. I suppose he saw me as an interloper. I didn't think much of him either, to be fair, so maybe he picked up on that. Eventually, on a trip to the vet, he successfully ran away. It was understandable. He was no longer the only cat in the house. And I was to blame for that.
I was living in Pacific Beach, in one side of a duplex a few blocks from Mission Bay on a busy street. One day this fluffy white cat met me at the sidewalk as I was coming home from work. She did the usual cat thing when one wants attention... She walked in and out between my legs in that random manner surely intended to cause you to fall. She meowed, that plaintive sound that says "feed me, feed me, feed me now!" which I vainly tried to ignore.
I knew if I fed her, she'd keep coming back. I had no idea where she had come from, she had no collar, no tag. I had no cat food either, of course. I had no milk either. I ate out... a lot. So I tried to ignore her, hoping she'd give up and wander off to wherever she came from.
She didn't. Instead, she parked herself outside my door and continued to demand attention. Eventually, of course, I gave up. Rummaging through my cupboards, I found a can of tuna.
We shared it. I dumped half on a small plate and ate the rest myself as I sat on the front step and got acquainted with my new friend. She would eat then snuggle up against me, then eat again until she was done. She then rubbed against me; purred and rubbed, purred and rubbed. I petted.
I was hooked. She stopped by every morning after that. I could not take her in since the duplex I rented had a "no pets" rule. Faye began to bring cat food with her when she stayed over or dropped by. Finally, fearing the busy street in front of my place was going to be the eventual doom for this stray, I encouraged Faye to take the kitty (who had no name that I knew) to her home in El Cajon.
It was then that I gave her a name. She was thereafter known as Bimbo. It was the obvious name. She had been found walking the streets, would cuddle up to anyone who would pet her or give her a little attention, even go home with them if they wanted to take her.
Even though she lived with Faye, she was always my cat. When I would come over, she would jump up and settle in my lap as soon as I sat down. She greeted me, come running if she was outside or in as walked from my car to the door. She walked with me to the door when I left.
Bimbo stayed with us through moves to Manassas, Jacksonville, and West Palm Beach. She would get a couple of roommates over the years. She tolerated them as a dog tolerates fleas, she was queen of the house and no one successfully challenged her for that status.
Like all monarchs, she petulantly demanded royal treatment and tolerated no usurpers. And got pretty much whatever she wished.
More about her and the others at some other time.
Monday, August 10, 2009
She found a class with several people texting. She asked them to stop. Most did, one didn't.
The blog was about tolerance, mine is about courtesy, manners, and civility and why these are in short supply.
A comment I made on her blog is what I truly believe:
Rudeness is the natural state of human behavior, we are taught manners.
It is true. You know it in your hearts. When we are infants we are selfish and demanding. We get our way too, don't we? If not, the parents are bad and the children deprived. But over the next couple of years, things change. We learn to move around, to speak. And we begin to learn that there are limits.
My mother once told me, when I told her I thought my father didn't like us children very much, that he loved children... until they learned to speak and learned the word "no."
At this point, society stops seeing the parent who caters to his/her children as good. Instead, he/she becomes a bad parent. When, exactly, this change should take place is a gray area but we, society, know it when we see it.
In most cases, children do learn manners before going to school for the first time. Most have learned to share, to play with others without fighting (mostly), to treat adults with deference, and so on.
There is a period where manners go away again. It is called adolescence. Rudeness becomes the natural state again. Sullenness, rebellion, indifference to the feelings of others (especially adults and those not in the teen's clique) are the common signs.
In earlier days, pre-mid 20th century, this behavior wasn't tolerated. But after 1950, that changed. It was not only tolerated, it was expected and see as a normal part of growing up. Yet, as one moved out of their teens, that behavior was expected to revert to the learned manners. The adolescent was to emerge as a polite, courteous, adult.
But something began to change in the last few decades of the 20th century. We stopped growing up. We stopped reverting to the manners we learned as children. And our children were not expected to behave, self esteem became more important than civility.
And now those children are raising their children and they have no model to follow.
And civility is no longer respected. It is now laughed at, derided, dissed.
The Simpsons have successfully replaced the Andersons.
I am growing into a grouchy old codger, aren't I?
(to read the blog I reference click Here )
Sunday, August 9, 2009
And now I cannot make up for that. Many people have offered condolences to me, expressed sadness about the pending loss of a friend. But my loss is nothing compared to his family's. I am losing a friend, a man I have known for many decades, but not someone I have known all my life. Friends often come and go, some stay with you, some move on (or you do). You pick and choose friends. Family is different.
He has two daughters and two grandchildren. They all adore him. You can see it in their eyes and in the way they talk and act around him. He has an ex-wife who has returned to his house to care for him. She regrets leaving him before, I think.
His daughters are beautiful people. One is a teacher, the other a psychologist. Young and full of life and optimism.
They are going through a very hard time. I cannot imagine how difficult this is for them. I have lost both my parents but not at so young an age. And to lose a man of such character... well, it is beyond words.
I received an email from his daughters today. A sad one. German' has entered Hospice, deteriorated rapidly and is no longer alert. They have informed us (myself and his many other friends) that he may go at any time.
German' has lived a full life. He is loved by all who know him. No man can ask for more than that.
I am fortunate to have had him in my life.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Anyway, I began to examine pain in an effort to understand it. I realized there was a relationship to pleasure on one extreme and pain on the other, with the sense of touch as the link. Some pain is pleasure. Consider tickling. It makes you feel good unless it goes on too long or occurs when you don't want it. Your skin becomes over-sensitive. The light touch becomes painful.
A light stroke, a caress, is pleasurable; a hard rub, a strong squeeze, is painful. But the levels are difficult (if not impossible) to quantify. Except personally. I mean that you learn when pleasure turns to pain.
Over the years I have learned to control my tolerance of pain. I suppose we all do. Not completely, of course. And not in the same way. I like to treat pain as something alien, foreign to my body. I try to see it as a separate thing, to disassociate myself from it. I like to think of this as Zen-like though it probably isn't.
There is something called Bloodstream Sermon:
Buddhas don't save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil.
To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.
The concept is one I use to deal with headaches, minor backache, and the like. It saves on aspirin.
Well, just something to consider...
Friday, August 7, 2009
Yes, phone company. The ones who provide my DSL service, who give me access to the internet and all that pornography... wait, not that, I don't look at that stuff. Anyway, it seems that they have a problem with their backbone somewhere. Well, I can relate to that. In any case, I am cut off from the internet, from access to my blog, from all of you folks.
I feel so alone. So desolated. I can't even check on how badly my investments are doing. Well, that isn't all that depressing. I mean, they could be doing well. Yeah, I know, who am I kidding?
But I can't even read my email. How will I correspond with that nice young man in Nigeria who wants to give me all that money? How will I learn about the new magic pills that make limp things stand up and take notice (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)? Who will I be able to turn to for secrets to gaining wealth overnight (which I won't need when that nice young man in Nigeria comes through)?
How will I survive?
I know, I'll watch a little TV, listen to a little music, maybe even read a book.
I will survive.
Oh, wait... I'm back online... never mind.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Apparently, Brazil is encouraging its citizens to, well, pee in the shower in an effort to save water.
There are rules, however... [taken from the Guardian]
• Don't start until the water has. The water not only provides a cloaking effect, it also avoids lingering contact between the non-lavatory bowl porcelain and your urine. The idea is that it is whisked away down the plughole almost instantly, thus minimising breaches of basic hygiene and allowing maintenance of the pretence, even unto yourself, that you have not just peed in the shower.
• For similar reasons, it also behoves the micturator to do his/her business right at the beginning of his/her ablutions, thus providing a full rinse cycle.
• Don't do it in a friend's shower. Nothing ruins a friendship quicker than inappropriate urination. Keep it for post-pub antics in shop doorways where it belongs.
• Don't do it in public showers – for the obvious reasons, but also because public showers very often involve wooden slat arrangements and we are talking about an activity that should only be undertaken on very, very non-porous areas indeed.
Instead, I must rely on others for layouts and fiddle and play within their constraints to approximate what I want to do.
Suggestions for how to put that Comic Strip Title above the comic strip itself would be welcome. I can't seem to find the proper placement control for the text/title. It worked fine in the old template.
Ah... but these are minor irritations.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Read this story when you get the time.
Here's a brief summary:
A man with 6 convictions, and 10 arrests, for drunken driving since 1988 was arrested after being observed swerving into traffic and nearly causing an accident. The man, when stopped, had a 12 pack of beer (with 8 unopened cans and 1 open and half empty left) on the floor in front of the passenger seat and a open bottle of brandy between his legs. His driver's license was under suspension since 2003. His last conviction for DUI was in 2001.
I don't want you to think I am a hypocrite. I have driven drunk, more than a couple of times. Yet, I had the sense to drive slowly and carefully. I did not speed, I did not wander across lanes, nor swerve in front of traffic. And the last time I did this was in 1979, a distance of 1.5 miles at 2 AM on empty back streets.
I am not angry at the man, I am a little angry at the system we have that fails to protect us. Why is it possible that this man still had access to a motor vehicle?
If I could enact laws, I would have a DUI law that says:
First conviction - 6 months suspended license, mandatory substance/alcohol abuse counseling, and a fine.
Second conviction - Permanent revocation of license, $10,000 fine, minimum 3 month jail sentence. Revocation of any vehicle registration(s) and denial of any future registration.
A sister law would suspend the driver's license and registration for a period of at least 6 months of any person knowingly loaning a vehicle to a driver with a second conviction for DUI. The "knowingly" part might be difficult to prove at times, I realize.
Sorry for the rant.
Monday, August 3, 2009
As I threatened yesterday, I played golf today. Well, it really isn't golf the way I play it. But I had fun... mostly... except for a few holes where I did not have any fun at all. But my mistakes were mostly small ones (for me) so I could shrug them off. Golf is a great teacher for that... the shrugging off of mistakes. One of the things you have to learn is to forget. Forget that last shot that didn't go the way you wanted. Concentrate on the next, believe you can do whatever it is that is needed, then try.
Lots of talk about the Cash for Clunkers program today. I can't take advantage of it. My oldest car is an `06. And it's paid for. Both of my cars are paid for. That amazes me. (My first car was debt free too. Of course, it only cost $80) My house is paid for also. That truly amazes me. The first time I bought a house I didn't think I would ever be able to pay it off. I was right about that, I suppose, since I gave it up when I got that divorce.
It reminds me of the day my father paid off his house. He had run the loan out to its full thirty years. I had never seen him so happy, so proud of himself. It was less than ten years later he had to move out of that house and into assisted living. That was the most miserable day of his life. He never really got over it.
The Cash for Clunkers program is being called a great success by some. I am not sure how. It was poorly planned and underfunded and may be shut down if they can't get another $2 Billion out of Congress for it. Strange definition of "success", I'd say.
Even though I don't need one, I find myself looking at new cars. Maybe it's a guy thing. Or maybe a part of being an American. But I can't help it. I want to buy new things, to have new things. But I won't do it. I know that. I am too much of a pragmatic cheapskate.
I have to be... otherwise I'd always be broke.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Golf is a funny game. Not funny as in laughable (though you might think that to see me play) but funny as in strange, unfathomable, without reason or logic. And that may be its lure for me.
Golf as played by pros and good amateurs is akin to my game in name only. Whereas a golf pro may make a few errors among his (or her, let's not be Chauvinistic here) good shots, I make a few good shots among my many errors.
Yet I tell myself how good a shot I just made when, deep inside (very deep, buried beneath the massive ego), I know it was pure luck that allowed the ball to get anywhere near the hole.
Golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy without being good at them. ~Jimmy DeMaret
I was musing on this while watching Tiger Woods the other day. Mr. Woods played poorly on the first day of this week's tournament (the Buick Open), shooting a measly 71, or one under par, and landing in a tie for 95th place.
Excuse me while I digress... the term "under par" means not feeling well in everyday terminology. However, in golf, it is a good thing to be under par.
Now, for the average golfer, being one under par would be impossible. This is because the average golfer rarely breaks 90, or 18 over par.
I play in the low 80s. If it's any hotter than that, I won't play. ~Joe E. Lewis
But, for the pros, a one under par score can be a disaster. And, indeed, being tied for 95th can mean no chance of playing the final two days. Not for Mr. Woods, however, he simply comes back out the next day and shots a 9 under par round of 63 to place himself a couple of shots back of the leader at the end of the day.
The way he does this is amazing even to other golf pros. To the rest of us, the ragtag, oddly costumed, people who keep the golf industry alive by purchasing golf equipment we think will cure our innate inability to play the game, it is pure magic.
One would think golf is an easy game to play. After all, unlike tennis or baseball, the ball is not moving when you attempt to hit it. And you believe that until you try it. Maybe that is what is so frustrating about it.
Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle. ~Author Unknown
None of this will keep me from playing tomorrow.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
According to the Guide, all you have to do is hurl yourself at the earth and miss. This, you will easily surmise, is not easy to do. There are explanations of how you might accomplish missing the earth; distractions and the types, thereof, mostly. Once you initially and successfully miss the earth, there are ongoing distractions which are needed to remain missing it.
I mused on this for awhile (I muse often, hence the name of this blog) and came to the conclusion that this is what satellites do. It is quite possible that Mr. Adams mused on what satellites do and then came up with the chapter. Thereby causing me to muse in the opposite direction. But I digress.
Let's get back to satellites... Our moon is in a delicate balance between gravity and speed. Yet it is moving away from the earth at a rate of approximately 3cm per year. I am led to believe that the moon will never, barring some odd catastrophe, leave its orbit. I dislike the word "never" in this context.
There are four main theories of how the moon formed.
1. Co-Formation (Earth & Moon formed together in place)
2. Capture (Earth gravitationally captured the Moon)
3. Fission (Moon split off from a fast-spinning proto-Earth)
4. Giant Impact (Proto-Earth hit by a Mars-sized body and Moon formed from the debris).
Some say the moon does not revolve, as the earth does, but this is not entirely true. It's just that its rotation is such that only one side ever faces the earth. That is, its revolution precisely matches its orbit around the earth. You have to think about this to realize it. It takes some musing.
My musings then took me to think about the various moons around the planets we can see. That is, the ones in our own solar system. We can't see the planets in other solar systems but we can surmise that they will not differ greatly from the ones nearby.
One planet in our system seems to have no moons, Saturn. Yet it does. It has thirty of them. It also has rings.
Saturn is not the only planet in our system to have rings. So do Jupiter, Uranus (do not giggle), and Neptune.
All of this brings me back to my original musing. Which is about balance. Just as our own moon is in a delicate balance of speed versus gravity, so are other satellites in the same delicate balance around their respective planets. And planets around their suns. And systems around their galactic cores and, one muses, galaxies around the universal center.
I'm getting dizzy.
And this musing is why I never get anything done.