Back in the Saddle – September 9, 2020

I wasn’t wrong guessing where the lawn’s grass would be when I returned from “up north.”  Wasn’t entirely correct either.  A matter of degree.  It was thick and healthy, but it didn’t compare to baling hay. Adjusting the deck so the mower took three-quarters of an inch less off the top, I avoided using the bagger.  There are a couple of reasons why that was a good idea. 

With the bagger it takes three times as long to mow.  Reckon at the “normal” height I’d have emptied the bag three if not four times.  Each time, stopping the mower to transfer clippings to compost, it is harder for a not-young dude to bend over, reattach the bag, and yank the starter rope for the next pass.  Since I put chemicals on the yard, I can’t put the clippings on the active compost, either. 

It’s best to have grass clippings and residual chemicals cycle three years before being eligible for compost.  When it became apparent we’re going to sell here, three compost piles, besides taking time to manage, would have to be removed before sale.  Not many urbanites keen on recycling, fewer understand “chemical residue,” and yet less willing to invest the time and sweat to get the quality compost from their own kitchen, yard, and tree “waste.”  Even “for free!” doesn’t seem to interest them.

So, already I’m down to one compost pile.  A modest amount of foresight. When what I have in the one pile is sufficiently decomposed, it goes directly onto a flower, herb, or veggie bed.  In practice, I only pull two-thirds of the compost pile to waiting beds, leaving the last one-third to accelerate the next “batch.”  It works well.  Kind of like starter for sourdough bread.

Cutting grass higher means I’ll likely cut again Sunday with the deck at normal height.  That will be two cuttings but will still take less total time than cutting once and bagging.  Too, if I bagged, I’d have a good amount of chemically tainted clippings to dispose of.   Those few sturdy neighbor males (and at least two women) who still tend their own yards when grass is so thick it would leave piles of clippings to mess up the picture-perfect manicured look so desired here in the burbs, put those clippings in bags for the garbage pick-up.  Wrong, to my way of thinking; unnecessary additions to the landfill and depriving the yard of the nutrients left when finely chopped by a “mulching” mower.

Cutting twice, my mower, with its blade sharp, will add all the clippings to the in situ mulching process.  Both times to get me back in synch with the still growing grass.  Win-win.

Took a little extra care in trimming and edging, starting prep for the up-for-sale run come spring.  Spring, hopefully.  We’ll see.  A lot to do.  Started knocking down some of the vegetable plants.  They’re past producing, for the time of year exacerbated by the fact that this trip away we did not ask a willing neighbor to pop over and water the beds.  Covid and all, you know.

This spring surely, we’ll have to plant some annuals.  Big tussle expected when I insist on all ornamental plants.  Once again, burb buyers are not interested on edibles, preferring curb-appeal daisies, petunias, and such.  I’m not against them, but when I’m the one living here, I’m good with ornamental plants only where edibles are inconvenient. Bigger tussle when I decommission all the big planters on the deck and refuse to do the spring plantings of annual herbs on the larger beds and surrounds. 

Herbs that “overwinter” will be the biggest challenge. I’ll want to abandon them, empty the pots of soil, and clear the deck. Resale, you know.

Traffic wasn’t too bad this last trip.  I drove.  As a youngster, it was a piece of cake to drive twenty-hours, stopping only for fuel and a bite to eat.  Not anymore.  Lots of “necessary” stops.  Not so many “idiots” on the roads, either.  They were in hiding or I was just supremely lucky. Coming and going. Mostly nice weather too. That helped.

Checking on outstanding email from WordPress, I believe I’m almost caught-up. I may go back to reread a couple of pieces posted by folks I’m following.  Working in a spot where I was frequently interrupted, and placement of computer and keyboard wasn’t optimal, replying while on the road was neigh impossible.  I have difficulty working with a laptop keyboard.  Manufacturers put the (tiny) devil in an awkward position, requiring odd wrist angles and errant cursor movement and ‘click’ detents.  I have large (male) hands, suitable to lifting bricks and stretching wire, bullying shovels, hoes, rakes, and wrenches.  So, I cable-in a real mouse and keyboard if at all possible.  Carrying the extra pieces of gear is awkward too, but when connected, I can at least type with fewer mistakes and much less swearing.

“Real mouse.” There’s a genuine laugh.  Of course, I don’t mean the fury little vermin.  What I meant of course is one I can hold in my hand and “clicking” is an intentional act, “hovering” not unexpectedly getting in the way, and the thumbwheel is (for my purposes) ever so much more accurate and faster.

Day one of serious “chores” has closed with modest accomplishments.  More tomorrow and the next day and the next.  Some serious WP catching up.  One or two personal emails to reply to.

Gee.  Maybe I can make time to do some writing.  Think?  Midas County is first up.  Have three folks who’ve read the first few chapters and they’re eager to see it finished.

And schedule aerate and overseed. And schedule an eye exam.  And… And…. And…

September Chores – September 7, 2020

It’s getting to be the time of year I enjoy more than any other.  We’ve a few weeks, a very few weeks left until October.  The month of Halloween and harvest, followed quickly by Thanksgiving month, then Christmas month.  I’m not giving away my time, but it seems there may be a big change in the offing soon.  Which makes me anxious to move through, to get past, these “favorite” months.

That’s part of what the “out of pocket” this last week was about. To see if the Boss and I will close up shop here in Tennessee, sell, and move north to be nearer family.  If we do, we will do ourselves no favor if we don’t get at least one or two acres of land with a new place.  We both love vegetable gardening.  We have a few ornamentals, sure, but not much prettier than the pineapple sage when it blossoms, or the chives, or the basil.  In the suburbs, we do quite well with our tiny plots.  We’ve mostly volunteer plants – tomatoes, squash, peppers, and the odd melons – sprouting from seeds in my compost pile.  We “adopt” the hardiest and best-looking ones to populate our tiny plots.  Makes waiting on fruit something of a mystery.  We could save seed to selectively produce transplantable veggies, but why, when there are so many volunteers?

Doing as well as we do with our tiny plots, we’re excited to be able at last to perhaps seriously garden.  Assuming we pull it off. From our mini garden supply, we’ve not bought tomatoes for two months.  And we use a lot of tomatoes.  Peppers, kale, and of course herbs, herbs, herbs!

Target for a move is spring 2021.  That means the first year of gardening in a new location will be abbreviated and probably disappointing.  But until you start, you can’t progress.  That’s what this “move” is all about.  Well, one of the things.  Couple others.  Family.  Slowing down.  Breathing deeply.  For me, a new attitude, less a feeling of impermanence.

The Boss has been working her herbs long enough now, she not only harvests and stores her herbs but also seeds for the next year’s crop.  She’s good at it. It’s difficult to imagine how she’ll do given a handsome bit of ground to build permanent herb beds.  I’ve designs on perennial vegetables, berries, and a place for a decent compost bed. A big pipe dream, surely requiring us to settle in a year or two first, would be a greenhouse.  Or at least, place for large cold frames to start annuals.  We’ll see.

So.  Returning, there will be no more putting it off. Time to do the little fixups I’ve been delaying.  Time to hire-out the bigger fixups to get the current castle ready for market. I don’t look forward to it.  With the last days of September and October, before the cooler weather arrives, time to get the yardwork up to snuff.  Some things the Boss has been, um, ‘suggesting’ I do for a while now.

Certainly, from time to time, I’ll update here on progress.

Just have to remind myself, these are the favorite months.  I need to enjoy them for their individual reasons.

PSA: soon, if not the same time as this entry, look for a rant “Pigs, Pigeons, and Parenting.”  I’m investing some time cleaning-up my language.  If there’s text left when I finish, I’ll post it. 

Artists and Artistry – September 4, 2020

In an earlier blog I wrote the word, “Septober.”  That’s September or is it October?  A statement and a question all at once.  My father intentionally played with words, using them incorrectly but cleverly or manufacturing new words perfectly suited to a situation from pieces of other usually real words.  Dad wasn’t averse to creating an entirely new word from nonsense, but I suspect in reflection it was more that he knew among other things, more Latin than he let anyone know.

Too, Dad spoke Polish.  I speak little enough Polish to understand the syntax and thus what syllabic fragments mean or infer.  Suspicions roll around in my archives of analysis that Dad applied his microscopic welder’s skills to speech – taking odd pieces of different metals and making them unnaturally fuse into one meaningful, serviceable piece no one would ever naturally expect as a metalwork. As a wordsmith, whether that took pieces of Latin, Polish, or English, or dove deep into his surprising understanding of Classical authors, he made what he needed at the moment.

There are a few other instances that come to mind of Dad’s wordsmithery, more when I’ve had a second glass of wine or a good double Irish or a long pull on a good Bourbon.  Dad was a wordsmith of the first water.  There are times I wish I’d paid closer attention.  Other times, I’m convinced it’s best I not remember specific instances lest I run the risk of plagiarizing my own father.  It is fortunate I paid enough attention that my mind works at times the way his did.  Or I am unfortunate.  There will be no final verdict there.

Pop was a visual artist as well.  If you have browsed much of my site, you’ve seen his work.  He could also draw the absurd, illustrations to at least equal Suess, Sendak, or any of the best D&D1 artists. He was at his best combining his wordsmithing and his art.  He could do realism.  He carved2 nature scenes the likes of which I’ve seen only rarely elsewhere. That meant he first had to at least pencil in what he expected a piece of wood to say when he was finished.  

Taking it a step further, he could borrow from his art and words to entertain and scare the pants off children from the ages of three to eighty narrating stories on the fly.  He’d have been the penultimate campfire ghoul storyteller.  That was, though he loved entertaining children with art and words, something he had little time for as a profession.

Pop was of a generation like no other.  A lot of what men and women of that generation did was because there was no choice.  Either you did it, or it did not get done.  ‘Not getting it done’ often had dire consequences. 

That is the legacy my father left me.  I’m still working on my practice of the written art. I fall woefully short on the visual art.  Struggling to find an artist to illustrate a children’s book I have written; I am impressed I must learn to draw to get what I want.  It will not be easy.  While there are no dire consequences, I hope I have the gumption to pull it off. 

Yes.  Dad has been gone awhile. 

From wherever, Pop, chuckle a little over my struggle and if you can, inspire.

1 D&D: Dungeons and Dragons. Not Drunk & disorderly.  Often while admiring the works of Dungeons and Dragons illustrators, though I’ve never played or care to be an aficionado, I’ve surmised these people had to be under the influence of something unnatural, or something naturally mind-altering.  Let us debate “mind altering” as opposed to “mind expanding” at some later date.  When we can invite the likes of Freud, Hawking, Sagan, Rodenberry, Asimov, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Dante to attend and opine.

2 Difficult enough to draw, imagine coaxing a piece of oak, maple, myrtle, or walnut to let an image escape from grain patterns in no way related to the resulting scene.

HOA, Walt and Isaac – September 2, 2020

Lookit here.  It’s Septober.  Already.  My, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?  So many lies there, I hardly know where to begin.

Hurricane weather farther south brought us more than customary rainfall, overcast skies, and festering humidity.   While it was a nice change not hearing the lawn sprinklers kick in at 5 AM, it made scheduling lawn manicures dicey. It became a matter of either get it done or face a hayfield on returning home.  I’d rather have it done, even work a bit harder to handle soggy clippings than to come back to an overgrown yard.

An overgrown yard would of course incur the wrath of the HOA1 an increasingly sore point with most of the neighbors I have chatted with recently.  Yes, always from opposite sides of the street, which given that most of the old gaffs in the hood are hearing-impaired anyway, makes for interesting conversations.  Too far away to read lips.  With masks sometimes anyway, you can’t even see lips, let alone read them.

“Hey, Isaac!”

“Yo, Walt.”

“You know Buddy’s down south?”

“Buddy drowned a trout?  You mean he caught one?  Nice.  I guess.”

“No. South. Looking in on momma.”

“Comma?  You mean a coma?  What’s that? How da hell’d that happen fishing?”

“No coma.  At his momma’s fixing her porch light.”

“Fishing torch fight?  Never heard of such!  Still, that’s too Bad.  Reckon we’ should look in on his momma?  Or Buddy?”

“No. South.”

“Got that.”

“Buddy is already south.  Fixing his momma’s front porch light.”

“Got the torch fight and coma thing.  What, you think I’m not paying attention?  Bum deal for Buddy.  Maybe we should haul his garbage cans in before the HOA dips get all huffy about them being out.  Him in a coma and all, you know.”

“That’s what I was thinking.”

“No, Walter.  Buddy’s pretty good about washing his garbage cans twice a month.”

“What’s that, Isaac?”

“Cans likely won’t get to stinking.  Not yet, leastways.”

“Yeah, we best tend Buddy’s cans.”

“Right. Be an hour before the trucks come.”

“I don’t see the trucks come first, you get Buddy’s cans up the drive.”

“Lucky to be alive, huh?  Musta been one hellova torch fight.”

“Right, Isaac.”

“So.  About that trout.  Buddy’s momma likes to fish?”

We got Buddy’s trash cans up to his back yard before HOA LGCRS teams (late garbage can retrieval surveillance) came through.  We’d like to have seen them though.  Walt’s got a complaint about a Doberman whose owner doesn’t effectively use a pooper scooper.  And I have a yelp about a lady advertising her embroidery services with a yard sign.

*1 HOA is Home Owners’ Association.  A mandatory pay-to-subscribe clutch of homeowners with a ‘governing body’ overseeing a set of well-intended but generally ineffective and mostly ludicrous rules designed for everyone but followed only by those who would not do contrary to what ‘HOA rules’ dictate even in the absence of those rules.  Rules designed to make sure your neighbor doesn’t paint his house fire-engine red with chartreuse doors and shutters, but legally, unenforceable.  Guaranteeing everyone has the same mailbox, does not haul trash cans (rubbish bins) curbside too early nor leave them too long after they’ve been emptied, gets HOA landscape committee approval before major changes to trees and shrubberies on their property, and does not park a septic tank service truck in their driveway.

Schedules and Popcorn – August 31, 2020

It’s always been a thought that I’m not entirely normal.  Sure, no one is ‘entirely’ ‘normal.’  But don’t you at times suspect you are a little more off-center than everyone around you?

Popcorn.  A house guest and the Boss enjoyed popcorn while amusing themselves with a video bowling session.  I make good popcorn.  Because I like popcorn.  Butter, experimental spice combinations, salt, no salt.  I offered, good host that I am, to make popcorn for the bowling team though, a rare instance, I didn’t want popcorn myself.  Did it correctly.  Smelled and tasted as good or better than movie theatre popcorn while not nearly as midsection-expanding or arterial-damaging. 

Only made one batch.  One large bowlful.  Delivered, with napkins for the ever-present errant chin-dribbles of butter and buttered fingers.  Who eats popcorn with a fork?  A spoon?  Tongs? That evening it was popcorn purist style.  Butter and light salt.

When I’m in a popcorn mood, providing I’ve behaved reasonably all day leading up to popcorn time, it’s for me a two batch, very large bowl deal.  With a separate bowl for whomever feigns popcorn craving and avails themselves of my popcorn-prepping prowess.  Two reasons1 for separate bowls. First, I don’t want someone else eating my popcorn.  It’s not that I’m concerned for sanitary reasons.  It’s that I don’t care to have anyone developing designs on my bowl of popcorn. When I want popcorn, I want popcorn.  Not a taste of popcorn.  Lots of popcorn.  Not that it’s ever happened, but enough you would judge there is no way I could finish the bowl, leaving only the old maids2 in the bottom of the bowl, rolling around in the butter that mysteriously escaped the fluffy main event.  My bowl must hold two batches.  Like I said, when it comes to popcorn, I don’t fiddle around.

Second reason for two bowls, one for anyone and everyone else, and one for my exclusive use, it that I do play around with butter alternatives3, spice combinations4 and timing.  You can buy butter variations.  You can buy seasoning variety.  But ‘timing’?  Yup.  I like popcorn fresh and still warm, but I love stale popcorn.  Something happens to a bowl of popcorn that’s idled on an end table waiting for me to finish the supper dishes, or take a shower, or decide if I’m going to settle-in for the evening with a book, noodling on my writing, or a good Britcom. Most of the time, the other bowl is purist-style.  I do find it a delight when someone requests an alternate flavoring.

Aged popcorn has a chewy feel.  A meaty feel.  A substantial heft.  It takes longer, or feels it should take longer, to chew.  After the butter or olive or avocado oil drizzle has counseled the spice du jour and unless I didn’t finish my evening meal wine, water is all else that’s necessary.

Popcorn.  Good stuff.

“Schedules”? Is the man daft?  Well, yes, if you’ve been paying attention, that’s one way to put it.  However, when I sat to poke this out, I intended to inform my many, many, followers I would be away from my office for over a week and blog posts would be undependable.  They still might be.  I just can’t say.  Sometimes, I am not entirely in control of my schedule. 

‘Many, many followers.’  There’s a chuckle for you.  At present I still have enough fingers and toes to count those folks who don’t mind my disrupting their morning, afternoon, or evening hours.  At first, that bothered me.  A neophyte in this endeavor, shouldn’t I just relax, learn more of the craft, and let blog wanderers discover my work naturally?  Or, seeing people visit from places suggesting they are not part of the ‘crowd’ pestered by email copies of my posts or following my blog from their sites, and not subsequently following, assume I’m in the wrong business?

Considering this many times, it’s settling-in that I care but I don’t. Not really.  Writing is mental yoga for me.  My creative pieces, if never published will be left for the amusement or chagrin of my children.  In the end, if I only put the larger pieces, those I myself consider decent and somewhat an accomplishment, on spwilcenwrites for free, I may have accomplished something. 

Lest this devolve into a self-serving rant, I’ll not comment again on two favorite peeves: the apparent decline in the ‘reading public’s’ intelligence and the generally deteriorating quality of most creative writing.  Therein the reason I don’t have a larger following.  Those who do follow are erudite and sophisticated with refined tastes.  I’m delighted they hang around.  Gee, did this not become something of a self-serving rant anyway?  Was that sneaky, or clever?

I don’t want to hear which.  I can’t change who I am, (to a large extent) how I think (as opposed to what I think), because there is little time left and I have many other curmudgeonly responsibilities.

*1 Seems I have two reasons whenever I feel a need to justify or qualify a statement.  Not certain why that is, it just is. Maybe with one reason I could be argued.  Two, and my statement is fairly-well inarguable.  Three, and I should run for Congress.

*2 Sorry.  If you believe that sexist, I’m willing to listen to a male-gender substitute. Together, you and I can go down in history as champions of gender-equality, non-biased popcorn specification, and lexicography.  Is that a deal or what?

*3 Alternatives.  Not substitutes.  If your fingers don’t require a napkin, your popcorn is not correctly prepared, you are bashful eating popcorn, or you fancy you can get by without ‘butter,’ there is something seriously wrong I haven’t time in a blog to correctly explore.  Perhaps after I explain quantum physics for those of us who only took four calculus and three physics semesters, I’ll devote a week to the subject. Olive oil. Avocado Oil.  Melted butter supplemented with a “healthy oil” to hold seasonings close to each fluffy kernel and slicken fingertips.

*4 Combinations.  Salt alone is in some cases all that’s necessary. But an aficionado will opt for garlic powder5, chili powder, Tex-Mex combos, wasabi, cinnamon, ginger, curry, cocoa powder, hot pepper flakes, or powdery Parmesan cheese for example.  Then there are post-pop drizzles beyond or instead of oil – chocolate, caramel, and I dunno what else.  I do not go for these gooey options, but certainly can see where they would be tasty, even addictive. I cannot handle bleu cheese, but I see where a powdered but not artificial form might have appeal.

*5 Is this even legal?  A footnote footnote?  Garlic powder.  Not the commercially available crap.  Real garlic powder.  Buy California or (if you can find it) Spanish garlic in bulk.  Peel it (an art form) slice and dehydrate it.  Save some in chip-form for seasoning (potent stuff, requiring less than fresh garlic for a recipe) and grind some to a powder.  That garlic powder will make you swear-off the alumino-silicate-cellulose junk in the tiny overpriced cutesy jars.  Not having real garlic powder, you will go without and explore (viola!) other spice combinations.

PSA: “Olga, Svetlana, and the Handsome Russian Lieutenant” added in Short Stories

Liars and Lying – August 28, 2020

Having entered the High Election Season, time for demented distortions, fertile fibbing, specious spin-doctoring, Pinocchio prevarication, and out-and-out ludicrous lying, it might be a wonderful exercise to contemplate the good and bad of the art form.  If not wonderful, at least interesting.  Or maddening. 

What makes a good liar?  What makes a great liar?  Is lying an art form?  Is it by any stretch of the imagination, less than evil?

Already we have seen some doozies.  It makes no difference what your political affiliations are, or your stance on any of the social issues of these times, you recognize the blatant less-than-truths being tossed at us as if we were brainless.  On reflection, there is some embarrassing truth in that supposition, or politicians and other (recognizably, occasionally) devious occupations would not persist in treating us like morons.

We’ve seen same-party enemies label primary opponents devil incarnate, now in league against an opposing party, realize the devil has been all along a saint. 

We’re told past voting records or legislative initiatives are simultaneously detestable and magnificent, depending on the interpretation needed at the moment. 

We’re informed changes in the economy over the same five-year period are at once good and bad, depending on whether you are left- or right-brained.

What, and more significantly who is to blame for the state of the economy, unemployment statistics, lawlessness, healthcare costs, and the broccoli shortage is dependent on where the calipers are placed to measure the moment of responsibility.  

We expect lying from some professions.  Among them politicians, used car salesmen, insurance agents, second grade elementary and Freshman high school students, cheating spouses, and software professionals – especially coders and project managers.

CEOs are a special group worthy of individual attention.  Able to blamelessly guide hundreds of thousands to joblessness, bankrupt corporations, and defraud investors, they lie us into belief it is necessary we reward them not with jail terms or forced repayment of filched funds, but with handsome millions in severance packages.

There are standard lying situations.  Situations where truth is impossible.  Unexpected. Disallowed.  Shameful.  When will the appliance repairman arrive?  How much will this repair cost?  When I install this software, it won’t affect the rest of my applications, will it?  And that is the total cost to me? Why yes, officer, I know how fast I was driving!  C’mon, it’ll only take a minute of your time!

It’s not the biggest or the most frequent liar who succeeds.  It’s the one who can make their lie seem to be gospel truth.  Liars who believe their own lies are the most dangerous; they are self-encouraged, free of guilt, and unstoppable.  You hate a liar when his view is contrary to yours. You love him and agree with him when his lies reinforce your views. 

Good liars Try to make unignorable facts fit the lie.  They don’t, however, lie often enough to sharpen their skills.  Good liars become temporarily great liars only when their arguments agree with your philosophies, or their ‘good’ lies are of sufficient number and quality to make you think you agree with them.

Great Liars don’t need, can improvise credible twists on, and are adept at manufacturing facts. A great liar believes himself and his lies.  Great liars lie often and would rather lie than tell the truth even when the truth sounds better than the lie they have prepared.  It is a special skill great liars have that makes you believe them even when you know they’re lying.  A complete reversal of their stance neither embarrasses nor slows down a great liar.  Confronted with damning factual arguments, great liars dismiss facts by ignoring them or by levelling totally unrelated accusations against the one confronting them.

Poor liars apologize for their lies with their eyes or posture. When a new lie is needed, their hesitancy reveals the lie before the insult to your intelligence is complete.  Sadly, what a poor liar says, what he wants you to believe does not insult his intelligence.

Is lying an art form?  Sure.  You’ve heard the old Perry Mason line after counsel raises an objection and the judge sustains, “The jury will disregard….”  You know the jury won’t ‘disregard.’  Juries are composed of people, not dogs.  They will ‘remember’ and good or bad, they will let it season their opinion and thus their verdict. (Dogs are smarter.)  It’s one if the sharpest tricks in the book to ask a question you know will raise an objection.  It is the penultimate trick when you word your question in such a way it clearly predicts the answer that even unvoiced carries a forever undeniable, nearly irrefutable message.

In its simplest form, lying can be excused as less than evil.  How so?  “Hon, does this dress make my hips look too big?”  On two counts, a lie here is okay, assuming the truth is “Yes, it does have an unflattering effect.”  First, ‘Hon’ avoids possible bodily injury.  Second, ‘Hon’ escapes innocently hurting someone’s feelings.  The defense rests. 

There are some cardinal rules for liars: If you’re gonna lie, lie big.  If you’re gonna lie, don’t be the first liar; the first liar has no chance and will be discovered.  Confronted with proof, never admit to a lie; the fallacy is not in your statement but in the facts used against you.  Failing with that ploy, deflect: never directly address what challenges your lie; double down with an insult or counter-allegation, however unrelated to the first.  Never sweat publicly when confronted.

Bear all this in mind as you (cannot help but) listen to the steady barrage of accusations of misdoings by political opponents and promises of good deeds candidates and parties will deliver when elected.  If that is not enough to keep you busy, pay attention to the enumeration of ills and corrections we should embrace championed by social and economic coteries.  

While you’re mulling over my snarky observations on lying, or better, those you’ve independently recalled from your own experiences, spare a few moments to reflect on the “moron” issue.  From now until early November and beyond, boredom should not be a concern.

Just Passing Through – August 26, 2020

Site visitor statistics don’t tell me who visits here.  They do report a total of how many people visit by home country.   Statistics are all I see unless a visitor happens to indicate they like a post or page.  Statistics are granular to the blog or page level, but then there is no reference to home country of individual page viewers; there all I see are cumulative totals.

Naturally, if a visitor indicates a “like” or graciously comments on a post, that visitor is identified.  By the way, I personally consider comments taking exception to what I write, or with constructive criticism, also “gracious.”  I am happy the commentator took time to express their thoughts to me.

There is nothing except common sense and a sense of propriety ruling-out comments should one not like a particular post.  Within reason, if one does take issue, comments are legitimate and expected. That is part-and-parcel of social interaction.  A blog is, more-or-less a social forum, albeit somewhat one-sided.  As easily as when agreeing, or expressing enjoyment, one can comment to disagree, chastise, or correct.   One hopes a commentator in the latter case will apply rules of social decency to any comment – appropriate language, content, and temper.

One-sided, but not entirely.  The one-sidedness goes away if you’d care to view it that way, as I am free to rebut a comment.  I intimated earlier in the “home” page banner that comments can be a learning process for anyone willing to pay attention, to open their mind to possibilities, and to logically consider arguments.  That includes me.  Especially me.

No.  I have not received many derogatory comments.  Not to date. I will go on record that if someone disagrees with something I write, they should not hesitate to let me know by comment or by using the “Contact” Page.  The difference is that “comments” are public and will reflect not only on the blog author (me) but also on the disagreeing commentator.  If you have something you feel could be embarrassing to either you or me, the “Contact” Page – via email – keeps any “conversation” private, which allows a greater freedom. “Greater,” freedom not “complete” freedom.  Decency must prevail.

Now here’s the bone I have to pick1:

If you are just passing through the site, and are not impressed enough by what I write to like or comment (good or bad) I have no way of knowing a specific audience segment viewed a particular post and that post did not positively impress, educate, or amuse them or give them reason to think about something differently.  Lacking a “don’t like” button, a “Meh. I’ve heard this tale more interestingly told” comment is for me educational and I will pay attention.  Say for example, I am trying for humor, and someone viewing from Australia thinks I’ve stepped on Australian toes, I need to know.

An aspiring creative2 writer, it is important I understand what works and what does not.  Otherwise I cannot improve, indeed won’t be able to recognize genres, subject, and styles I should abandon altogether!  If I misspell, or am unclear, or ineffective, go ahead and hurt my feelings with a comment.  If you’re bashful, send me a private email – from the “Contact” Page.  I’ll make time to respond to email.  I’ll react to comments either to thank you for the additional time you gave me, to explain, or to show my red face3.

The creative pieces, which many visitors ignore, are the reason I blog.  [Brazen admission of ulterior motive:] I blog to get people here, hoping they will abandon the blog drivel to investigate those creative pieces.  I’m going to draw conclusions one of two ways. 

First, if I do get people to read and comment and comments suggest I should learn to lay bricks, that’s an inescapable conclusion.

Second, if people continue either to read and not comment (for whatever reason) or don’t read, that’s a little fuzzy, but still a conclusion.  If not masonry, perhaps I should consider hiring out as a farm hand.

If there is some bashfulness holding you back, let me assure you, my readership is so puny right now, chances of someone you know seeing you comment are about as slim as they are for attaining world peace by the close of 2020.  Go ahead!  Comment.  “Meh” is legitimate.  And valuable.

Excuse me, I am going to see when trade schools will open-up.  Brick laying or welding.  Maybe I’m already pretty good at laying bricks4.

Say.  This is close to what I’ve been blathering-on about today.  If you want to check-out another blogger’s take on the art of being older I’ve got one for you.  This UK gent, Mario Roncaglia, spends a lot of time in Italy.  He posts impressive single pictures of places, people, and things.  What I’ve seen so far is usually a single make-you-wish-you-were-there, or gee-that-looks-just-like-home picture of what he describes. His blogs are an entertaining, swift read.  If you’re like me, you’re interested in regular life outside the US(of)A, the retired bloke is a bit of international education.  You can become a citizen of the world, not just St Cleophus Arkansas. Better than watching cable news in the morning while you eat your oatmeal and sip your coffee.

*1 “the bone I have to pick” An idiom for “here’s what’s bothering me.” Or, here’s what you did or did not do that disappointed me or left me unsettled.  An issue I feel (you may disagree) that needs to be resolved.

*2 creative.  Some would effectively argue that.  And frankly, per this post, I wish they would.

*3 show my red face: acknowledge my embarrassment.

*4 “Laying an egg” is an expression of failure.  Laying bricks is masonry.  That’s a goofy turn on both laying an egg and laying bricks.  Perhaps my attempts at fiction or storytelling can be summed up, “I’m pretty good at laying bricks.”

An Exceptional Weekend – August 24, 2020

All things considered this past weekend was exceptional.

Weekends afford a relaxed start to the day. Not asleep but lying awake before the alarm worked up the nerve to rudely suggest daytime, tossing some ideas around, several unapproachable ‘problems’ let themselves be paired with reasonably plausible solutions.  Running the risk it was so far in advance of a decent time to be up and around, I snuck out of the bedroom, started the coffee, and fired-up the computer.  Quietly, ever so quietly.  Married folks understand.

Got those serendipitously clever ideas recorded in my e-to-do list.  Put a couple of them to work immediately.  With success.  Two more required a few hours’ work to complete, but every indication was they were on-the-money solution-wise. Everything else from the pre-alarm think-fest was long term but saved for recall not dependent upon my mental acuity.  Icing on the cake was that two plot snags are no more, thanks to early Sunday review.

First cup of coffee in hand, I glanced out my office window.  Not much dawn to work with.  A lot of overcast sky and obviously quite damp outside.  One of those mornings it’s not raining but it wouldn’t take much to convince it to give it a go.   No wind to speak of.  A Michigan kind of late September, early October Sunday morning.  Even though this is not Michigan.  A strange and interesting early Sunday morning.  Only a few hours later, I realized one of the reasons it was strange was the that it was not Sunday, but Saturday.

Later, I stumbled onto an artist who might be able to do illustrations for a children’s book I’ve been sitting on – completed – for ten years.  Hard at work at the computer, I took a break to answer the phone.  I do that occasionally when it rings.  I never answer it when it doesn’t ring; not much point in that.   Big little sis brought it up that she’d spent time with an artist friend of hers recently.  An artist?  Tell me more.  She did.

For the long-delayed book, I’m after a specific illustration style.  In ten years, I’ve talked concept with probably a dozen artists.  To date, they’ve all told me the style I’m looking for is something no one does any more, or they themselves can’t or won’t do it, or that what I want is not marketable.  What it is though, I strongly suspect, is that my asking for a specific style violates their sense of artistic freedom.  Or as a few have admitted, while simple, it’s a difficult style to execute effectively, and they simply can’t. 

Sis sent pictures of this artist’s work.  Not what I’m after.  However, good.  Very good.  So good I believe this artist could be the one after all these years to give me what I want.  Or failing that, perhaps arguing convincingly my ideas are hogwash, talented enough to illustrate this book in award-worthy style1.

As Saturday progressed, there were several episodes of “Life in Five Minute Segments.”  For example, I heard a thud upstairs.  Knowing the Boss was upstairs, I naturally investigated.  I am hearing-impaired; tossing questions from one room downstairs to an unknown location upstairs works well only one-way.  Answers attempting the return trip are garbled.  Leaving my desk and the gem about to roll off my fingertips into the keyboard and onto the screen, I walked to the bottom of the stairs and inquired…

“Everything okay?”

The Boss is a sharp cookie.  She responded, “Mbmfp lang uppen poz winnod ungly.”

Which, of course encouraged me to climb the stairs, find her in the back bedroom, arms and legs intact, and ask, “What did you say?” 

Trapped then upstairs, I was recruited to move that coffee table downstairs to make the next trip to the donation center.   Then, to move the secretary from the entertainment room to the guest master bedroom.  Friends, there is no seventeen-year-old kid kicking around this house.  Anything requiring grunt and strain requires and gets only me. 

Calling a neighbor to help was not an option.  Even if I were so inclined.  Even if Covid19 weren’t in play.  While I am long-of-tooth, I’m one of the more, um, robust men in the hood.  Most you would otherwise suppose likely candidates to lend a hand lifting bales and toting barges, many younger than me, suffer bad knees, bad backs, dicey hearts, psoriasis, and/or athlete’s foot.  I suspect but cannot publicly opine that several suffer only from low energy stores.  Severe enough cases, I judge, that a six pack of cold brews on the back deck after lifting and toting were complete wouldn’t be sufficient enticement.

In fairness, there is one old duff, across the street much older than me.  He’ll work my pants-off.  He gets it in his head now and again to invite me over to move something heavy, and he’s no sissy when he hears I’ve been challenged to move all the furniture in the house one room left and one room down.  For one or two items, I’m not calling him.  Hernia for one it was, moving that secretary.

It did, in fact rain Saturday.  That made lawn trimming iffy even for Sunday.  We’ve enough summer left that by afternoon the lawn was approachable.  I put it off Saturday, half hoping rain would return and make Sunday lawn work also iffy.  Foolishness, because inevitably, that lawn work will be unavoidable.  I enjoyed instead a delightful Saturday evening chat with the Boss on the back deck.2

Sunday, I did get to the lawn. It’s a three-part deal. Mowing, then edging the curb, driveway, tree-surrounds, and garden beds.  Act III is sweeping the street gutters clean of grass clippings.  Habit here in the hood is to use a gasoline-powered blower.  I watch some of the clowns here who manage only to rearrange clippings into the center of the street with their blowers.  At worst, they push clippings across the street into their neighbors’ gutters.  I can lean on a broom, save some fossil fuel, sweat a little longer, and feel smugly pleased with myself.  My clippings either go into a flowerbed or the tree-surrounds, not into the middle of the street or my neighbor’s yard.  Zero gasoline used.  Not yet where I can be whole-heartedly enviro-conscious, I’m trying.

Sunday afternoon I enjoyed some five-minute segment deck-sitting with the Boss.  Between segments, the Boss dispatched me to tend some late summer garden chores. Sunday dinner was grilled3 chicken rolled around Ricotta cheese and spinach.  Waiting on the chicken, we enjoyed a September-like breeze – cool and dry – and chatted more about our planned move to the country.   Our hummingbirds put on a show.  Their territorial displays suggested we’re still a few weeks away from their migratory attitude – when they argue less and share more.

After dinner, the Boss gave me a Covid19-inspired home haircut. The investment in quality clippers has already paid for itself.  Likely going to be the way it goes from here out.

Despite interruptions for spontaneous chores and things we’d like to have done but couldn’t for the current social situation, the weekend was productive and interesting. 

Yup.  A keeper.

PSA: The site menu structure is changed, cleaned-up.  The “Writings” dropdown doesn’t list so many entries the list flows off-page anymore.  If you want to browse “Short Stories” or “Life’s Like That” pieces for example, clicking the appropriate item subordinate to “Writing” gives you a list of entries for that group.  Each entry is a link, so you go directly from shopping the list to viewing.  If you pass through frequently, the “Updates” page also has links to ‘readable’ items but without respect to story grouping.  I will generally include new items in the “Updates” page to simplify checking for things you’ve not read.  

The artwork is “Don Quixote’s Entrance into the Sea.”  Not Don Quixote’s “Entrance into the Sea.”  Painted by a young sailor in the mid 1950’s who was not Don Quixote.  There is a most unusual story that goes with it.  That story, however, is not fiction.  Perhaps one day, I’ll write that story.  But then, that means a new tab on the homepage, “Nonfiction,” and a new folder on whatever machine I’m using then.  Sounds to me like a lot of work…

*1 Style.  Not looking for Suess or Shultz or Sendak.  Not looking for round-faced, bug-eyed waifs.  I’m particularly anti-anime.  Not looking for horror mag rejects, or pulpy superheroes.  Looking for quality evocative images.  My way or the highway.  Unless…

*2 There is no “front” deck.  The deck runs one-third the length of the back of the house.  Calling it the “back deck” is an unbreakable habit.  It does though, suggest the deck affords the Boss and I a semi-private getaway.  It does.

*3 Not directly on the grill.  That would be a bit difficult.  I have a grill-comfortable griddle that allows me to grill any number of menu items that don’t hold-up well on a grill or don’t like to be exposed to direct flame.  Kind of like using a pizza stone on the grill.  Same idea.

I’m an Idiot – August 21, 2020

This is not a rant.  It could be, I just don’t have the steam to put into it today.  If you’ve paid attention, you know my schedule changed dramatically this week to handle computer issues.  Beginning bright and early Monday morning, priorities had to shuffle and slide. Some normal but not essential activities were set aside to pay attention to regaining an electronic presence. 

One of the activities curtailed was my exercise routine.  Normally, that’s modest upper and lower body weight-work, good old karate warm-up stretches, and a decent sweat-producing run.  Driving back and forth to computer shacks and investing time in non-writing computer activities, there was no “exercise” until today, Friday. 

I’m an idiot.  Normally off on weekends, that made six days I’d been idle.  You know “idle” means I skipped my exercise program.  So, nearly caught-up, did I ease myself back into a routine?  Nope.  Went at it tooth and nail, skipped nothing, used the same weights, ran the same distance, and ignored my body’s complaints while stretching that some of the rubber bands were about to snap, joints were crackling, and if I didn’t mind P’s and Q’s, something would pop.

I’m a lucky idiot.  Nothing is broken for all the snap, crackle, and pop.  I’m going to feel some unfamiliar soreness tomorrow morning.  Mowing the lawn tomorrow afternoon, or Sunday maybe because of the rain, will be a challenge.

When I finished my workout around one in the afternoon today, I showered and thought I’d lay down for ‘just a little bit.’  The Bossmobile delivered the Boss home early.  She’s under direction to work no overtime.  Exigencies at the start of the week demanded overtime that dictated her week be finished early Friday.

This idiot was still snoozing.  After I woke and figured out who I was, where I was, and why I was, we chatted a bit, until the Boss excused herself to place a phone call to cancel an appointment.  At least, that’s as I understood it.

“…so, I don’t need to make an appointment,” she stated.

“You mean you don’t have an appointment to cancel?”

“That’s right.”

“Then why are you calling?  Um, lemme see.  You’re calling to cancel an appointment you don’t have?”

“Yes.”

“Um.  Nobody does that.  You don’t feel inclined to do something that was a ‘maybe,’ you just don’t do it.  It’s the American way!”

“I told them I’d call.”

“Doesn’t make any difference.  That’s even more so the American way.  You don’t want to do something that was a maybe, you just don’t do it. No explaining, no courtesy call, no nothing!  You spend the extra five now unallocated minutes of your life doing something important – like FacePages!”

That got me a ‘you horse’s ass!’ look.  Which was okay.  Because most of the time I am exactly that.  I got by with it in this case because the Boss knows I was wearing my cynic hat.   I’m usually either a cynic or flat-out caustic.  Because I have a poor opinion of people.

Lest you assume I think I’m not one of ‘the people,’ let me assure you I am painfully aware I am one of ‘the people.’  That scares the hell out of me.  It also drives me to improve.  That, I admit is not an easy task.  Never has been.  Never will be.  But I stay at it.  Focus.  One must remain focused.  One day, I will be able to believe I’m a shade better than most of the other ‘the people.’

But I will still be an idiot.

Heads-up.  There are two new “Life’s Like That” entries in the Writing drop down menu.  The first, a “Here’s the Deal” piece, “Chocolate Ice Cream” like today’s post, is rant-ish, but not a full-blown rant.  More a tongue-in-cheek poke at who we are, or who we’ve let ourselves become.  When I figure-out whether the reason things are the way they are is because we are lazy or because as a species, we are inherently evil, I may revisit the subject.  Then, there’s a “Five Minute Segment” piece, “Tire Pressure.” That’s just as the grouping suggests a bit of “Life’s Like That.”

Oh.  I apologize to my international readers.  In the “Chocolate” piece.  We’re still working with gallons here in the US.  Which is about 3.8 liters.  I expect you know that, and only mean to remind of the conversion.  I’ll bet you though, that most people in the US have no idea of liter/gallon conversions.   As a country in the last twenty-five or so years of the 1700’s we got so self-impressed here that we maybe took the “independence” thing to ridiculous extremes.  We’ve not fully recovered.  Except for gasoline (petrol) and a few other items, gallons are losing significance here.  “Chocolate Ice Cream” explains that.

Oh number two.  Those of you in the US who feel insulted over what I just said, yourself thinking people in the US more intelligent, more “international,” than I intimate, I’d suggest you look around you.  Carefully.  Good heavens: we are a country of boobs.

See Anything Different? – August 19, 2020

It did in fact happen.  My old laptop struggled to keep going but finally, collapsed gracelessly. 

On the last day, during the morning boot, I knew it was over.  I planned a trip to the local PC guru though I felt it really a trip to the coroner’s office for an official pronouncement.  The tech listened carefully to my explanation of symptoms. 

“Boots fine for me!” he declared from safely behind his PC-Laboratory high-front countertop.

“Run diagnostics,” I suggested, knowing the mere fact that it booted this time meant ab-so-lute-ly nothing.

“Okay.”  I was allowed into the O/R. Cables, cables, cables everywhere.  Only thing missing was an oscilloscope, but I’ve only known one tech in my entire life who could read anything significant from an oscilloscope. Probably none of the doodads were necessary, but dang, it sure looked official.

Diagnostics complete, there was a printout longer than the paper receipt from the American chain drug store notorious for six feet of receipt for a five-stick pack of chewing gum.  The word “fatal” occurred so many times, I was concerned the AI software didn’t devise a one-character symbol to replace the word. 

The tech and I discussed options.  (I hear snickering in the background.  Oh!  You’ve been there, right?)   I’d had a discussion with a super tech, an electronics wiz over the prior weekend, while my machine was limping along. I knew some of the “options.” 

Cloning the failed drive was possible.  Installing the cloned drive in my machine was not, except by the Mayo PC Clinic, at no small cost, taking at minimum six days, with zero guarantee that would be the end of my machine’s problems.  The tab for surgery was approaching the cost of a brand-new machine.  

No brainer.

A machine big and brute enough to be a server is not what I need.  I’m not a gamer.  Stats, math packs, and even program-designer graphic programs are no longer necessary.  Not for what I do now, which no longer includes software development of any kind, in any language, in any environment.

What do I need?  Well, since what I do now (see previous posts) is questionable, the best guess is that I need a word processing package, internet access, modest disk storage, and for my own purposes, a spreadsheet package, so I can track my finances, the money I don’t have.  That’s it.  There are probably cell phones or microwave ovens capable of that.  Hell, there are probably bio-monitor wristwatches that will do that. 

Brought the replacement machine home knowing there would be hours and hours of chasing passwords, downloading software, arguing with software vendors over licenses, and so on.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It’s almost complete.  Cost me about a day.  One major package to settle-in.

So, How does it look? Coming from a new machine, I mean? Does it look faster? Cleaner? Spiffier? I didn’t think so either. At least I’m back in the saddle. You know, I feel l am a week behind.  Be fun to see how long it takes to get back to speed.

No “creative” additions.  No “rant.”  Haven’t had the time.