Wednesday, May 31, 2006

English Translate

On the last 31st of a month— the 31st of March— I made a cryptic post, cryptic in that it was written in my own language, Hermetic. This being the 31st subsequent— the 31st of May— I thought I'd provide an English translation.

First, the original Hermetic:


Mna Chothracatho Yothov Chalol

Ridapavlimor yol "Icchizrogis Mna Gaiirico" im ir (Anghliig: "Let the Finder Beware") somiamisor omsipris mna chothracathot dhnampath cvadro ghji pantho spdhaji jondirr-saptho... Dhalmthinol Thalsthilamthino i, omzaníghj Sitavisamthinor ghri Solmthinor. Sfago sghwaoro ghty'omcamanis, mna chothracathoth somiamisor cai omchochilaris. Cai vorthor somchothracisor omsovis omFananthig.

Yothov chalol voist, cai thlichasos mna chali.


And now, the English translation:


A Post About Nothing

I try to set down some kind of post for my weblog "Let the Finder Beware" (English: "Let the Finder Beware") four or five days a week... from Monday through Friday, less often on Saturday or Sunday. But early this morning I got up, and didn't have any post ready to write. So I decided to post in Hermetic.

It's a post about nothing, and nobody will be able to understand it.

I'm just saying.

Don't you wish that you had a language of your own? :-)


Windows Open

It's been hot enough around here the past few days— I mean record setting temperatures, up into the 90s— that I've been running the air conditioning in my house. Then yesterday we got about seven-tenths of an inch of rain, as measured by my rain gauge. And it cooled off. Blessedly cooled off.

I slept last night with my windows open, fresh air on a gentle breeze, and the temperature down to about 60°.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Odd Breakfast

Well, I find I'm running low on groceries after this Memorial Day weekend. So I had to scrounge around this morning for breakfast.

First off, lemonade in place of orange juice. I don't know that there's really a cosmic difference between a lemon and an orange. But lemonade for breakfast seems somehow disreputable. I mean, orange juice is eminently respectable, middle class, bourgeois. Whereas having lemonade for breakfast is sort of like wearing a swimming suit to church.

Then I hit upon the idea of Log Cabin syrup on toast. Again, what is the difference between Log Cabin syrup and strawberry jam or orange marmalade? And even at the breakfast table, syrup on pancakes is nothing out of the ordinary. But somehow syrup on toast sounds like the sort of thing I would've been tempted to try (but never would've gotten away with) back when I was a kid.

Ha! One of the joys of being an adult, and living on one's own, is that one can eat a shocking breakfast. Next thing you know, I'll be having Spring Grove soda pop for breakfast. Black cherry flavor! Or maybe even a can of lima beans.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

memorial day


Friday, May 26, 2006

The Irish Sport of Hurling

Hunh. Here's one I never knew about before. There's a sport that's big over in Ireland, known as hurling. Two teams of 15 players each. The players try to knock a ball around with what looks like a cross between a hockey stick and a war club. The stick is known as a hurley, or in Irish Gaelic, a camán. The ball is called a sliothar, which I think is pronounced "slitter." Or "schlitter." Or something like that.

Three points for a goal, knocking the ball underneath the horizontal crossbar at the goal line. One point for knocking the ball across above the crossbar. Of course, there's a goalie guarding the goal. Curiously enough, the 3-point goals are not amalgamated into the score, so that for example the score could be 1-7 to 2-3 (one goal and seven points to two goals and three points), otherwise known as "one seven to two three"— what the rest of the world would call "ten to nine."

Players can run holding the ball in their hand, though for no more than four seconds or four steps. Or they can run for any distance balancing the ball on the hurley (I think the operative term here is "if you can"). Or of course they can hit the ball with the hurley. Fer crying out loud, they can even reach up and catch the ball in their hand as it flies through the air. It's a different sport, if you're used to the likes of hockey or soccer.

Hurling has also spread to the United States. On the Denver Gaels website there are some videos which explain the game pretty well: video one, video two, and video three.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lightning Adding Machine

lightning adding machine
Here's an odd item I ran across years ago in a second-hand shop. The Lightning Adding Machine.

The metal mechanism sits in a stand made of bakelite. You can turn the metal dials with a stylus, and when a dial goes past 9, the next dial increments by 1. Numbers show in little windows above the dials.

An included instruction sheet shows how you can use this device to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. "As simple as dialing a phone... and instant in response!" You could order another Lightning Adding Machine for only $12.95 postpaid, from the Lightning Adding Machine Co., 543 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 13, Calif.

Just from the look of things, I'd guess that this little mechanical adding machine dates from the 1940s.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Have You Forded a River Lately?

Okay, just so you understand what I mean when I say I live in a "remote rural area"...

Several miles from my place, there's a gravel road called Sunflower Drive. The road runs down steeply into a valley, twisting and turning as you go. Then it twists and turns some more as it runs through the valley. Off to one side of you, you'll see this creek running alongside the road. Sooner or later you've got to cross Silver Creek. And when you do...

You find there's no bridge. Never has been. Nope, instead you've got to ford Silver Creek.

Don't worry, it's not bad. You'll get your tires pretty thoroughly wet, but take it slow and you'll ford the creek just fine. It's less than a foot deep. Usually.

They do have some warning signs posted as you come up toward the ford.

But I wouldn't worry about them warnings. Much.

Long as you're driving a pickup, or an SUV like my Jeep Cherokee— and long as we haven't just had four inches of rain or anything— you'll do fine.


Yeah, tired this morning. Frazzled. So I'll leave you with a rerun, above, on our rustic way of life hereabouts.

BTW, let me know if those pictures don't load for you. I've been running into some curious behavior from my pictures since the older, obsolete DNS listings for my personal website (where most of the pictures on my blog are also hosted) were deleted. Like, six days later, every fourth or fifth random picture (varies with every reload) still won't load.

Update: I'm suspecting the problem with occasional random pictures not loading is on my end. Everything loads fine when I disconnect the Privoxy web proxy from my browser. Now, the next question: why should Privoxy object to every fourth or fifth randomly varying picture from my site, and from no other site? It doesn't filter or block them as per its usual mode of operation; they simply don't load.

And this problem never occurred until within the past week.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sumer Is Icumen In

Just heard on the radio one of those cloying, do-gooder public service announcements: "Help your teenager to have a productive summer!"

And I was thinking to myself: no, no, NO! Why in the world should kids have to worry about having a "productive" summer? Don't we schedule them to the gills already?

I think back to the gloriously nonproductive summers I used to have when I was a youngster. Exploring on dirt roads between the fields outside of town with my friends. Digging a hole several feet deep out in the back yard. Having a 75-lap neighborhood bicycle race in our driveway. Reading Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki till late into the night. Playing with my dog. Or just sitting around and staring off into thin air, watching dust motes drift through a beam of sunlight shining in through the window.

Have a productive summer?! Yeah, right, learn young how to be a cog in the machine...

Lighter Out Earlier

Oh dear. Here it is, not yet 5:30 in the morning, and already it's pretty much fully light outside. In fact it was starting to get light this morning by quarter to five.

I don't need any further incentive to be up, awake, and dragging my carcass out of bed early in the morning. At any time of the year, I can often find myself awake at four in the morning, three in the morning, or even earlier, and it's anyone's guess whether I'll ever get back to sleep again. Damn insomnia!

You don't suppose we could institute double daylight savings time, and shift yet another hour of light from the morning to the evening? (Yes, yes, yes, I know all the stock rote arguments against this, having to do with schoolbuses or whatever...)

Then again, that's from someone who, left to his own devices, often doesn't even bother to turn on any lights in the house in the evening, unless there's some special reason to do so. Yes, unless I need the light, I am often quite content in the evening to sit around in the house in the dark...

Monday, May 22, 2006


I'll be. The other day I happened to meet a fellow who was a dead ringer for the late philosopher George Santayana.


What, you don't remember what Santayana looked like?

I'm trying to find some way to turn this into a quip along the lines of "Those who cannot remember Santayana are condemned to repeat him," but I can't quite make it click.

Watching for the Watch

Well, a while back I was mentioning that I had ordered a new Russian watch— a Russian chronograph, actually. Like they say, a watched pot never boils; and I guess a watched-for watch never arrives, either.

Actually, the full story is that I ordered the watch from one outfit online, and after a week and a half they finally got around to informing me that, oh, gee, they didn't have that watch in stock, after all. They did have certain similar watches in stock, for more than twice the price, but. Anyhow. I told them I was sorry, but if they didn't have it, we'd have to let it go at that.

Then searched around and found the watch on another Russian watch site. Was just about to place the order when I noticed, just in the nick of time, that this outfit, on its outlet on Amazon, had a 71% negative rating from customers.

Searched around some more, located a Russian chronograph on eBay which was just about identical to the one I'd been looking for, and in fact on several points even better. Seller had been in the business of peddling Russian watches on eBay for some time, and had a 100% positive rating. So I clicked on the "buy it now" button— no, I wasn't going to mess around with bidding, and some other bidder snatching it out from under me at the last minute. The seller was in touch with me by email in less than two hours, and said watch is in transit, all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia.

I suppose it's a bit early to hope that it might be arriving today already. But perhaps some time this week. Yes, I will put up pictures of it when it arrives.

In the meanwhile, I've been googling around and poking through various watchblogs, which are rather fascinating if you're into watches. All sorts of cool photos, reviews, and discussions on watches. Such as at Chuck Maddox's Watch Blog, or, or Ed's Corner.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Straightneck General

Tuesday I was at an all-day meeting down in Dubuque. Took my new cell phone with me— that cell phone which blessedly does not work out here in the countryside— and found that it did indeed work in and around Dubuque. In fact, it worked all the way along Highway 20 to Dyersville, a good 25 miles west of Dubuque; and from there north through New Vienna and Luxemburg. Didn't really cut out for good till I began that last steep descent down toward Guttenberg.

The excellent coverage all along Highway 20 was no doubt due to the microwave towers which you would see standing along the highway every mile or two. This somehow reminds me of a routine that my brother and I developed, back when we were kids, almost 40 years ago.

My memory is that even back in those days there were occasional microwave towers, though nothing like you'll see nowadays. Anyhow, my brother and I got off into how these towers were under the authority of the "Straightneck General," who was a stern government figure, sort of like the Attorney General, or the Solicitor General, or the Surgeon General, or somesuch. The idea was, when you got near one of these radio towers, it would send out microwaves, like a radar signal, to check whether you were holding your neck up perfectly straight. And if your neck wasn't straight— if you were slouching, or generally exhibiting poor posture— then the Straightneck General would send out his government agents to arrest you and prosecute you.

Eh. The NSA playing six-degrees-of-separation connect-a-dot with every phone call in the country. The British government tracking the movement of every vehicle in the UK with license-plate-reading cameras, and storing records of their movement in a longterm centralized database. Total Information Awareness, which never quite seems to die, no matter how many times Congress drives a stake through its heart. The possibility that Fast Food will become the next Big Tobacco. Your grocery purchases, passed over the supermarket checkout scanner, stored in a database somewhere. Legally mandated health insurance in Massachusetts.

And now Federal guidelines that "health care professionals [should] treat all women capable of conceiving a baby as 'pre-pregnant' from menarche through menopause," which means that "all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control."

Yeah, right. Forty years ago the Straightneck General was funny, as in funny ha-ha, or as in tinfoil-hat funny. Today I'm afraid the Straightneck General is only slightly more far-fetched than many governmental intrusions which are already in place, or already on the horizon.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Post #500

Well, after almost precisely a year and a half, this is the 500th post I've made to my blog. (Not counting a few I posted and then deleted!) Games, dreams, short stories, reminiscences, flotsam and jetsam, pieces of gear I've acquired here and there, the occasional rant. Oddments that come drifting up from somewhere deep in the psyche. Overall it's been a blast. And I appreciate all of you, commenters and lurkers, who've been along for the ride.

And more to come...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Game of Spades

Yesterday I was digging through a stack of large boxes full of old papers. I've got two whole closets full of these boxes. I moved in here almost seven years ago, I keep telling myself one of these days I'm going to sort through those boxes, and of course I never get around to it.

Well, yesterday in one of those boxes I stumbled across a sheaf of papers, quite a number of games I made up back in my junior high and high school years. Mostly card games. A few of them, I remember. But many of these games had completely slipped out of my memory. Hey, we're talking over 30 years ago, and an elephant I am not.

Here's one of the card games I concocted, I'd guess in my high school years, early 1970s. It's called the game of Spades: not a very creative name, but the game looks quite playable. In some ways it looks like Schafskopf (the three-handed version), which I was discussing the other day. But in other ways my game of Spades has a character all its own.

Number of Players: three.

The Deck: 32 cards (7 low).

Rank of Cards: A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7 (low).

Rank of Suits: spades (high), clubs, hearts, diamonds (low).

The Deal: Ten cards to a player, dealt three, four, three, with two cards left over for a blind.

Object of the Game: To take a majority of the points in cards.

Bidding: Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each person may either pick up the blind or refuse it. A player who picks it up contracts to take at least half the points in cards. After he picks it up, he must discard two cards to restore his hand to ten cards. These discarded cards count for him at the end of the hand.

The Play: Player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick. A player must follow suit if possible. Otherwise he may play any card. The highest card of the highest suit wins the trick.

Trumping: A card may be trumped by any card of a higher suit; that is, a diamond by a card of any other suit, a heart by any black card, a club by any spade. Since spades are the highest suit, they cannot be trumped.

Scoring: At the end of the hand, the bidder counts up the cards he has won as follows:

ace of spades...........................40
each other ace..........................20
each face card (K, Q, J)..........10
each lower card (10, 9, 8, 7)...5

There is a total of 300 points in the deck. If the bidder took in less than 150 points, each opponent scores one game point. If the bidder took in 150 or more points, he scores as follows:

Bidder takes in: Bidder scores:
150-195...............1 game point
200-245........... 2 game points
250-295.............3 game points
300.....................4 game points

Game: The first player to reach seven game points wins.

Loose ends: Already I can see a few gaps in the rules. For instance, what happens if all the players pass? I suppose this would be handled more or less as in the three-handed version of Schafskopf which I learned around that same time: if all three players pass, the hand is played "for least," with no trump, the blind going to the winner of the last trick, and the player who takes the fewest points scoring 1 game point. Various complicated rules obtain in case of a two or three way tie for least.

I can also see how certain elements of the game of Spades tie in to my own elaborate private "game mythos," going all the way back into my preschool years. The rank of the suits, spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds; the ace of spades as 40, and the other aces as 20: details like these had been set in my inward world quite literally by the time I was three years old. Believe me, you don't want to know just how deep that rabbit hole goes. From a very early age, games had a nigh-mystical significance for me.

Overall, a pretty good card game. I'd say I must have made it up back around age 16.


Monday, May 15, 2006

"In the Water, Everything Cuts You..."

The other night I had a dream that I was swimming in the lake, near the lakeshore by the student union. And as I was swimming, I came upon this submerged circular opening, like an underwater manhole or something.

And I put out my hand and took hold of the edge of the manhole; only it was extremely sharp and I realized that I had cut my fingers on it, sliced into them quite deeply in fact. And blood was welling out of my fingers underwater like a crimson cloud. Though strangely I felt no pain.

Then I noticed a sign posted underwater next to the manhole, and it said:
In the Water
Everything Cuts You
And You Cut Everything
And I wondered what this was about, though it was certainly true that the sharp edge of the underwater manhole had cut my fingers.

And then it came to me, as if in a word of knowledge, that this underwater manhole had been placed there by some progressive social-reformer do-gooders, with the aim of convincing you that everything underwater was a sharp and dangerous place that would cut you, and that you were also dangerous because you would cut anything you touched underwater, and that the only solution was to "get underwater" by entering in through the manhole.

Only then it also came to me that some people had been objecting that actually many things underwater don't cut you, and that most of the time you don't cut things yourself underwater simply by touching them. Also it struck me as strange that one should have to enter the manhole to "get underwater" when in fact anyone who was anywhere in the vicinity of the manhole was already underwater; and the chief danger of getting cut came from unwittingly grasping the edge of the manhole. But I guess the do-gooders thought they would see who they could sucker into their program of underwater social uplift.

And then I woke up.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Le Knife

basque yatagan knife
Here's a cool knife I got recently. Basque yatagan knife, handle of ebony wood. Stainless steel blade almost four inches long. Ordered it (like an increasing number of my purchases lately) over the Internet.

basque yatagan knife
This knife was produced by French knifemaking artisans, in the town of Thiers, which is the center of French cutlery. Produced by hand, the old fashioned way. Their site has all sorts of cool photos of master knife artisan dudes working over anvil and vise with hammer and file.

The knife has a solid, balanced feel in the hand. Opening the blade feels like opening the door on a Cadillac. You can't beat quality.

basque yatagan knife
And note that decorative design hand filed into the steel back of the knife.

From now on, when I need a knife around the house, I won't have to go running for the carving knife out in the kitchen any more.


Photos and More Photos to Come

I recently had my personal website,, transferred to a new server. New settings should have propagated by now; or if you can't see the knife pictures above, then the new settings haven't propagated to your neck of the woods quite yet.

Anyhow. This will mean many more pictures and photos on my blog from now on. Because the pictures here on my blog are actually hosted on the webspace of my personal website. (Long story, don't ask.) And where my personal website had 20 megabytes of allotted webspace before, now it has 750 megs.

If it took me almost five years to fill up 20 megs, I'd say I'm well situated, photowise, for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


So after the Lions board meeting last night, some of us drifted on over to Rosco's Place for a few games of schafskopf.

Schafskopf, or sheepshead, in case you hadn't heard of it, is a card game. An old German card game which is played here in this corner of Iowa, as well as over in southern Wisconsin where I grew up. With some differences in rules between the two places. But the main outlines of the game are the same.

Trick-taking game. 32-card deck, aces down to sevens. And (key distinguishing feature) the trump suit is all queens, jacks, and diamonds, ranking ♣Q (high), ♠Q, ♥Q, ♦Q, ♣J, ♠J, ♥J, ♦J, ♦10, ♦K, ♦9, ♦8, ♦7, ♦A (low). Side suits rank A (high), 10, K, 9, 8, 7 (low).

(Erin was wandering over to watch us play. She: "I know how to play poker. Is this anything like poker?" I: "No, it's sort of like euchre, only a lot stranger.")

Four players, two against two as partners, each player is dealt eight cards. The usual trick-taking schtick, each ace taken in tricks counts 11, each 10 counts 10, K counts 4, Q counts 3, J counts 2, and last trick counts for 10. Side winning a majority of points scores one game point, or if they take over three-quarters of points they score two game points; also, one game point scored for winning ♦A away from the other side in a trick. First side to score 11 game points wins.

A mind-bending game, though you catch on to it after a while. The Wisconsin version of schafskopf I learned back around high school age differed in some particulars. It was a three-handed game. Ten cards dealt to each player, two to the blind. Whoever took up the blind contracted to win a majority of points in tricks, playing against the other two players. There was no special value to winning ♦A in a trick, and ♦A ranked right above ♦10, just as in the side suits. Otherwise much the same.

Odd to think that, in this age of video games and computers, some of us still gather to play curious and unheard of games with those ancient pasteboards. Then again, I'm crazy about card games. More on schafskopf, including links to the complete rules of various versions, here.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How Do You Know I Don't Know?

One day Soshi was walking on the bank of a river with a friend.

"How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!" exclaimed Soshi.

His friend spoke to him thus: "You are not a fish; how do you know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

"You are not myself," returned Soshi; "how do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

 —from Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea

Monday, May 08, 2006

Spring Fever or Bust

Eh. Forecast says, "Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms." Nonetheless. It is spring. And today is my day off. I think after tackling a few minor tasks this morning, I'm going to head out and around.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My Nightstand

Well, a while back I posted here on my blog a photo of my nightstand, next to my bed. Now I find that it's turned up on a blog called, appropriately enough, My Nightstand.

St. John's Chicken BBQ

Today is the annual St. John's Chicken BBQ. Yesterday some of the fellows helped clean out my garage, since my garage is where carryout meals can be picked up. Or you can eat down in the church basement next door, best barbecued chicken around. We'll be getting ready today, barbecuing chicken up at Lambert's shed I imagine, and then we'll be serving from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

And don't forget to stop by at the old German schoolhouse next to the church, for the craft and bake sale!

By the way, pictures of the Chicken BBQ from a couple of years ago can be found on my personal website right here.

Update, 12:07 PM: It is in fact a beautiful, perfect sunny day. So they have set up the BBQ pits, and are barbecuing chicken, out in the open back behind my place.

Time for me to reprise my annual role as chicken taste-tester...


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Going Out Walking

So I went out yesterday, in the sunny room-temperature evening, and I went for a walk. Down the old gravel road a ways. And then walking back again. Not any great distance, probably not much more than half a mile in total. But that's half a mile more than I usually go walking in the evening.

Don't know if I'm going to make a habit of this, though I ought to. I could stand to lose weight (and since the beginning of the year I have been losing weight). I could stand to get in better shape. And maybe if I get in the habit now, I'll be more likely to stick with it once we hit the hot summer months. That was the problem last summer: I went walking a couple of times, not often; and once we got to 90° in the evening, I really didn't feel like it.

Going walking. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Submarine Ants

Heard on the radio this morning that ants can live underwater for up to two days.

Don't know if that's really so or not, but it sure does sound cool. Then again, I always thought ants are cool.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Better Wear Your Tinfoil Hat

UltraSonics— America's Secret Police

Yes, UltraSonics— the top secret group which operates above the law, to terrorize innocent residents of New Jersey with advanced nonlethal acoustic weapons! Their evil conspiracy is revealed here, for the very first time— by a man who, for the past several years, has been persecuted by UltraSonics!