My 2014 Year in Books

War and Peace - - Leo Tolstoy (NOT Recommended!!!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - - J. K. Rowling

The Conquest of Canaan - - Booth Tarkington
Penrod - - Booth Tarkington
Gentleman Takes a Chance - - Sarah Hoyt "Shifter" novel
Witchfinder - - Sarah Hoyt "Magical Empires" novel
Step to the Stars - - Lester del Rey
Dragonhunters - - Sabrina Chase "Guardians Compact" novel
Darkness Ascendant: Book Two of the Catmage Chronicles - - Meryl Yourish
New Treasure Seekers - - Edith Nesbit
The Light Princess - - George MacDonald
Sunk at Sea - - R. M. Ballantyne
Under the Waves: Diving in Deep Waters - - R. M. Ballantyne
Captains Courageous - - Rudyard Kipling
Sea Warfare - - Rudyard Kipling
The Sword of Shannara - - Terry Brooks
Fledgling - - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Stardogs - - Dave Freer (NOT recommended!!!)
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - - Jerome K. Jerome

Spe Salvi ["Saved in Hope"] - - Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est ["God is Love"] - - Pope Benedict XVI

My Guide to RPG Storytelling - - Aron Christensen
On Fairy Stories, and Leaf by Niggle - - J. R. R. Tolkien

Born to Run - - Christopher McDougall
The Cruelest Miles [history of the sled dog teams taking diphtheria antitoxin to Nome] - - Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury
The Weight of Poor: a Strategy to End Poverty - - Cloward and Piven
No More Wacos - - David B. Kopel and Paul H. Blackman

- - -
And. . . currently part way through The Theory of Moral Sentiments - - Adam Smith


Bill of Rights Day - December 15

Bill of Rights Day - December 15

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

These first ten amendments to the United States Constitution formally recognize our innate freedoms.  We have rights because we are human beings.  Rights are not things that are bestowed by a government.

Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Government can neither impose a state religion upon you nor punish you for exercising the religion of your choice. You may express your opinions, write and publish what you wish, gather peacefully with others, and formally ask government to correct injustices.
Amendment II - A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Individuals ("the people") have the right to own and use weapons without interference from the government.
Amendment III - No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The government cannot force you to house its agents.
Amendment IV - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
You may not be arrested or "detained" arbitrarily. No agency of government may inspect or seize your property or possessions without first obtaining a warrant. To obtain a warrant, they must show specific cause for the search or seizure and swear under oath that they are telling the truth about these reasons. Furthermore, the warrant itself must state specifically and in detail the place, things, or people it covers. Warrants that are too general or vague are not valid; searches or seizures that exceed the terms of the warrant are not valid.
Amendment V - No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
No one outside the military may be tried for a serious crime without first being indicted by a grand jury (of citizens). Once found not guilty, a person may not be tried again for the same deed. You can’t be forced to be a witness or provide evidence against yourself in a criminal case. You can’t be sent to prison or have your assets seized without due process. The government can’t take your property without paying market value for it.
Amendment VI - In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Trials cannot be unreasonably postponed or held in secret. In any criminal case against you, you have a right to public trial by a jury of unbiased citizens (thus ensuring that the state can’t use a "party-line" judge to railroad you). The trial must be held in the state or region where the crime was committed. You cannot be held without charges. You cannot be held on charges that are kept secret from you. You have a right to know who is making accusations against you and to confront those witnesses in court. You have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify in your favor and a right to the services of an attorney.
Amendment VII - In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The right to trial by jury extends to civil, as well as criminal, cases. Once a jury has made its decision, no court can overturn or otherwise change that decision except via accepted legal processes (for instance, granting of a new trial when an appeals court determines that your rights were violated in the original proceeding).
Amendment VIII - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Bail, fines, and punishments must all fit the crime and punishments must not be designed for cruelty.
Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
You have more rights than are specifically listed in the Bill of Rights.
Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The U.S. federal government has only those specific powers granted to it by the Constitution. All other powers belong either to the states or to individuals.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, taken together, mean that the federal government has only the authority granted to it, while the people are presumed to have any right or power not specifically forbidden to them. The Bill of Rights as a whole is dedicated to describing certain key rights of the people that the government is categorically forbidden to remove, abridge, or infringe. The Bill of Rights clearly places the people in charge of their own lives, and the government within strict limits - the very opposite of the situation we have allowed to develop today.

[from  Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership ]


Things at Work

CO-WORKER:  You got any super glue? That last stuff you gave me went all hard.

ME (handing him a new package of super glue):  Okay.  Here you go.

[time passes . . . ]

CO-WORKER: I used it, but that super glue you gave me ain't no good too.  It's like all jellied up or something. 

ME: [Pointing at package, where it says, "Loctite® Super Glue Gel, No Drip / No Mess"]

CO-WORKER: Oh.  Well, that don't work as good as the runny stuff.  I like the runny stuff better. 

- - -
Some days, it's enough to make one lose one's faith in humanity. 


'S Up With English?

ME:  I got to use the word [SIGN-cure] in a sentence.

YOU:  Um, I think it's pronounced [SIN-a-cure].

ME:  <  hmf ?  >

(Later . . . )


ME:  <  hmf ?!  >


Some reasons I should have died by now

Unlimited salt intake
Rode bike with no helmet
Slept on the shelf behind the back seat on long trips
No car seats in cars when I was a kid
No booster seats in cars when I was a kid
No seat belts in cars when I was a kid
Walked / bicycled to school
Played in street
Playground without adult supervision
Barbecue food
Kool Aid
Movie popcorn
Played with matches
Played Scientist with old household and garden chemicals
Tree climbing
Sibling fights
Playground fights
Dodge Ball
Red Rover
Parade Magazine quiz 1974: "Headed for trouble"
Drove too fast for the rating of the tires
Drove too fast in the fog
Drove so fast stopping distance > headlight beam
Got knocked upside the head by Dad (more than once)
Childhood diseases before all those vaccines
"Hydration" was not a thing -- drinking out of the garden hose was a thing
"Electrolytes" was not a thing -- potato chips was a thing
Ate the green potato chips
Got a "D" in math in third grade
Wouldn't eat Mom's overcooked beef liver
Went trick-or-treating on Halloween without adult supervision
Ate the Halloween candy we got

 . . . And that's just a start!


Not an empty longing. A full longing.

Forest Interior, 1850, Barend Cornelis Koekkoek

When I saw this picture it reminded me of Little Dorrit

And suddenly my heart was overflowing.  My spirit welling up.

Oh, how I sometimes long to be in an imaginary place, in a world whose volume is all Love; where shadows do not express darkness, but serve to prove the Light; where the falling leaves, and the sear and sallow garden reveal a Beauty strong and abiding; where I am among the book people, favorite characters, deathless and True.

The longing is so full it grows to an ache that stops my senses and becomes a focus in itself, a concentration to see and understand such a multidimensional fullness.

Spending many moments in that world of Love and Light and Beauty and Truth makes it difficult to re-enter the "real" world.  This old here-and-now seems flat and queerly fluorescent-lit and artificial.

Yet I am so grateful for the glimpse of the wide, full world.

Jerusalem, my happy home,
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?

O happy harbor of the saints!
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil.

... Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,
Our pleasure is but pain:
Our joys scarce last the looking on,
Our sorrows still remain...

"Jerusalem My Happy Home" -- "The orig­in­al man­u­script in the Brit­ish Mu­se­um, dat­ed around 1583, is in­scribed, “A song made by F. B. P. to the tune of DIANA.” The au­thor is thought to have been a Ca­tho­lic priest who based the hymn on the writ­ings of St. Au­gus­tine."   [ from CyberHymnal ]


Libertarian Epidemic Response

By the way, have you noticed the silence from the Libertarian wing regarding the Ebola crisis? 


I understand.  It is hard to hear what is not being said.

Other than some random bitching about how Gummint is Situation Normal All Fouled Up, Libertarians (even small-L libertarians) haven't been offering much.  As far as I know, even  Doctor Paul hasn't appeared in front of a microphone and a camera to offer expert advice in this instance.  Okay, he was OB-GYN, but still. 

I surmise that the Libertarian response is that market forces will take care of the whole thing by means of an invisible hand or some such. 

Maybe some entrepre-freakin-neur will come up with a free-market cure for hemorrhagic fever.  And if not, blame it on Gummint. 


Default Response to Complexity: Become Vague

My employer's normal response to any situation is inversely proportional to the complexity of the stimulus. 

If the situation is perfectly simple and everybody involved is already perfectly clear about everything, he will speak at length and in detail.  If the situation is a huge rat's nest of intricate odds and ends, his response is likely to be a bland smile as he hands over some accumulated notes: "Here, deal with this."  -- After the fact, and with no briefing on the history of the whole thing. 




Barack the Barmy will now teach trolls to dance.

ISIL [sic] is not "Islamic".  No religion condones the killing of innocents…

Transcript of Obama’s speech (10 Sept 2014) on Islamic State strategy in Mideast - Middle East - Stars and Stripes

 "I declared Iraq a success.  This will only take a minute.  I'm going golfing." 

I wonder if there is a Las Vegas betting line on which will come first: Global Conflagration or Civil War?


Workplace dialogues

CO-WORKER:  (Comes over to borrow my 24 oz. ball pein hammer)

ME: Here you go.

CO-WORKER:  (sings) If I had a haa-merrrr...

ME: You wouldn't have to come over here and raid my toolbox!

CO-WORKER:  No, it was an old folk song.

ME: It's still an old folk's song.  Nowadays only old folks sing it!



I'm so old . . .

I'm so old I remember when draft dodger Cassius Clay became Muslim to prove he didn't believe in violence.  Right. 


Modern Steampunk Chic - Fuel Cells

Google and others buy them by the pallet load.

It's magic, that's what it is . . . I do live in the future, after all . . .

Wikipedia:  fuel cell .
Steam methane reforming produces (as far as I can gather) non-"Green" levels of carbon dioxide.  Also it takes energy to make the steam.  The wiki article on Fuel Cells contains this tidbit:  "The Department of Energy Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance found that, as of January 2011, stationary fuel cells generated power at approximately $724 to $775 per kilowatt installed.  In 2011, Bloom Energy, a major fuel cell supplier, said that its fuel cells generated power at 9–11 cents per kilowatt-hour, including the price of fuel, maintenance, and hardware."

I suspect that Bloom Energy is using a catalytic process instead -- either with platinum alone or -- more likely -- in some other (?) soup of (?)  reducible metals (?) (ferric oxide, sulfur dioxide?) -- which would make the process patentable, more economical than pure platinum, and "Greener" to boot.

Time to buy stock in public fuel cell companies?  Or is it a scam?  The Wikipedia article contains this:  "...as of October 2013, no public company in the industry had yet become profitable."  Hmmm.

Stay tuned . . .


Migraine Aura - Fortification Spectrum

You have to realize that while the visual phenomenon is happening, the colors are moving, blinking, blurring in and out of their vivid primary colors, morphing, changing.  The outlines are changing, from dark to bright gold light.

This is a sketch I made while having right-eye migraine aura today.  It is a form of Scintillating Scotoma -- some good illustrations at the Wikipedia link, by the way -- sometimes called "fortification spectra" or teichopsia, according to this link.  I scanned it and prettied it up some with MS Paint.  Picture this in motion, overlaid on everything else I was trying to look at. 

Probably this was triggered by glare while working the parts counter, looking past the customer to the bright sky outside.  As soon as I could, I took a naproxen sodium tablet, had another swig of coffee (caffeine may trigger migraine in some people, but for me it is the drug of choice), and iced my face.  The phenomenon is really quite beautiful.  Duration of visual disturbance this time was about forty minutes from start as a bright dot in the center of vision to being a dull, ignorable border on the right.  Now, three hours later, I just feel stupider than usual and somewhat out of alignment with my physical self. 

Why does this happen?!  The Mayo Clinic says, "It's believed that the visual aura that may accompany migraine is like an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the part of your brain that processes visual signals (visual cortex). As the wave spreads, it may cause these visual hallucinations."  What that means, I do not know.  

Also:  Why ME?!  Well, first you have to have the right genetic background . . . Thanks, Mom!


English, The Ensloppening

One more thing to add to your list of linguistic evidence of the decline of civilization:

The word MANUFACTURER seems to be disappearing, especially in the plural. 

"Manufactures of dowel pins sometimes use electroless plating process." 

"Find manufactures of Bosch solenoid valve."

"Our manufactures can ship direct to user."

Is it because of English-as-a-Second-Language?  But they would be corrected if we were unafraid, and the decline would be nipped in the bud.

It's our language, damn it anyway!  We stole it from the Brits, who stole it from all those conquerors!  If we let just anybody who wants our U.S. Dollars treat American English any way their spell check allows -- why, that would be like letting just anybody simply walk across our borders and partake . . .

Oh.  Right. 


Whole lotta shakin' goin' on!

Morning of 24 August 2014: 

And since denizens of the San Francisco bay area like to describe these earthquake things, I thought it was both a roller and a shaker.

My recollection is it went: 

Pop! Whump-whump-(whump)...BANG!!! GABUMP!GaBump!gabump-bump-bump-wump-wump-wump. [Followed by the stillness of the earth and the continued creaking of the house and ringing of the wind chimes in the doorway of the hall to the laundry room.]



I'll do the aside as a warmup to the main point:  Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov gave his name most famously to a bottle of gasoline with a rag wick in the top for use as an improvised incendiary device.  "Molotov" was a nom de guerre based on the Russian word for "hammer" -- as in, "Hammer and Sickle".  But the name of the incendiary device was created by the "counter-revolutionary" Finns.  Russian cluster bombs dropped on the Finns were called "Molotov's bread baskets" by the people on the receiving end.  In response they gave back (notably to open Soviet tank turrets) a little home-made burn-baby-burn, calling them "Molotov cocktails".

Anyway.  It was on this day in 1939 that Soviet Russia and Nazi (National Socialist Workers' Party) Germany came to a nonaggression agreement that came to be named after its chief negotiators, Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. 

Things were a bit complex for the Axis at that time, since German ally Japan was engaging in an undeclared war with Russia.  Further, Germany had eyes for Poland, and did not want Stalin to interfere there.  Put simply, under the terms of the pact the Soviets were free to turn their back on Europe long enough to stop Japan at the border of Mongolia, and the Nazis were free to expand into western Poland.

Smart Diplomacy!  All the tyrants were or should have been relatively pleased:  Japan got to keep Manchuria, Russia got to keep Mongolia, Germany got western Poland, and then Russia got eastern Poland.

Russia also got dibs on Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and part of Romania.  Germany was supposed to get East Prussia and Lithuania, but Stalin got to Lithuania first.  This is a historical example of the maxim, "Anybody who would go that far probably won't stop there."

On 22 June 1941, Hitler decided to invade Russia.  And the rest, as they say, is World War II History.


White shores. . .

Sometimes I go watch things that I know will make me cry.  I know they will.  And then they do, anyway. 


Misery Index Escalation

Ali Meyer at CNSNews reports today (19 August 2014):
(CNSNews.com) – The average price for all types of ground beef per pound hit its all-time high -- $3.884 per pound -- in the United States in July, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
And yet.  Again this morning the happy pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain voice on the radio news as I drove to work was saying that the Consumer Price Index rose (ZOMG!!!11!) more than previous months -- but still "less than one tenth of one percent."   What?  The way I did the math, if that was constant, that would work out to only about 1.2% price growth per year, and about 7.4% since January 2009.  Does that sound low to you. 

But the CNSNews story goes on:

Five years ago, in July 2009, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $2.147, according to the BLS. In those five years, the average price has climbed by $1.737 per pound--or almost 81 percent.
I realize the Consumer Price Index is not all hamburger.  But look at the number  of things that have risen steeply since January 2009!  Gasoline.  Home energy.  Milk.  Eggs.  Health insurance.  Just about everything.

Month after month.

But don't worry, be happy, because: The Consumer Price Index. 

We're being gamed.

Well I guess it depends on your definition of "Consumer" and "Price" and "Index" -- doesn't it?


V-J Day 14 August 2014

In 1945 the United States and allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Sic semper tyrranis!


Not ex cathedra...

"War is not to be waged in the name of God!"
-- Pope Francis

... Um, if our cause is just; if we are acting in defense of life and liberty; if we are standing in the way of oppression and tyranny; then it is not only our right but our duty to wage war.  And if we pray to the One True God® before the engagement, then I guess we can be said to be waging war "in the name of God." 

It is also reserved to the laity to make prudential judgments about things like what (political) course to take.

No matter what Bill Donohue thinks.

The Islamic State sharia-or-bust movement is wrong, horrible, evil.  But we oppose them because of what they do -- not because they say they're doing things for Allah. 

I just hope Pope Francis was taken out of context.  (Actually I think that about him a lot.)  Otherwise somebody seriously gots ta 'splain things to that boy.  (You listening, Holy Spirit?)


The Great American Internet Fiction Thing

In high school I had an English teacher (American Literature) who liked to talk about The Great American Novel.  Something about its scope and, like, defining a thing.  Or something. 

I assume he had never really read Huckleberry Finn.

Anyway, whatever else a novel is, it is something like a sandwich. 

A sandwich is something between pieces of bread.  (Regional and cultural definition of "bread" may vary.) 

A novel is something between a front cover and a back cover.  At least.  Well that's a place to start. 

So the Great American Novel would be text between covers that says something about America and is all defining and reconstructs the paradigms and all radiant and glorious and stuff.  Depending on whether you're an English (AmLit) major. 

But --

What if there's no back cover?

Well then, if it's a traditional book you call it an unfinished novel, I guess.  Author deceased. 

Thought experiment:  Think of a trilogy of books.  I'm thinking of C. S. Lewis' space trilogy, but you can pick your own.  Say the first book stands on its own as a story.  Say books one and two likewise.  Is the story complete?  Along comes book three.  Now what?  What if there was a book that was a series of books but that was complete in every book? No real "back cover"? Complete in every chapter?  But what if it kept on going, kept on growing, kept on attaining something -- complete and not-complete at every unit.  Is book two of Lewis' space trilogy an unfinished novel?  In what sense is it unfinished? 

And what if the book has no covers?  No paper at all?  What if it is electronic / digital / internet based? 

I think the English majors might not want to aim so low as to write a Great American Novel.  Maybe it would be greater to aspire to being part of a kind of cohesive Homestuck that just keeps going and going and going.  You may say I'm a dreamer.  Together some day we may be writing the Great American Celebrate the Ongoing Life Thing.  Maybe we already are. 


Not THAT kind of federalism

I am not one of those people who believe the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights limits ONLY the central (Federal) government. 

A Washington Examiner article on 20 July 2014 by Blake Seitz contains the phrase, "the constitutionally-enshrined authority of the 50 states to do wrongheaded things."

Oh geez please, Mr. Orthodox Libertarian!

California, for example, has already gone plenty overboard on the Wrongheaded Things, and the process of judicial Right-heading of these things seems injuriously slow.  What should be unconstitutional restrictions on the first amendment right to free speech are tolerated in California and elsewhere because of some people's unscientific but strongly held belief that the murder of unborn children has overriding benefits.  What should be unconstitutional restrictions on the second amendment right to keep and bear arms are tolerated (method-of-carry bans, ammo bans, handgun roster bans, rifle and shotgun bans by type...) because of some people's unscientific but strongly held belief that, well, guns are scary.  Or something.  I am sure that California would try to figure out a way around the third amendment to quarter troops (or surplus prison population?) in the homes of citizens if Sacramento politicians could find a way to make a buck out of it.  Same with all of the Bill of Rights.  

There are limits to the "constitutionally-enshrined authority of the 50 states to do wrongheaded things."  Limits that are and of right ought to be imposed by the United States upon the several states.  Yes I am in favor of strong central government within the limits of Madisonian (Constitutional) Federalism.  

What kind of conservative are you, anyway!  (I can hear straw Libertarians jeering like a line of stoats and weasels behind the fence.)  

I guess I'm just much closer to being a Theodore Roosevelt conservative than I am to being a Murray Rothbard pro-abort eugenist holocaust-denier anarcho-libertarian. 


Wiki Wander 17 July 2014

It was work related! Honest! 

Started with the label of a purple gasket replacement gel containing the descriptor THIXOTROPIC.

By the time I gave up, I had visited






Special guest appearances by science and math

"Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all."
  -- Dr. Seuss


Harry Reid, Senator and Super-Intellect

from The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday asserted the southern border is secure despite the massive surge of illegal minors from Central America that has overwhelmed federal agencies.

“The border is secure,” he told reporters after the Senate Democrats’ weekly policy lunch. “[Sen.] Martin Heinrich [(D-N.M.)] talked to the caucus today. He’s a border state senator. He said he can say without any equivocation the border is secure.”



Amazon sends me email...

The email subject line said, "Magazines now 30% off!"

Wow, I thought, you can never have too many magazines.  Maybe more of the CZ 40S&Ws, or some M1911 spares? 

Turns out they meant, like, print  magazines -- legacy media -- such as Time and Popular Mechanics.

Eew.  So last millennium. 

I suppose there are readers who have a subscription sent to an e-reader or pad... but WHY?!  There are too many good things to read, to clutter up your time with media conglomerate agitprop


Because America

And to the Republic for which it stands....

And forever in peace may it wave...



World Cup

Working the parts counter. 

CUSTOMER: So.  Do you follow the World Cup?

ME:  You mean Quidditch?


ME:  [long pause.]  What? 


Muggle Philosophy

I had a dream last night ...

Professor Severus Snape has been pressed into service as a substitute teacher for a Hogwarts class on Muggle Philosophy. 

"In 1651 a muggle from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, by the name of Thomas Hobbes, described the original state of muggles as 'nasty, brutish, and short.'  Who can tell me what we call this form of muggle society?   No, not you, Miss Granger.  What about -- Potter?"

Harry straightens up and looks at Snape.  "Um,  er, the Labour Party?"

And that was the dream.  


Draw your own conclusions

In September of 1970 I was in the 7th grade.  For some reason the controllers of the school decided it would be more High School preparatory to give us four teachers and make us move to four different classrooms during the day.

Mrs. Leggett taught us Spanish, History, and Art.

Yes, "Art" was part of the curriculum.

I remember watching a film strip* about how to paint with watercolors. And then we were issued a baby-food jar with a little water, and told to take our little tin paint box (with its seven or eight hard lozenges of wettable pigments) outside, and paint something realistic.  On some kind of issued paper that was slightly thicker and more textured than newsprint**. 

Another time, we were told to get out our collection of six watercolor felt-tip pens and told to draw a human face -- oh, we had plenty of instruction in technique, for we had watched a film strip about the proportions of the human face (is it really that far from the tip of my nose to the top of my head?).

Another time Mrs. Leggett put a goldfish in a bowl on her desk, and told us to pencil sketch the goldfish.  No film strip that time.

Need I say that my approach to creating two-dimensional art is more impressionistic than representational?  My outdoor watercolor of the side of a building with Italian cypress was a warped and soupy sampler of muddy colors.  My "face" looked like maybe an Andy Warhol design of a fallen soufflĂ© -- in neon lights.  And I gave up on the goldfish and drew an example of pisces as one might find him in a mosaic in the ruins of Pompeii. 

It turned out that my lack of realism was Bad Art.  It was a Failure, of temperament as well as technique.  It was probably part of the Willful Maliciousness of Boys. 

We received letter grades in Art.  Mrs. Leggett gave me Cs and Ds.  (The Art grade went nicely with my Math grade that year.) 

And what did I learn from 7th Grade Art Class with Mrs. Leggett? *****

- - -
* It's kinda like a slide show***.

** That's what they printed newspapers**** on.

*** It's kinda like a Power Point presentation.

**** It's kinda like a cross between a book and a web site.

***** See title of post, above.


Be "Careful"

Do not "open" over lava pit.

Take no unnecessary "risks".

Exercise "Caution" in your daily affairs.

"Learn" how to "use" quotation marks.  And apostrophe's. 



After losing Dad in September 2005, summer rolls around again, and I start having  flashbacks and memories of those last days of caring for him at home and then at the hospital.  

One  of the last days he was at home was the day all those people were in the huge traffic jam heading  north out of New Orleans away from Hurricane Katrina.  I was at the house with Dad -- he sat in the family room and looked out the  window where he could see me outside pulling crabgrass out of the flower beds.  I remember when I came back in he took my hand and whispered to me -- "Thanks, I've been wanting to do that and somehow I just haven't been able to."  That was SO Dad.

I've still got Dad stuff in bags and bins and suitcases and file boxes, going on nine years after the fact.  I've got chairs in the garage that won't fit in my house.  I've got a few of his clothes -- one of
his sport coats and a shirt and tie ... and none of it gets sorted, nothing gets

"I've been wanting to do that and somehow I just haven't been able to."

I've got piles of grief baggage in my blood, in my brain, in my soul -- and somehow
none of it gets sorted, none of it gets done.

"Somehow I just haven't been able to."


I've forgotten more than most kids will ever know

I'm getting old enough that my portal amnesia now applies to opening a new browser tab. 

If only I could get those decrepit neurons working on forgetting dumb crap I've done over the last (nearly) six decades! 


Not going gentle into the 21st Century

Some companies I do business with are only lately being dragged kicking and screaming into the information age. 

On a vendor web site, I'm trying to figure out this product matches what we need at the shop.  Don't bother trying to telephone the vendor -- all you'll get is, at best, a very courteous and sincere young person who has access to exactly the same web page that I have. 

But look!  They have a helpful explanatory video! 

Only not: 

"This video does not exist." 

It was a trap.  And I walked right into it with both feet, and my hands in my pockets. 

Disappointed cat is disappointed.


Relative Disaster

On 29 May 1919 there was a total eclipse of the sun that was visible in the southern hemisphere.  A team of scientists with specially filtered telescopic cameras documented the event.  What was super special about the cameras, apparently, was that the films showed not only the rim of the sun but also stars around the sun. 

The stars weren't in their predicted positions.

This is the etymological essence of a "disaster":  dis + aster (star).  The appearance did not match the expectation. 

Once that news came out, it was more widely accepted in the astronomy / physics community of scientists that the "unprovable" theory of a 40 year old German-born mathematician / physicist was demonstrably true.  Albert Einstein's theory of relativity was fact, not just weird math.  Light had been seen to have bent in the gravitational field of the sun. 

So it is that 30 May is considered the "birthday" of general relativity.  Oh the theory had been alive and kicking in the womb of mathematics since 1905, in all the glorious beauty of the Lorenz transformation, but 30 May is when it came out singing the praise of the Creator. 

Space-time ain't flat.

But I'm still waiting for artificial gravity -- and anti-gravity!


Small (and Large) Change

The tasks that are to be faced each day at work always require more time than one day provides.  Therefore a type of triage needs to be performed to move some tasks off the back burner and others to the front of the front burner.  Otherwise nothing gets done.  Or nothing seems to get done, because the only things that get addressed are the new tasks the day brings, and which always arrive like Neville's grandmother's howlers dropped by owl during breakfast.

I have seen a kind of automated coin sorter that uses rotating discs with coin sized holes to separate each different diameter of currency into a separate pile.  Most days my task triage works the same way, picking out the biggest items and feeling good about getting them into the stack marked DONE.

But if I do this every day, then there would be a constantly-growing number of small tasks that fall through the sorting process every day.

So every once in a while -- once a week or twice a month? -- the sorting algorithm gets turned on its head and I try to see how many of the nagging little nits I can pick out and crush.  Good intentions being what they are and all that, it always seems like THOSE are the days when a big muddy sluice comes flooding into my department and over my desk with a fresh alluvial deposit of Big Diameter Problems, all in bright red envelopes.  Cover your ears and run for your life!

And the ha'pennies keep silting up the crannies of my work spaces ...


Calls for tighter screening for mental illness make me nervous.

The legacy news media loves to focus its spotlights on instances of violence that tickle their socio-mythic Gräfenberg spot.  When what they term a "mass murder" has occurred, the bass beat booms out, the disco lights start to flash, and the spotlights converge, and the blood dancing begins.  That's sick, really.  Probably mentally ill. 

Immediate conjecture about the Motive of the perpetrator ensues.  My bet is that Motive is something the media types learned from cop shows on TV, and that most of them could not define Motive, nor come up with a story about what Motive has to do with the etiology of a crime event.  As I understand it, Motive is irrelevant as to the fact of guilt in a court of law.  If the facts are substantiated, you will be found guilty of vandalizing your neighbor's car with no regard to why you did it.  Yet Motive continues to be a sparkly bauble to the media magpies. 

Then, eventually, we hear those magpies accuse the perpetrator of insanity.  He's crazy.  Mentally ill.  Those who seek Safety Above All call for gun control, knife control, insanity control. 

"We need better ways to screen out those who pose a danger to society."

Oh, really?  Listen to what you're saying.  Do you really want to go there?

Calling a spoiled liberal-gone-wrong "mentally ill" is an affront to our millions of mentally ill who suffer and function, more or less, every day all around us, and who even in their darkest moments of depression or self-harm, would never cross the line into homicide.

Look at the history of the 20th Century.  Who were the greatest mass murderers?  Governments -- far and away, more than all the wars, hugely and in a wholesale manner that would be unimaginable and unbelievable were it not for the gut-wrenching  fact of the number of those culled by socialist regimes during that bloody century -- the seekers of the perfect society, destroyed their own. 

You're more likely to go on vacation somewhere and get killed by a falling coconut than walk around America and get killed by a kid with a grudge.  But you're far more likely to be killed by a powerful socialist state.  So I for one do not want to give my progressively more socialist government any more information about myself than necessary.  And my health records are not necessary, except in specific cases of competency at law, and similar situations.  And mental health records are health records.  No one's visit to a psychologist should be subject to a review by some Safety Bureau. 

If we value the life part of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," then access to the means of defending life is a necessary condition of a free society.  A free society entails some risk.  Sorry, no promise that All is Safe Here.  Regardless of FDR's rhetoric, you don't have a right to feel safe.  You have a right to pursue your own happiness by making yourself safe as you care to -- without running over my right to pursuit of happiness. 

When the Safety Bureau, by whatever name it comes to be called, begins to screen out the rights of the mentally ill, it's only a tiny baby step to screening out the lives of the odd, the weak, the undesirable.  The perfect (and perfectly safe) society always ends with people being thrown into the ovens and the killing fields.

Don't go there. 



I do not think five moves ahead.  Nor even three moves.

Most days I think nine moves behind. 

On a good day I not only make a list, but remember to read it. 

I read the list for the pleasure of crossing things off.  I have been known to add to my list a line about a task I have already finished, just so I can cross it off.  See -- thinking several moves behind.

I do not like chess.  I understand the rules, and I respect it -- in very much the same way I understand and respect symbolic logic.  Chess and symbolic logic are binary.  The complexity comes from products of binary events. [Classical (syllogistic) logic is not binary because it has middle terms; the result of a syllogism is not a product but a power of the predications.  (Ha! Spell Checker does not like "predications"! Cretin Spell Checker!)]

But I was thinking about thinking several moves ahead.

I am sitting in a chair.  I have finished my cup of tea.  I have come to the end of the chapter of the book I am reading.  I have decided to go to the grocery store.  Before I go I will need to turn off the window fan, remove it from the window frame, close the window, lower the blind, and adjust the blinds for best effect against the nearly-solsticial angle of the sun later today.  That's five moves ahead.  Six, if you count going to the store.  So what do I do? 

Reach for the laptop to blog about it. 


Point of View

When Dad was going through his final fight with cancer, I was able to spend some time with him.

The last few times, he was in a morphine coma because what the pain in his body was taking from him was just too much.  Every movement, too much.  Every procedure, too much.  Beyond capability to express, or even to let him cry out.

Those hours are etched in the hardest stone of my memory.

In that room I could hold his hand, or wipe the tears from the corners of his eyes, without him feeling embarrassed and self-conscious. 

In that tiny room I talked a lot.  Out loud.  Even though he couldn't respond.  Talked to him about things we used to do, about happy memories.  Talked to him about what a great job he had always done, often against terrible odds, such as when the company cut his career out from under him and he had to start over. 

In that final room I read to him.  The Gospels.  Every one of the Psalms. "They have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones." -- Oh, that was him, that was my Dad, with the tubes coming out of the backs of his hands, and wasting away to bones. 

I have dreams of that room.  I dream those hours that were, now, most of a decade ago.

Some of the dreams are mere remembering.  As it was, where it was, all the sounds and sensations.

But some of the dreams go vertical.  In my dream the room is the bottom of a rectilinear shaft hundreds of feet deep.  I am looking down on the room, the bed with the cancer-crucified man who loved me so much he acted all my life for my good rather than his own pleasure.  I am looking down on the both of us, me in the armchair drawn up to his final bed, all of it oddly lit from above and between like looking down on a stage through one rack of theater lights while more lights shine from higher up.  The scene changes in my dreams, as the observer-I moves farther up the shaft, and the sick man and his son get smaller and smaller below.

In the vertical dream the observer-I tries to protest:  No, don't take me out of this room!  Let me stay!  Don't let it diminish!  I don't want to go away!  I don't want to have it all go away!  Let me go back down and be the son who watched and prayed.  Let me go back down to then and even farther back to before the conversation became all one-sided.  Let me go back and back and back -- into a time and place where I can pick it up and enter it and live it again and maybe get something right this time, something that might save us both.

But then I wake, and I know: that was then and there, while this is most of a decade down the road, and there is no fixing it now.  At best there may come a time when, in the vertical dream, I cease to scream.  Perhaps some day I can ascend to the next rack of theater lights, turn my gaze from the sick man on the tiny bed far below, and say hello to the man who loved me so much -- no longer in pain, but whole.


Statistics, weather, roulette...

Casa Crowndot is within the portion of California currently classified as in stage D4 drought.  This is defined by the indices as occurring 2% of the time or less.  [The picture of the highway alert sign is stolen from KQED.]

I heard this referred to on the radio as a "fifty year drought."  Two percent = 1/50 = happening once in fifty years? 

Wait a second.  I remember being in Berkeley in 1977.  Show of hands:  who is old enough to remember the color drought charts in public rest rooms -- "Don't flush until the color matches..." -- anybody?  But the drought of the 70s was less than 50 years ago.  What gives? 

No fair.  Do over. 


What would _______ do?

What Would Jesus Do?  That's not really a question, is it?  We know what he would do.  In addition to turning a whole lot of water into a whole lot of wine for some couple's wedding, he would lay down his life for our sake, and in so doing, conquer death.  Then he would rise from the dead and have a barbecue on the beach.

There are other people who provide grist for the metaphysical mill as a thought experiment, whether we would really ever do what they would do, or not.

What would John Moses Browning do?  (My favorite)
What would Marcus Aurelius do?
What would Winston Churchill do?
What would Ronald Reagan do?

On the other hand,
What would Josef Stalin do?
What would Pol Pot do?
What would Idi Amin do?

What would Hamlet do? (Even he did not know)
Well then what would the Dread Pirate Roberts do?
What would Master Chief John 117 do?
What would Gordon Freeman do?

What would Colonel Jeff Cooper do?
What would Clint Smith do?
What would Larry Correia do?

You get the picture.  It expands one's horizons.


Embracing my inner sappiness

Sometimes I see a YouTube link that promises to be all heartwarming.  But I click the link anyway.  I can tell by 0:05 into the video that it is going to make me cry.  The piano.  Those opening chords are a tip-off.  But I'm such a sap that I stay with it.  And yeah, I end up getting my eyes washed out.  Because I'm just in the mood to embrace the mushy, drippy, slushy, maudlin side of my nature. 

After a day at work that has tenderized me like a thousand blows from the spiky meat hammer -- it's just the thing. 

Here I am.  I'm all softened up.  Make me cry. 

Ahhh.  Better than a warm bath. 


Plato - Not.

I see stuff like this.  Oh, you kids.  I don't know who would have said this, but probably somebody after, you know, BOOKS!

I like books as much as the next person, but ... Plato?!


Hey, I'm back in fashion!

If you wait long enough, things come back around. Have a rack of fat ties, skinny ties?  Paisley shirts?  Bell-bottom jeans?  It's just a matter of time before they are back in the avant garde.

Now it's "short" shorts for men.  [Link is to a yahoo "shine" page, with pics of male models in standard length shorts (and one in what used to be called "hot-pants", and two in... what are those, buckle-free knickerbockers?)  Beware: what is seen cannot be unseen! You have been warned!]

I have gone through about fifteen years of summers of shortening new walking shorts so that the hem would not hit the back of my calf.  Somewhere between mid-thigh and a few inches above the knee seems normal.  Otherwise, why wear shorts? 

For running, of course, my favorites are as short and split-side as I can get away with...


The Shores of Tripoli

On 14 May 1801, the Islamic extremist government of a Berber state under, the control of the Ottoman Empire, declared war on the United States of America.  This has become known as the First Barbary War. 

"Radical" or "Extremist" Islam is, well, just Islam.  The religion of peace (?!) has been involved in terrorism, murder, kidnapping for ransom or for slavery, since its entry into history. 

Apparently, Barbary pirates had been engaged in pillage and slavery for centuries.  This came to the attention of the patriots of the American Revolution, who relied on an agreement with France for some protection of shipping.  The European powers basically advised the United States to just pay the ransom and/or protection money and deal with it like they had for centuries.  Thomas Jefferson acting as foreign minister during the 1780s had some success negotiating cessation of hostilities with the pirate states. 

However, Mohammedanism being what it is, things got worse. 

When Thomas Jefferson became President in 1801, the Grand High Muckamuck of Tripoli upped the ante with a request for nearly a quarter of a million dollars (1781 dollars!) in tribute money (with no real guarantee of protection).  Having received our Strictly Negative ® reply, the Big Fish In A Small Pond declared war on the USA. 

Hey, how did that turn out for ya, Yusaf?  Not good.  USS Enterprise was an ass-kicking schooner at that time.  USS Intrepid was a captured and repurposed pirate ship.  And Marines, well they were already proving that -- MARINES! 

It took a few years to wind down.  But its conclusion was such that it took about a hundred years to flare up famously again during Theodore "Big Stick" Roosevelt's presidency.  ("Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!") 

Flash Crowndot Bonus:  Perdicaris was a GUY

Ahmet:  Mrs. Perdicaris, you are a very difficult woman!

Ion:  That's because I'm not a woman. 

Ahmet:  ...
The Wind and the Lion would have been so-o-o different!


Talking Turkey

Things I never learned until I tried:  Turkey poults respond to pishing

Young Turkey [crossing the road - don't ask why]: Lup?

Me:  Lup?  Lup?

Young Turkey:  Lup? Hoop?

Me:  Lup?  Lup?  Hoop???

Young Turkey:  Lup?!  Lup-Lup-Lup!

But then I was back to my car and back to being human.



The Hallmark holidays are not my thing.  Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Administrative Professionals' Day, Fill-In-The-Blank Day -- not my thing.

One of the things about Mothers' Day that chafes, galls, and burns is the marketing that implies/assumes the grudging nature of the male's compliance with the whole thing. 

"Yeah," the ad goes, "It's that time again and you're gonna hafta take the old Battle-axe out to brunch, so you might as well get it over with at So-'n'-So's Shrimp-Flavored Deep-Fried-Batter Emporium, where we have a special going and you can wash it all down with carbonated wine in Mothers' Day style!"

You MUST do this or there will BE NO PEACE.  I think that's the message.

Pajamagrams?  Seriously?

Brunch?  As opposed to just getting drunk at home?  Seriously?

Chocolate Dipped Berries?  Notice they don't even say "strawberries" this year?  Just "berries."  Could be DINGLE- !

 * * *

My mother passed away almost fourteen years ago.  I love her and miss her every day.  I still have the certain knowledge that her love surrounds me.  That's why the marketing pains me so much. 


Milk Money

I am so selfish that I spend big money on lunch twice a week, thereby taking bread out of the mouths of my family and making it dead concrete certain that the baby will never grow to more than starveling runt-of-the-litter proportions. 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I await the happy arrival of the lunch caterer who brings me a giant salad of my choice.  As I wait I have some folding money and some coins jingling around on my person. 

The possibility that a stray two-bit piece may high-dive out of my shirt pocket made me remember that Mom used to scotch-tape my milk money to the top of my Roy Rogers lunch box lest the precious silver (later nickel-copper sandwich alloy) be lost. 

Yes, a thermos bottle came with the lunch pail, but it was cheaper to buy the milk at school, and easier (no cleaning the thermos bottle) and assuredly cold (really, even on the hottest days in the San Joaquin Valley it arrived at the classroom cold!).  Plus the milk came in rectilinear cartons  made of heavy weight paper and coated with paraffin, which you could scrape off the carton just for fun.  This was before the days of milk in plastic jugs, and even before the days of hip-and-gabled milk cartons of plastic-coated card stock.   In those days the cartons had a hole in a corner of the top that was plugged with an elaborately formed and folded and stapled hinged stopper welded in with more paraffin. 

It was primitive, but really we had it good.  When my older brother started school, they were still bringing the cow into the classroom, and you had to pump your own... 


Nodachi Cuts Twenty-six Tatami Mats With One Blow

"Sherwood Fair, Bruce Baldwin cuts 26 mats to take the world record in the Nodachi class sword. February 24th 2013" -- posted by William Lowry on YouTube, February 25, 2013.

Nice slice.  And it doesn't look like he was even using the blade to its greatest advantage either in slashing or in tip speed. 


The perfect cup of coffee

First we pick the coffee beans at their peak, after consulting a coffee astrologist regarding the phase of the moon, and after certifying that the beans are grown on sustainable farms run by organic coffee farmers who have not been vaccinated.

Then we grind the beans, one by one, in harmony with their natural rhythms, using a proprietary method first to euthanize them in a humane manner accompanied by the recorded sound of waterfalls and zither music.

Next we procure pure water from  a high mountain stream in a progressive-controlled jurisdiction.  We filter the water through layers of unbleached hemp fiber and conflict-free diamond dust to remove any lingering phobias or impurities. 

To the sound of mystic drumming, we place the freshly ground coffee into a reusable hemp-cloth filter in the coffee maker's receptacle cone.  The coffee maker itself is of course designed to gently raise the pure water to the optimum temperature before . . .

   < sound of phonograph needle scratching across the surface of a vinyl L.P. record >

Wait, what?  I am the opposite of a coffee snob.  I hate it to be cooked to toxicity, but to me the perfect cup of coffee¹ is the one that's there when I want it, with a minimum of fuss! 

- - -
 ¹   Mrs. Crowndot reminds me to point out, dear reader, that by "coffee" we mean real coffee², not decaffeinated coffee.        

 ²   As of this writing, "real coffee" at Casa Crowndot means big red tubs of Folgers regular, Folgers Black Silk, or Folgers Colombian Dark Roast.  To be authentic Crowndot brew, the coffee³ must be purchased on sale and placed in the strategic coffee reserve for an undisclosed period of time.

 ³   See footnote ( ¹ ).
- - -  


Fast? Food?

I keep bumping into articles on the intertoobs about the supposed health benefits of a "modified fast" once a week.  To clear out your liver or some such 18th century homeopathic science fiction.

But the fact is, once a week or so I actually DO a modified fast already.  A highly modified fast.  I call it "eating normally".  You know, three meals plus snackies?  Yeah.  I do that.  About once a week. 

A few more days a week I also tend do do a less-modified fast -- I just eat my two regular meals and snackies really fast!


Remember your history, my children!

When President George W. Bush left office, the Iraq war was won.  All we needed to do was work out the details of our ongoing presence there.  It would have been nice to have had a kind of Rhine-Main Air Base Southeast, in the middle of the Arab picnic ground.  President Bush was looking to the big picture, to gradual education in freedom throughout the region.  Now the Obama Administration and the Democrat Congress are out of Iraq.  As of late 2013, not a single U.S. combat soldier is left in Iraq.  How long before Congress has given away all the gains?  This administration, and this Senate majority leadership, have a very different Big Picture in mind for Iraq policy, one that has more to do with personal political expediency than the spread of freedom.  Bad for us, bad for the people of Iraq, bad for the region.

The American thing is not just an idealism.
"The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie."
  -- J.A. Schumpeter
Because one of America's ideals is Truth, the real American speaks the truth, and the last thing he will do for the Truth is lie.

But because we do not have a continuity of ideals in Washington D.C., but seem rather to oscillate from American to Socialist on an irregular basis, the effect of the selling-out of our friends in and around Iraq is that America gets judged as just another idealism, and just as full of lies.  But American foreign policy failure is not the fault of the American ideal.  It isn't Eisenhower's fault or Nixon's fault or Reagan's fault or Bush's fault.  It's Democrats' fault.


Somebody besides me does remember the end of the Vietnam war.  Good old Bruce Herschensohn even wrote a book telling the truth about the Vietnam war: An American Amnesia: How the U.S. Congress Forced the Surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia (Beaufort Books, 2010). The Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973; the Republic of (South) Vietnam surrendered to the communists on 30 April 1975 -- the picture of the "last helicopter out of Saigon" comes to mind.  Such a turnaround.  And all due to the Democrat-controlled 94th Congress pulling the plug on our friends.  Then came the Vietnamese boat people and all the rest.  At least the Democrats were able to turn the lie into something "everyone knows":  Nixon lost the war in Vietnam, it was a defeat for America.  No, we won the war.  Congress lost the peace.  It was a defeat for the people of Vietnam and freedom-loving people everywhere. 

The similarities to the scenario unfolding in Iraq are chilling. 

Be vague. Be very vague.

People respond to stressful situations at their level of basic training.

They do not rise to the occasion.  What appears to be "rising to the occasion" is how the untrained view the well-trained when the poop hits the air circulator and it turns out that Mr. Well-Trained has been operating at a power-conservation level all this time.

This goes for emergency situations.  Firearms training.  It also goes for basic moral fiber, as revealed in the everyday work world.

I work with people whose response to stress (which turns out to be anything that they did not initiate knowing they could control it) is to become vague.

As a purchasing agent, I know what this look like:  department heads give me the least meaningful information and make the most egregious assumptions.

I don't work in your department.  I don't work with your equipment.  I don't know the operating parameters.  I did not engineer this project for the last eight months.  So when you bring me a little slip of paper (oh yes -- the paper size is in direct proportion to the quantity of hard information and in reciprocal relation to the degree of requester's stress) that says,
             'Price on CBN stones & holder DBL length (2x4") 5.709" ID' 
I have no idea (as I am pretty sure you haven't either, dear reader) what you are talking about.

So I basically have to both psychoanalyze the requester, and re-engineer the whole thing, and come up with a recommendation for something that's way out of my area of expertise.

See?  If anything goes wrong, blame Purchasing!

Being bad at coming up with information is balanced by being really good at casting blame in the after-action reports.

Time to wave the flag.  (Not the flag of surrender.)


I might as well start saying good-bye now . . .

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10 KJV)

If the next fifteen to twenty-five years go as fast (I'm told it will be faster) as the last ones, I may not have time otherwise.

It's been fun.  I love you all.

But please know that I don't plan to go easy into that good night.

I would like to keep moving as long as possible  on this side of the great divide -- I have a lot of karma to work off !  


WTF??? The Flag of WTFness

I saw this logo on a dump truck in the shop today.  It stands for "Western Truck Fabrication" which is much older than the internet.  But that's still their logo.  Seriously, Western Truck Fab graphic design decider, WTF?

So I made a kind of flag out of their little WTF logo, because: WTF. 

This is now and forever to be the official flag of WTFness or if not, WTF?


This is one of my favorite things now

There are web cams and live streams of the construction of the new Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach California. 

At night the fog mists the lens and the lights over the channel become an impressionist artwork.  On the live stream it is kinetic artwork!


Saint John the Nice

Finally, a saint for the theology of our population of aging Directors of Religious Education, et al.

First, let me say that I do not belong to any organized religion.  I'm a Roman Catholic.  Actually, Mrs. Crowndot says I'm an Irish Catholic infiltrating the Roman Catholic Church.  Let me assure you, the organization that appears as Catholic is surface organization.  Not far underneath is not so much popes as populi.  Authors of best-selling novels of mystery-conspiracy-romantic-politics may be expert in drawing the organizational chart from the Vatican on down.  But to simplify, here's the real Catholic organizational chart: 

At the top:  the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Underneath:  Everybody, "Catholic" or not.  Sorry, that's just the way it is. 

Anyway, the reason I'm more an Irish as opposed to Roman Catholic is my frequent lack of respect for the workings past and present of other parts of the organizational chart that are theologically on the same level as me. 

Today, 27 April 2014, there is a certain hubbub taking place in Rome.  About nine time zones ahead of me.  They canonized Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  To speak with greater precision: "828  By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced
heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the
Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to
them as models and intercessors." (Catechism of the Catholic Church)  The Church doesn't "make saints" -- God by grace actualizes the life of faith.  So today the Church didn't make two popes into saints; the Church publicly recognizes their sanctity. 

Why bother to make a big public ceremony about it?  Why not leave it to the populi?  I think the reason is that Jesus didn't call us sheep for no reason.  The people benefit from some direction indicating that we'd be better off having a devotion to a holy man like JPII than a "holy man" like Rasputin or some such.  In other words, the title of Saint means the Church is not going to stand in the way of your particular devotion.  But neither is the Church really in the business of promoting particular devotions. 

But that's background.  What I came to talk about is Pope Saint John XXIII. 

Specifically, WTF, Holy Spirit?  Seriously.  We're watering down the canonization of Pope Saint John Paul II The Great by working in on the same day a guy whose claim to fame was that a.) he opened a can of worms (Second Vatican Council) and b.) he was nice?

This is like the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame deciding they were going to induct a Henry Aaron (no steroids in those home runs, dude) and Bill "Between-the-Legs" Buckner on the same day.  I mean, yes, technically Aaron and Buckner were in the same league.  But they weren't really "In the Same League" -- and neither are JPII and JXXIII.  Compare the scope of encyclicals from the one to the other, just as a for-instance. 

But here's what I wanted to say:  squishy theology always loved John XXIII because he opened through Vatican II an opportunity for communist-inspired social justice, ecumenism, etc., the gist of which is that we don't need forgiveness as much as we need to just be nice to each other and feel good about ourselves.  I do not believe John XXIII would ever have agreed with most of the icky revisionists -- but neither was he known for stolid defense of the truth, unfortunately. 

This is being written hastily on Sunday morning 27 April 2014.  This is of course not intended to be definitive as much as personally revelatory.  Perhaps to my shame.  There goes my cause for canonization! 


I don't think that means what I think it means

At the entrances to the refinery near my house, they have these "no guns" signs.  But the image has been flipped by some design idiot, and they must have chosen a handgun image that they thought had a certain scary great-white-shark ambience

Whenever I see these signs, I think it is saying,

"No long-slide compensated left-handed 1911s allowed."


I'd give a home to all the sad puppies...

It's a Larry Correia / Monster Hunter Nation thing.  Some writers get fan fic or fan art; Mr. Correia gets fan video!

Rust never sleeps

And neither do barnacles, apparently.  Hydraulic cylinders in the waters of San Francisco Bay have accumulated marine life.  Pardon the Phone Photos -- had to share anyway -- how often does a tide-pool wander into a machine shop, after all?



Like you need to know one more thing that bugs me...

Buttons on web sites that say "Login" or even "Log-In" (and then, when you're leaving, they say "Logout").

There may be a noun "login" as in, "Jeez, I forgot my login for Yahoo."  Whether spell check likes it or not. 

I'm pretty sure there is no correct context for a hyphenated version.

And I can't think of a single plausible excuse for nouning "logout".  Since, like, they don't ask you for a personal verifier to get out of their system, do they?  (Unless... a prison web site? -- "One bad decision may have brought you here, but it is much, much more difficult to leave, bwa-ha-ha-ha!!!")

So, HTML geeks, listen up!  Make your buttons two words:  "Log In" and "Log Out".

Thank you.  Like you'd listen to me anyway... 


I'm always chasing . . .

The Judy Garland song goes:

   I'm always chasing rainbows
   Watching clouds drifting by
   My schemes are just like all my dreams
   Ending in the sky ...

But this time of year at work I'm more like:

I'm always chasing SPIDERS
Watching cobwebs drifting by
My long-pole duster is a spiderweb buster
but dirt ends up in my eyes . . . 

- - -

It doesn't matter whether I kill the spiders or catch and release outside.  In either case, they will be back in a week.  The ceiling in the parts room bathroom is a spider video game re-spawn point.


It's Lenin's Birthday!

22 April.  

Yeah, the commie Lenin.  That's why it has become freakin' "Earth Day" -- a step toward normalization of the celebration of the day, I guess. 

Lenin.  As in Marxism-Leninism. 

And everything he stood for.  Ally of Trotsky, fergodsake. 

"Father of Modern Genocide" -- that would be a good historical tag line for this monster. 

Every time I hear something about freakin' "Earth Day" I see Lenin's pinched little face.  Filthy little wax dummy.  Ick. 

Lenin puts the "V. I. L." in the "EVIL" of history.


New Insight on Irony

Last Sunday.  At Mass.  Having a panic attack during the recitation of the 23rd Psalm. 

"Beside restful waters He leads me..."

Can't breathe. Pulse racing. Can't breathe. Palms sweaty.

"He refreshes my soul."

Aaack!  Hyperventilating now.  Hold your breath.  Hold your breath.

"Surely goodness and mercy... "


"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord..."

Wow.  Well.  That was exciting. 


Afternoon run in the hills

If you keep visiting the same places, you see things.  The same place is not the same day to day, month to month, year to year. 

Seasons change. 

Migratory birds come and go.

And sometimes, you just see something you've never seen before.

That is a very bad photo.  But it shows two white pelicans on the left, a turkey vulture in the center, and two red-tail hawks -- all riding the same air current about 400 feet above the trail.  Pelicans, clockwise; hawks counter-clockwise.

So what else did I see? 

I don't know who is the cause of this sign.  In a good wet year (not this year!) I think the California Newt (Taricha torosa) is out crossing roads to get to vernal pools and streams in September.  So for one thing, this is the wrong time of year for newt crossings (I think?).  For another thing, this spot is on an outside curve of the road, not at the inside curve of the arroyo where (if there were water) there would be a concentration of newts (at whatever the newts think is the right time to go all amphibian).  So:  strange naturalist/environmentalist behavior here. 

We may have seen this hillside before in these pages.  Adobe clay sliding and crumbling (depending on season and wet year / dry year) over the sandstone cliff supports blue dicks, poppies, grasses -- and later on, a variety of thorny, thistley things.

It was a lovely post-equinoctial day with little wind and lots of sunshine.  6.4 "Long, Slow" miles.  Sunday is the end of my "running week".  (I'm a Monday-start sort of guy really.  Theology aside, the weekend is the Week End.)  So it was a nice end to the Running Week as well. 

The Genocidal Duck Whisperers of the Post-Human Left

The Genocidal Duck Whisperers of the Post-Human Left


There are things to see -- if you only look

Like lichens.

Sometimes you have to look at the small things.

Such color, such texture!


Pray for the USS Truxtun, DDG-103

A lone guided missile destroyer, United States Navy's USS Truxtun (DDG-103), was long ago scheduled for a routine trip across the Black Sea. 

In spite of "tensions" in the Crimean peninsula area due to Russia's invasion of Crimea/Ukraine, the Truxtun left port in Greece on Thursday 6 March 2014 to conduct training and "theater security" engagements. 

Though not exactly alone -- we can count on (?) backup from Bulgarian and Romanian navy ships conducting joint operations -- the Truxtun is the only operable U.S. ship in the Black Sea at this time. 

Interesting times.


Something in the air

I hate running on streets.  The drivers are crazy; the sidewalks, where present, are uneven and interrupted by parked cars or overgrown shrubbery; nasty dogs who know their humans encourage such behavior will charge and yap and try to nip.  So this evening when it turned out that the high school track was crowded with the kind of people who looked like they owned those nasty dogs, and who had parked their fat posteriors upon their camp chairs on the track (On! The! Track!) to watch their precious overachievers play a game that involves getting a ball in a thing (but which is not Quidditch), I executed a hasty retreat and headed to get my running miles in at Venue Plan B,  the marina park. 

The sun was behind the hills but the sky was still bright as I headed away from the car.  The tide was slack, and the air calm and warm and moist.  The first half mile of my route was an out-and-back past the baseball fields.  The grass there was freshly mown.  That scent is deeply evocative of my childhood, of being out still playing in the dusk until Dad whistled for us to come home.  Not only was there a scent, but a taste.  The air was that laden with essence of a kind of lawn tea.

Then away from the athletic fields, running past the bocce pits and the playground, across the road and out onto the wetlands trails of the park, I am facing west, and can admire the pink and gold of high cirrus clouds above the sunset.  Heading out along the edge of the bay, another scent reaches me: the tang of healthy salt water.  Here is a clean ocean smell, although many miles up the bay almost to where the delta is becoming fresh water.  And again, the taste.  Ions.  How therapeutic to breathe, almost to drink, that ocean air!

In the few minutes it takes to reach my turnaround point, the sky has lost most of its glow.  Away from the water now, the path turns past the railroad tracks.  The air is full of scent here too.  Creosote from railroad ties.  A hint of laurel coming down the arroyo across the way.  The heavy note of diesel exhaust from the idling train yard locomotive.  Eucalyptus nearby.

Just before the turn that would take me back to the water of the bay, a sweet perfume causes me to halt on the darkening trail.  That scent.  My eyes scan the dim scene and -- ah! -- there is the source of the sweet:  a volunteer almond tree in full blossom.  Again, the smell is working on my memories somehow.  What does that remind me of?  I couldn't quite pin it down until I was home, after shower and dinner and several chapters of War and Peace

Show of hands!  Who remembers those pink and white frosted animal cookies with the little colored dot sprinkles on them?  Anybody?  That was the smell.  Or at least the taste of the air that carried that smell was remarkably similar to the taste I remember of those cookies.  At least, what those cookies tasted like about fifty years ago.

The olfactory can call up powerful reminiscences. 


Maybe I should read "The Fault In Our Stars"?

Most days for the past several weeks, it happens. 

More than once a day.

Something triggers it.

A memory, a news story, a song...

And my eyes want to fill up with tears.

But I don't have time.

I realize I haven't had time since some time before 2005. 

Maybe one of these days I should make an appointment with sadness.  I heard that in Japan they have meetings where the main event is a group cry: ruikatsu it's called ("tears activity").  They even have bars where crying is not only tolerated but encouraged. 

Or I could read a sad book.  (War and Peace just isn't doing it.)


Une tache de couleur

"A spot of color."

If I keep my mind open, my eyes sometimes find a spot of color, of beauty, of extravagant and unnecessary revelation of the wonders of Nature. 

And of Nature's God. 

This morning, checking the fax machine (yes, there are still both vendors and customers who use the '80s medium) in the front office, when -- Lo! -- across the street, a spot of dawn sun spotlights a meadowlark on the barbed wire at the margin of the farmland across the street.  The new wheat is inches tall, and new-grass green in the morning light, when -- Ah! -- this picture has audio!  The meadowlark repeats, repeats, repeats his song: "I am a Western Meadowlark."

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the meadowlark proclaims His handiwork."

(So to speak.  And with apologies to King David and Psalm 19.)