Friday, April 28, 2006

Cell Phone

What have I done? Oh, what have I done?!

I, a Selective Luddite™. I, who write with a fountain pen. I, who have a 1940-vintage celluloid-over-mahogany log-log slide rule on my desk and often use it in preference to a calculator.

I finally broke down. I finally dragged myself kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I finally went today and got myself a cell phone.

My only consolation is that (by intention) the thing doesn't work way out here in the remote countryside. I got it so I can be in touch (sob) when I'm up in "the city," like La Crosse, or out and around, or wherever. (sob, sob) For only $5 a month, I couldn't resist...

What have I done?! I've soiled my Crunchy Con credentials forever...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Shopping Online

Just in the past few months I've realized that I'm now doing an astonishing chunk of my shopping online. It seems every time I turn around, I've got something shipping to me that I ordered from a website.

Actually I've been ordering things over the Internet now for years. If my memory is right, I was ordering books from Amazon through a computer at the public library before I even had a home Internet connection— as far back as 1998.

What's new is how much of my shopping I'm now doing online. I'm sure this is a development of only the past year or so. Just looking around me here in my study this instant, I see my office chair; my leather-soled wool slippers; a tin of Penguin caffeinated peppermints; a notepad; a stapler; a fountain pen; a mechanical pencil; a ruler; my wristwatch; a slide rule; a Tivoli Audio Model One radio; two rubberstamps and an inkpad; a floor fan; two framed prints on the wall. To say nothing of my laptop computer itself, and its leather carrying case. All ordered over the Internet.

Look, I live way out in the countryside, on a gravel road. The nearest small towns (population: a few hundred) are five or six miles away. I can perhaps pick up a few quick items there, but if I want to do any real local shopping— supermarket, discount store, drug store, whatever— I've got to drive 15 or 20 miles to the towns of Caledonia, Spring Grove, Lansing, or Waukon. And "city" shopping means a drive of 35 miles or more to La Crosse in one direction, or Decorah in the other.

I find more and more that I'm willing to rummage and hunt around some within that 15 to 20 mile radius. And I'm willing to drive the 35 miles or so if I know precisely what I'm looking for, and exactly where to find it. But beyond that, it's become my first resort to shop online. Why waste an evening driving around from store to store up in La Crosse, when I can find what I'm looking for online in a matter of minutes, and then have it arrive within a few days?

Books. Like I say, I've been buying books for years now from Amazon, or from their smaller competitors such as Powell's. There's a Barnes & Noble up in La Crosse, I was up there yesterday, and their selection can't even begin to compare with Amazon. What I've noticed in the past year or two, though, is that Amazon is now a reliable source, not just for books currently in print, but for just about any book I need, new or used, in print or out of print. Many years back, I used to carry a "floating mental book list" in my head, books I was looking for, and often it would take me years of combing used book stores to find them. If I was lucky. Now I just go to Amazon and search, and a fool and his money are soon parted. I mean, hello, Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce (Second Series), published 1964? A few clicks, and it's mine!

Japanese chess set. Found online, ordered from Japan. Folding knife. Found online, ordered from France. (Have to put up pictures of that knife some time, it's a beauty.) Russian watch. Found online, ordered from Russia— oh, and day before yesterday I went and ordered yet another Russian watch online. Or, to be more precise, a Russian chronograph. Will I never learn?!

It's sort of like the old Sears Roebuck catalog. I remember when I was a kid, we had a reprint of the old 1908 Sears Roebuck catalog sitting around the house. I used to spend hours paging through it, fascinated at all the things you could order back in 1908. Sears, that was new technology too, wasn't it? Railroads, the availability of items shipped over the rails? Only shopping over the Internet is a far more interactive affair, and there's tons more stuff available.

Getting to be, just about anything you can imagine.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

With Apologies to Euell Gibbons

Well, got home from vacation late yesterday afternoon. Driving across Wisconsin, I happened to notice a sign along the road, from someone who evidently is growing both edibles and seasonals to sell:
Pick your own
  • Vegetables

  • Christmas trees
For some reason, this brought to mind a transform of that classic line from the old Grape Nuts commercial: "Ever eat a Christmas tree? Many parts are edible."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Morons Who Cry "Hypocrisy!"

There is a certain airheaded misuse of the accusation of hypocrisy which I have long thought should be a capital crime. Or grounds for 40 lashes, at least. Caltechgirl quotes from a piece by Steve-O which expresses my sentiments so beautifully that I thought I'd just lift it in extenso:
Ann is right about hypocrisy, too. We live in a country where mouth-breathers and slackjaws accuse people of hypocrisy whenever they criticize any action they themselves have taken in the past. It's sad that the average person has a tiny brain, and that such stupidity passes for logic. Ann tears that argument apart pretty well this week.

An accusation of hypocrisy is a tool a sub-par mind uses to excuse bad or stupid behavior. If I jumped off the Empire State Building, does that mean I lose the right to tell other people not to jump? Of course not. It may seem otherwise to you, if you move your lips when you read and you find butterfly ballots confusing, but to an intelligent person, it's obvious that it's ALWAYS okay for ANYONE to advise you to avoid stupid behavior.


True hypocrisy involves an element of dishonesty. Falling short of perfection does not make you a hypocrite.

If you want to do something stupid or immoral, don't be a whiny little boy and say, "You're not perfect, either." Be a man and say, "I know I shouldn't do this, but I'm doing it anyway, because I don't care if it's right." Or "because I'm weak." Or "because I'm an addict." Don't hide behind a child's favorite lame argument.
Exactly so. I have zero patience with those morons for whom the accusation of "hypocrisy" amounts to nothing more or less than a game of "Perfection or Consequences."

Saturday, April 22, 2006


1. [n] a form of pool played with 15 red balls and six balls of other colors and a cue ball
2. [v] leave one's opponent unable to take a direct shot, in a game of snooker

The men in the tuxedoes at the snooker table. The expert at the card table: "Putting aside all high-minded purposes, if this book sells it will have succeeded of its chief end, as the author needs the money." The experts at the snooker table, in the Victorian room with high windows and wainscoting around on the walls. The man— in the helmet— by the tower: "Press the button. Codeword delta— delta— delta." ———"If this book sells, it will have succeeded of its high windows, as the man in the black helmet— by the tower— needs the codeword." Potting a red, then nominating a colour. The usual shot is half-on or quarter-on, so as to succeed of clearing the in jaw. Putting it shut will set you up for making out the next shot, without resort of a safety. But bringing it half on will also lead to a bring-back, which sets you pretty for leading on through, and perhaps even the coveted mark of running the balls for a century. This is seldom seen in amateur play, especially that of the player at the village pub, a game chap who is often little more than a set-to potter with hopes of pocketing a colour. So in his game, he must set himself to be snookered. This the seasoned balls-runner sees, and knows well to avoid as he is able. His game is an odd-up favourite to surpass the bar, and to make for home with scarcely a foul or baulk to be found out against his name.

My Vacation Proceeds Apace

Those of you who know me from meatspace may already have heard of it— those of you who know me from cyberspace haven't, since come to think of it I hadn't blogged about it previously— but my dad's surgery the other day went well and he's doing just fine, and he ought to be coming home from the hospital tomorrow.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Italian Is the New Chinese

Or whatever. É più molto maggiore, bao ben xi bing qing.

"The Poor Mimic the Blind"

I have certain snippets and forms of words which have drifted around in my mind like flotsam and jetsam for decades now. In some cases I have no idea what they mean, or where they came from.

One such meaningless slogan is "The poor mimic the blind." That one's been bouncing around in my head for over 20 years.

And I haven't a clue what it means.
  • "The poor mimic the blind"

  • "Ignore alien orders!"

  • "Relax, Frankie, don't do it!"

  • "Who takes up dumby, may call for trumps."

  • "Slowgan on the highway is a speedster in town."

  • "The bigger the wheel, the ranger the forest."
Random sayings which have been knocking around in my skull, some of them, since before Nixon's jowls departed for San Clemency.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tunes That Get Stuck in Your Head

Ever get a piece of music going in your head, and you just can't get it to stop? Like the tune is just stuck in your head?

Yeah, I'll get a tune stuck in my head sometimes. Not often, but once in a while. When it happens, though, it can just about drive me nuts. Seems the harder I try to get rid of it, the more it sticks in my head. In my case, usually it's golden oldies rock music.

But one of the worst bouts I ever had came from reading a piece written by Mark Twain. He starts off with a little ditty that begins, "Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjare..." And (as I suspect Twain intended) it was days before I could get this piece of doggerel out of my head.

Tell you what, I'm in a cruel mood this morning, so here's a link to Mark Twain's Punch, Brothers, Punch. Only don't say I didn't warn you.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I realize, halfway through this decade, that for the first time in my life, I'm living in a decade without a name. It's rather odd. Not that a decade, considered as a cultural phenomenon, begins or ends odometer-precise with the arrival of a year ending in "0"— or in "1". But there does seem to be a more than just conventional reality to that cultural phenomenon which we conveniently call, for shorthand, a "decade."

(Side note: If there's one species of pedant who deserves to be shot on sight, it's the pedant who wrangles over whether decades begin in a "0" year or a "1" year. Also the pedant who complains that a cultural decade doesn't really coincide exactly with the beginning or ending of a calendar decade. "Wah, wah, wah"— KA-BLAM!!!)

That said, I'd say that what I call the 90s first broke on my consciousness around '93 or '94 or '95: tattoos, body piercing, young adults inexplicably wearing nerdy eyeglasses. Seattle. Coffee. The World Wide Web. TV commercials with half a dozen surreal images per second flashing by. Folks feeling they were really saying something when they tried to justify changing mores by saying, "But it's the Nineties now!" The ongoing bottomless-pit mendacity of the Clintons. A general sense that we were living and eating lotuses at Francis Fukuyama's "End of History." Not all of this broke at once, but over a span of a couple of years I had a definite sense of the culture shifting gears.

And I had a sense that the 90s were culturally far less derivative from the 60s than the 70s or 80s had been.

Speaking of which, for me "the 80s" were pretty much of a piece: say "Reagan" and you're saying "80s." Pretty obvious to me from '81 or so onward. The most peculiar hiccup I noticed in the 80s was the sudden advent, in first few months of 1988, of a neo-moralism which in one guise or another is with us yet. Am I the only person who remembers this? In early January 1988 it was not yet on the horizon. By March or April some commentators were remarking on the sudden shift.

I tend to think of "the 70s" as pretty much mid-to-late 70s. Yeah, yeah, leisure suits, the first primitive electronic video games starting to displace the old mechanical pinball machines: Asteroids, Battlezone. And there was indeed a moment in history (more or less coincident with moon boots) when no self-respecting American male under 40 would've been caught dead in a crewcut. The 70s. Starting some time during Ford's brief presidency, and not outlasting Jimmy Carter's departure from the White House.

As for "the 60s" (actually, the late 60s and early 70s), I remember their advent when I was midway through grade school; and throughout my junior high and high school years, "the 60s" ruled. It was not until the spring of 1975 that it dawned on me that the 60s, as a cultural force, were receding into the past. I was then a college freshman in Madison, Wisconsin, "the Berkeley of the Midwest." Well do I remember reading underground rags like Kaleidoscope and Free for All. Almost until my departure from Madison in 1981, it wasn't hard to look around you and pretend you were still living in the 60s, if only you squinted a little.

And the 50s? I remember the 50s. Which extended actually up through the early 60s. Despite the bad rap which some wild-eyed crazies have given them in retrospect, the 50s were overall a good time. A solid, levelheaded, judicious, sane time. The last sane time we had, and maybe the last sane time we'll ever have. In the 50s, the culture basically just worked. At least from the perspective of the small town American Midwest. A little starchy and repressed, true; it could have taken a little loosening up. What we got when the 60s rolled in was more than just "a little loosening up": Après moi, le déluge.

A cultural "decade" may start or end several years out of synch with a calendar decade. But there does seem to be a real sense of the culture shifting gears, noticeably and within a span of a year or two, every several years. It doesn't go smoothly, it sticks and then slips. If the shift is on the order of magnitude of every 10 years (or 7 or 8 or 12 or 15), we may as well annoy the pedants by referring to it as a "decade."

Oh, and our current nameless decade? I think it's the only one in my lifetime that began abruptly and with a sudden lurch. You probably remember where you were when you heard about it. September 11, 2001.

Labels: , ,

Decades, Part II; Or The Early 1988 Advent of Neo-Moralism, Whassat?!

Wherein I dilate on this point in the preceding post:
The most peculiar hiccup I noticed in the 80s was the sudden advent, in first few months of 1988, of a neo-moralism which in one guise or another is with us yet. Am I the only person who remembers this? In early January 1988 it was not yet on the horizon. By March or April some commentators were remarking on the sudden shift.
The neo-moralism I'm referring to is something that, in my memory, surfaced in a span of just a few months in early 1988.

Again, proceeding purely on the basis of my own memories, it seems that in January of 1988, Nancy Reagan was promoting her "Just Say No" slogan. My own offhand impression at the time (as a conservative who generally supported what the Reagan administration was up to) was that the administration was running out of steam, and this was an attempt to pump the steam pressure back up.

Anyhow, over the next few months, it seems that somehow something about "No" just caught fire in the culture— even among people who detested the Reagans. All of a sudden, even among "sophisticated" people, there was an attitude that it was thinkable to say "No" to excessive drinking, to smoking, to drug use, to randomly sleeping around, to whatever.

I remember reading columns by the likes of George Will and Meg Greenfield, remarking on this sudden sea change in the culture. Really, prior to early 1988, ever since the 60s hit, "sophistos" would have laughed you out of the room for speaking a discouraging word against the wretched excesses of Sex & Drugs & Rock 'n Roll.

And without that shift toward neo-moralism, the later anti-smoking zealotry— to say nothing of today's anti-fast-food thunderhead-on-the-horizon— would have been inconceivable.

Am I making this sudden cultural shift up out of my own mind? I remember browsing in a bookstore in '88 or '89, flipping through some humorous books about the new neo-moralism. I remember how, when John Tower was rejected in '89, people observed that not too long before, it would have been unthinkable to criticize someone seriously for his drinking and partying. My own take at the time was that the generation of the 60s had now aged enough that they could take the attitude of, "Okay, we've had our fun, now don't you dare have yours."

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Now on the First Day of the Week..."

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on the head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

  —John 20:1-18


Resurrection, imperfect

Sleep sleep old Sun, thou canst not have repast
As yet, the wound thou took'st on friday last;
Sleepe then, and rest; The world may beare thy stay,
A better Sun rose before thee to day,
Who, not content to'enlighten all that dwell
On the earths face, as thou, enlightened hell,
And made the darke fires languish in that vale,
As, at thy presence here, our fires grow pale.
Whose body having walk'd on earth, and now
Hasting to Heaven, would, that he might allow
Himselfe unto all stations, and fill all,
For these three daies become a minerall;
Hee was all gold when he lay downe, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make even sinfull flesh like his.
Had one of those, whose credulous pietie
Thought, that a Soule one might discerne and see
Goe from a body,'at this sepulcher been,
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen,
He would have justly thought this body a soule,
If not of any man, yet of the whole.
        Desunt cætura

  —John Donne (1573-1631)


Vacation, Vacate, Vacant

I'm going to be gone on vacation for the next, oh, purner week and a half. So you can expect my blogging to be lighter than usual.

Am taking the new Japanese Chess set with me, also a stack of books thereon, and DVDs to watch via MPlayer on my computer. Do you suppose I'll finally get around to watching all those episodes of Cowboy Bebop that I picked up over a year ago? Or maybe American Gothic, or the Star Wars movies. Or maybe I'll just watch some episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion for the fiftieth time.

Or maybe just lie around and take a nap. We shall see.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Voice Recognition

So. Last night, exhausted, I prepared to flop into bed. As often when I retire, I turned on the boombox which sits atop one of the bookcases on the far side of my roller-rink sized bedroom. (House built ca. 1880, some rooms amazingly gigantic.) Boombox set to turn off automatically after a while.

And boombox not booming, either. Rather I have the volume turned down just about as low as it will go, so that from the other side of the room you could just about wonder whether the thing's even turned on. For evening dozing purposes, I generally have it tuned to the campus station up in La Crosse, which usually plays jazz music evenings. Not that I know jazz from a fencepost, but I find that jazz turned down so low I can hardly hear it is one way to drift off to sleep.

Now, from across the room, I can hear a faint voice. So faint I can't pick out the words. News at the top of the hour? No... within seconds, a spark of recognition lights. Can't make out the words, but something about the tone and cadence of that voice... I think to myself, could that be Jack Kerouac?

Back across the room, right up to the boombox... sure enough, it's Jack Kerouac, off one of those old voice recordings that have been reissued on CDs from Rhino Records.

But how did I identify, in a matter of seconds, the faint buzzing mosquito voice, too faint and distant even to hear the words? How did I recognize it for the Kerouac it was?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour, when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was reckoned with the transgressors." And those who passed by derided him, saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And some of the by-standers hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

  —Mark 15:21-39


Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westward

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheares, by being growne
Subject to forraigne motions, lose their owne,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
Hence is't, that I am carryed towards the West
This day, when my Soules Forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I'almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And turne all spheares at once, peirc'd with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag'd, and torne?
If on these things I durst not looke, durst I
Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was Gods partner here, and furnish'd thus
Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom'd us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They'are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look'st towards mee,
O Saviour, as thou hang'st upon the tree;
I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may'st know mee, and I'll turne my face.

  —John Donne (1573-1631)


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Ides of Taxes

The Ides of Taxes will soon be upon us. And, this being the time of the year that it is, there's just no way I'm going to find time to fill out my tax forms. Maybe if I'd done it back in February, yeah, something like that.

So once again it's time for me to file Form 4868, "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return." Simple enough, though I've got to decipher the instructions for filling in my name and address— fill in name as it will appear on Form 1040, and/or with name of agent, in which case use agent's address instead of own address; and do not include names or addresses of any pets, actual pets, former pets, virtual pets, livestock claimed for tax deduction purposes as pets, and/or/but livestock exhibited or actually exhibited in 4H or other equivalent semi-tax-exempt public display as permitted to be claimed under requisite regulations, please also file form 7162-Z Claim for Time Extension Exemption of Nonprofit Publicly Exhibited Animals and/or Other Exempt Companion Animals...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Armor! Anger! Argue!

Yeah, right, it's a saying I came up with, somewhere along the line: "Armor, Anger, Argue!" Or a parallel formulation, with apologies to Julius Caesar: "Venom, Vendettam, Vindictum!"

I'm not going to say which random blog post out there touched off this line of thought in me today. But has it ever occurred to some people that going forth to argue, armed to the teeth, "loaded for b'ar," with armor carapace and razor-edged courtroom-attorney arguments, may not always be the best way to discover the truth? Has it ever occurred to some people that bludgeoning your opponent, no-quarter-asked-or-given cross-examination, heading them off preemptively at the pass, and always oh-so-carefully covering your ass, may sometimes be strategies destructive of truth, and destructive of our own truth-uncovering capabilities?

Has it ever occurred to some people that sometimes, sometimes, discovering truth may require stripping yourself powerless, proceeding in weakness and vulnerability, and daring to open up a place in your heart and mind where you can hear your opponent without defensiveness, without the perpetual rapier "aha!", without the ever-escalating game of one-upmanship? Dare to take off that stiff, rigid suit of armor. Dare to lay down your rhetorical and argumentational weapons.

Dare to be defenseless.

And then, in the silence, listen— openly, vulnerably, defenselessly— for that still, small voice.

Honestly, there are times when the rhetorical "nuclear arms race" of some in the blogosphere just leaves me sick to my stomach.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Floating on the Ceiling

When I was a kid, I simply knew that if you cut yourself on glass, you would go floating up to the ceiling. I supposedly knew of several such incidents.

A thief had broken into a gas station nearby us, and cut himself on the plate glass window breaking in. When the owner arrived to open up the station in the morning, he found the thief floating on the ceiling.

A friend of my Dad's, a pastor in nearby Madison, had forgotten the keys to his church and had tried to break the glass by the door to get in. A parishioner arrived some time later, to find the pastor floating on the ceiling.

I have no idea where I ever got this notion, but I had a number of such peculiar misconceptions when I was a kid.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Throwing Off the Cold

Yeah, that is my task for today. This being my day off, do as close to nothing as is humanly possible. And throw off what remains of this cold, which I discover is considerable. Throw it off in my chest, in my head. This is the week of the year when I can least afford to be tackled by recrudescences and relapses of the cold.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

And when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it. If any one says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it and will send it back immediately.'" And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street; and they untied it. And those who stood there said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" And they told them what Jesus had said; and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it. And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!"

And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

  —Mark 11:1-11


He — They — We

They hailed Him King as He passed by,
  They strewed their garments in the road,
But they were set on earthly things,
  And He on God.

They sang His praise for that He did,
  But gave His message little thought;
They could not see that their souls' good
  Was all He sought.

They could not understand why He,
  With powers so vast at His command,
Should hesitate to claim their rights
  And free the land.

Their own concerns and this world's hopes
  Shut out the wonder of His news;
And we, with larger knowledge, still
  His Way refuse.

He walks among us still, unseen,
  And still points out the only way,
But we still follow other gods
  And Him betray.

  —John Oxenham (1852-1941)


Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Trip Over into Wisconsin

So I stopped off to buy lunch at that convenience store, Kwik Trip or Kwik Star or whatever, in Necedah. Got a sub sandwich and a bottle of milk. And the gal at the cash register was like, "And would you like a cookie or some chips with that?"

And I'm like thinking to myself, hey, if I'd wanted a cookie or some chips, don't you think I coulda figured that out on my own?! What is this evil meme that got started some years back with McDonald's and "Would you like some fries with that?" when nothing was further from your mind? For those of us who have thoroughly immunized ourselves against them, such unsolicited proffers are nothing more than a minor mental form of environmental pollution.

On further into Wisconsin, driving due east on Highway 21, and I got this station on the radio. It was playing Queen, Boston, Kraftwerk, Queen, Pink Floyd, Van Halen, Steely Dan, the Moody Blues, and of course plenty of Led Zeppelin. Now I know what the forty-somethings in central Wisconsin listen to. Talk about a station that took me back to a time in my life, back to my college days!

Noticed that one of last fall's windswept leaves had somehow wrapped itself around my radio antenna. Obsessive compulsive that I am, I wanted to reach right out through the windshield and snatch it away. Then it occurred to me that since I've got a power antenna, I could turn the radio off, wait till the antenna retracted and the leaf blew away, then turn the radio on again. But on second thought this seemed too flamboyant a solution.

Drove past some insurance outfit on the highway:
Insurance "Since 1953"
This bugged me. When they say Insurance "Since 1953," with the scare quotes, does that mean that they only call it "Insurance Since 1953," and that it's really Insurance Since 1962, or Insurance Since 1949??? Then I got to thinking, what if their sign had read:
Insurance "Since 1953"
Would that mean that the name of their insurance outfit was called Glavinsured, but that actually the name of their outfit was "the Anderson Insurance Agency"? And that it was said that they'd been selling insurance "Since 1953," but that really they'd been selling insurance since 1962? I mean, shades of Lewis Carroll!

And you can tell what a week I've had, when all this happened to me on a trip over into Wisconsin Monday, and I don't even get around to writing about it until Saturday.

Coughing, Part 2

That cough deep in my chest that's been with me since Tuesday or Wednesday... man, am I coughing up a lot of phlegm this morning!

And just in the nick of time, too, I'd say, with Holy Week almost upon me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Happy Fourth Blogiversary!

Over at Dean's World, Dean Esmay is celebrating his fourth blogiversary.

Happy blogiversary, sir!

Comment Spam, and Coughing

Insomnia does sometimes have its benefits. I got up last night in the middle of the night, and discovered that someone had posted thirty pieces of comment spam to my blog in a matter of minutes. All similarly worded comments which included a link to an alleged anti-spyware site. "Alleged" in that I suspect it was actually quite the opposite of "anti-spyware." As in, "visit us and get infected."

Oh well. Whenever I receive a comment on a blog post, new or old (and most of these were old posts of mine), I receive an automatic email notification from Blogger. So it was simply a matter of going through new email in Thunderbird, and deleting the comment spam from my blog almost as fast as it was posted in the first place. And, may I note, within only an hour or two after it appeared. Like I say, insomnia hath its benefits.

This is what I get for turning off word verification the other day— you know, type qwwkltso or whatever, to make your comment appear. Talk about brain farts, I can't even remember now why I did this. Well, once again you will have to type qwwkltso.

Now if only I could figure out the odd comment spam I've been getting, word verification or no, about once a week this past month or two. Usually on an older post of mine, a brief squib containing a link to some bland and completely off-topic Fox News story. Anybody else been getting these? Oh well, they don't survive the next time I check my email.

And all the above is the good news, relatively speaking. The bad news is, I've come down with something in my chest, deep wracking cough, phlegm, had a fun time getting through last night's midweek lenten service. And here comes Holy Week. I've got something scheduled this evening, but I'm spending as much of the day as I can flat on my back.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


coffee can
Anyone else ever notice how Hills Brothers coffee cans no longer have a picture of Osama bin Laden on them, like they always used to years back?

Lightspeed Again

Back to moving at the speed of light. Rerun above.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I'm heading over into central Wisconsin today to visit my grandmother, who will be 101 years old on Thursday.

And if you met her, you wouldn't think she was a day over 80.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Kerguelen Islanders

kerguelen islands
The Kerguelen Islands, located in the southern Indian Ocean equidistant between Antarctica, Australia, and the southern tip of Africa, are one of the most remote and isolated spots on earth. High winds average 68 mph year round; cold temperatures and rough seas are the norm.

Kerguelen was discovered by the French explorer Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec in 1772. The Kerguelen Islands were visited by the British Challenger expedition in 1874. Since 1949, French scientific teams have maintained a constant presence of 50 to 100. The main base and "capital" is Port-aux-Français. The islands, which consist of the main island of Grande Terre and 300 small outlying islands, are administered as a district in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Total land area is 2,577 square miles.

The native Kerguelen Islanders, or Kerguélenois, number about 6,000. They are physically one of the most distinctive peoples in the world, though due to their extreme remoteness, they have almost completely escaped the notice of anthropologists until recent years. Bourbaki [2003] writes:
The Kerguélenois tend toward medium-tall height and slender build, with an average height of 1.77 meters. The skull is long and markedly dolichocephalic; dark brown eyes, often with an epicanthic fold; long thin aquiline nose; and moderately broad lips. The hair is fairly straight, brown tending toward chestnut or russet. But the most distinctive physical feature of the Kerguélenois is their skin color, which could be described as a medium to medium-light plum or wine color— almost a light purple, and rather pellucid.
Bourbaki notes that the Kerguélenois "cannot really be classified as closely related to any other peoples in the world; it is immediately obvious, and closer study confirms, that they are neither negroid, caucasoid, mongoloid, capoid, nor australoid." The native Hakuamanei or Kerguélenois language is also unrelated to any language group in the outside world.

The only close relations to the Kerguelen Islanders are the native inhabitants, today little more than a thousand in total, of other small islands in the south Indian Ocean: Heard and McDonald Islands, the islands of Amsterdam and St. Paul, the Crozet Islands, and the Prince Edward Islands. These small groups closely resemble the Kerguélenois physically and linguistically. It has been hypothesized that the ancestors of the Kerguélenois made the crossing to the remote islands of the south Indian Ocean more than 10,000 years ago. "Certainly there has been a marked genetic drift," remarks Bourbaki. "Preliminary genetic mapping tests indicate remote kinship with the Khoisan peoples of southern Africa, but there are also genetic similarities with archaic Asian peoples such as the Ainu. This would seem to indicate ancestors who wandered down from Asia through Africa many, many millennia ago."

Most of the Kerguélenois still pursue their traditional way of life, living largely on a diet of fish; bird meat, including penguin; seal meat; edible moss; and the Kerguelen cabbage which is native to the islands. Seals also provide fur for the traditional Kerguelender clothing, which is often adorned with feathers. Interaction with the French, which was sporadic to nil until the arrival of the French scientific teams in the late 1940s, remains relatively limited today.

Until the publication of Bourbaki's article, there had been very few references to the Kerguélenois in print, the only extensive popular account, "The Purple-Skinned Kerguelenders," appearing in the December 1963 issue of National Geographic. "This is," says Bourbaki, "a massive lacuna and oversight in anthropological research. The Kerguélenois, remote in frigid subantarctic waters, over 5,000 kilometers from the nearest continental land mass, have remained as far removed from the eye of the modern world as some tribes which dwell deep in the tropical rain forests of the Amazon."