Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The New Shelter Out Back

I keep talking about the new shelter they built out back recently. Well, here it is. The new shelter, located not much more than 10 yards outside my back door.

That's a wheelbarrow thingy sitting there in the shelter, for scale.

The shelter came very much in handy for the annual Chicken BBQ, and I imagine it'll be handy too for the Wiener Roast in July. As for the rest of the time, well, if you suddenly had a shelter like this appear out in back of your place, wouldn't you be tempted?

I've been trying it out already. Sitting out there of an evening, with brats and beer and boombox, and maybe a magazine to read. Quietly sitting there in a lawn chair. Well, quietly except for the rock music. Like they say, "quiet" is a frame of mind, not a decibel level.

One Wool Blanket Is Enough

Well, I think we're getting to the time of year when I could dispense with one of the two wool blankets on my bed. Don't you think? Don't you think I could take one of those blankets, and fold it up and store it away in the cedar chest until colder weather arrives again next fall?

And make do for the summer with only one wool blanket?


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sumer Is Icumen In

According to my calendration, with the coming of Memorial Day weekend the summer has begun. Alternate calendration, summer begins June 1. Summer is for me a time of the year when the hectic pace of life slows down considerably. Things I don't have time for the rest of the year, I always figure I'll get around to in the summer. Which, sometimes I do, often I don't.

Here's my floating mental list of things I will may get around to this summer:
  • Read some more science-fiction novels by Philip K. Dick.

  • Clean out the closet downstairs here in my study.

  • Sort through the endless boxes of papers in the closet upstairs in the radio room.

  • Play Shogi alias Japanese Chess.

  • Make a Nine Men's Morris board.

  • Get out and around and go places.

  • Catalog the 3,000 books I've got in this house.

  • Sit in the new shelter out back on a pleasant summer evening with brats, beer, and boombox.

  • Listen to shortwave radio on my Grundig Satellit 700.

  • Take time to slow down and relax.

  • Read more of the 3,000 books I've got in this house.

  • Work out in the garage on a couple of crafts projects that have been hanging forever.

  • Go walking. Exercise. Lose more weight.
Of course, it's anyone's guess how many of these I'll get around to. With any luck, more than just two or three of them.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The New Japanese Chess Board Is Here!

shogi board
Yes! It arrived this morning, all the way from Japan! The new Japanese Chess board, a block of solid wood, thick as a butcher block, standing on legs, a thing of rare beauty. It arrived this morning from Japan, and I am simply going out of my game-addled gourd!

Game fanatic that I am, I've been fascinated with Japanese Chess, or Shogi, ever since age 14 or 15. Of course back in those days— we're talking early 70s— there was no way on earth that I, living in the American Midwest, was going to latch onto a quality Shogi set. So I made do with what I could: a homemade set I turned out myself; a cheap little travel set from Japan. For many years, I made do.

Fast forward to a bit over a year ago, when at long last I found a site called, which offers beautiful Shogi pieces and Shogi boards, and which is written in English. So I ordered a folding wooden Shogi board, and some Siamese boxwood Shogi pieces with Japanese characters incised into them. I was very pleased with these items, and with the service provided by David Hurley, the mastermind behind

shogi board
Recently the idea entered my mind of getting a really nice traditional Shogi board— like I say, solid wood, thick as a butcher block, standing on wooden legs. Boards like these are not cheap, you understand; and the thicker they are, the costlier. What I had in mind turned out to be a custom order. I emailed David Hurley, and he was very helpful in obtaining for me the kind of board I was looking for.

He packed it very, very carefully, too. And this morning Mr. Mailman showed up on my front step with an express package from Japan.

shogi board
The new Shogi board is made of katsura wood from the island of Hokkaido. It measures 13" by 14 1/4", and the board is about 4 5/8" thick. The wooden legs underneath the board are 3 5/8" tall, so the entire thing stands about 8 1/4" high.

It's heavy. Heavy! I don't have any scales handy, but just hefting it, I'd hazard a good 15 or 20 pounds as a ballpark estimate. And underneath, on the bottom of the board, is carved the traditional pyramid-shaped hollow in the wood.

This is the kind of Shogi board I've been dreaming about for 35 years now. It's an absolutely beautiful board, and it really is a dream come true.

Update, 9/07: is now Japanese Games Shop.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Up in Sky Kingdom

A flash movie. Yeah, vaguely Sixties. "Birds Are Brothers," what is that?! Check it out.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I was originally aimed to be a mathematician, you know. I remember those long-ago days when I was a teaching assistant in the math department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We're talking late 70s, early 80s. (That was also how I first got into computers, by the way.) One of the things you encounter in math is the beauty of mathematics. I remember one of my favorite equations, which involves five of the most fundamental numbers in mathematics:
eπi + 1 = 0
Though I think my favorite (quirky choice, I know) was:
i² = j² = k² = ijk = -1
Then there's Parseval's theorem, in Fourier analysis; if only I could figure how to represent it in HTML, which I can't; though you can find it here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Patterns in the Tiles

Am I the only person who sees patterns in the tiles, everywhere I go? Sometimes the patterns are related to different colors in the tiles. Sometimes the patterns bear no relation to anything that's there in the tiles— I mean, I just see the patterns, three tiles by three, or five by five with the (2,2), (2,4), (4,2), (4,4) tiles omitted, like a small parchisi board. Or a string of several tiles in a row. Or tiles arranged in a cross, or something like a snowflake... the patterns just stand out, often nothing you could capture with a camera. I simply have eyes to see, and so I see the patterns in the tiles.

Drives me nuts in a public restroom with tiles on the floor.

Then there are the patterns on wallpaper or wall paneling. When I was a kid, there was an odd-shaped chip out of the paint on the kitchen wall. I was convinced it was a cat lying in a wicker basket. Not just looked like, but was. On the walls of my bathroom today, I could point out to you the diving lion flying down out of the sky, and the pinhead clown walking a dog, and the red cardinal in an athletic uniform, and Abe Lincoln, and the Olmec face. Not that you could necessarily see them, 'cause like I say, you've gotta have eyes to see. But I can see them.

Seems somewhere I read that paranoia amounts to seeing patterns where there are no patterns to be seen. But in truth, patterns are everywhere in potential. What would be, is, under appropriate conditions. "If you can look into the sands of time, and say which seed will grow," then you're seeing as truly as any of us. To see is to see what is. Even in unmarked tile patterns on a tile floor, or in a diving lion with its front paws spread wide, flying down out of the sky.

As R.D. Laing put it in the closing words of "The Bird of Paradise":
City lights at night, from the air, receding, like these words, atoms each containing its own world and every other world. Each a fuse to set you off...

If I could turn you on, if I could drive you out of your wretched mind, if I could tell you I would let you know.


Water Leak

Well, looks like there's a water pipe in the ground outside the house that's sprung a leak. Every time I run the water around here enough to set the well pump running, water comes gushing in through a crack in the basement wall. I mean gushing like a faucet that's been turned on. It keeps up till the water tank in the basement fills up and clicks off, then within a minute or so the water pouring in through the crack trails off and stops.

I'm using as little water as possible around the house. No dishwasher, no washing machine for the duration. Am afraid that by the time this one is resolved, the front yard will have to be dug up.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Playing Old DOS Games Under Linux

Grand Moff Trojan was mentioning a site where you can find zillions of old computer games. Alas, says I, my computer has Linux on it, and not Windows.

Well, says he, have you ever tried DOSBox? Lets you run ancient DOS programs under Linux. In the midst of installing a new release of Linux recently, I tried it out. And lo and behold! I won't guarantee it'll run your favorite old game. But just now I tried out my own modest contribution to the world of computer games— Jetan 2.2, written by yours truly back in 1992, and based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' game of Jetan or Barsoomian Chess— and it works just fine! An old DOS program, running under Linux.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fire Engines in the Night

Last night I had a dream that I still had the very first car I ever owned, a light green 1968 Ford Galaxie 500. And it was sitting out on the lawn beside the house I grew up in, over in Wisconsin.

And it was three or four in the morning, and for some reason my brother and I wandered outside in the darkness, and we were sitting there in my car on the lawn in the darkness, listening to the car radio and talking. And the streetlights were on, and some lights down by Happy's Standard station, but apart from that it was pitch dark out.

And then I became aware of some distant sound, almost drowned out by the car radio, and I said, "Listen! Isn't that the fire siren?" And sure enough, we saw some fire engines coming down Seward Street, and then the fire engines were turning into the alley that ran along back behind our house. And then one of the fire engines turned off the alley onto the grass, and it came up the lawn until it stopped right alongside my car. And I was thinking to myself, isn't it a coincidence that I happen to be right out here in my car in the middle of the night just when a fire engine pulls up onto our lawn?

Only there was no fire anywhere in sight, and in fact the firemen seemed in no hurry. The other fire engines had stopped down in the alley, and they weren't going anywhere. My brother got out of the car to talk to the firemen. And then I put the car in neutral, and it started rolling slowly uphill across the yard, uphill toward Main Street. And then my car rolled down a flight of concrete steps, right out into Main Street. And there my car stopped, sideways in the middle of the street, blocking both lanes; though at that hour of the night there was no traffic.

And I started my car, and got it properly parked on the street. And then I got out, and looked across the street where the fire engine was still parked on the lawn beside our house, and my brother was talking with the firemen. And I thought to myself, he's better at that than I would be. And once again I wondered why the firemen were out in the middle of the night if there was no hurry, and no fire.

And then I woke up.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Full of Grace

ave maria
Just another one of those cool pictures I ran across out there somewhere. This one is for Dean.

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Clean-Up Job, Mandriva 2007

This morning I'm about 80% of the way toward having my computer pulled back into its wonted customizations. What remains is to configure the printer; install Windows TrueType fonts (yes, I still have the Win98 license which came with this computer, even though I long since got rid of any other trace of Windows on it); and clean up a handful of minor items such as why I have no wallpaper in Fluxbox. (Answer, which I just doped out a few minutes ago: because I haven't reinstalled the Esetroot utility. Gotta find which RPM Esetroot is in.)

At first it looked as though Mandriva 2007 wasn't recognizing my zip drive, or my flash drive, or for that matter any of my USB devices. Turns out all I had to do was add a few cryptic lines to /etc/fstab, such as:

/dev/sda4 /mnt/zip vfat noauto,user,rw,exec 0 0

and voilà! Now I can mount drives from the command line at will, which never worked before, because previous releases of Mandrake/Mandriva had the bad habit of overwriting /etc/fstab with default settings every time I booted up.

Ah, the joys of Linux! As Neal Stephenson put it, "If you don't like having your choices made for you, you should start making your own."


Thursday, May 17, 2007

All Roads Lead to Rome

This morning over at Dean's World, my friend Dean Esmay writes:
I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend at work... I told her that after a long struggle with Christianity I'd decided to become a Christian because, whatever my mental reservations, this was in my heart. And it was Roman Catholicism that was calling to me.
Welcome home, Dean. I'm very, very happy for you; happier than I know how to put into words.


Mandriva Linux 2007.0

Yesterday evening I finally bit the bullet, and installed a new release of Mandriva Linux on my IBM ThinkPad T20. Mandriva 2007.0 (no, not the "Spring" 2007.1 release, I'm not quite that bleeding-edge). It replaces Mandriva 2006, for which security updates ran out a good month ago. Actually I've had the Mandriva 2007.0 DVD around here for a couple of months, though only now, as I head into the slower season of the year, have I found time to install it.

Installation went smoothly. Stayed up late last night downloading security and bugfix updates, hundreds upon hundreds of megabytes. Was at it again this morning, and now have most updates in place. Then comes restoring my custom configuration, which I'll do in bits and pieces over the next several days.

And need I say? Linux rules!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ordering Online

I've noted before how much of my shopping I'm doing online recently. Well, within the past week I've placed a flurry of orders— it has something to do with the arrival of the slower part of the year for me, from now on through Labor Day my schedule slows down tremendously.

The green blotter paper arrived the other day. Now at long last I have green blotter paper, instead of brown, for my cherry wood rocker blotter.

I have some books on order from Barnes & Noble, and from Borders ("partnered with Amazon"). Hey, I had some gift cards begging to be used! Several science fiction novels by Philip K. Dick. And a couple of books on the history and design of playing cards in the United States.

Also ordered some Pigma Micron pens and some Rhodia note pads from an art supply outfit.

But my major purchase of these past few days is a new Shogi board. Shogi, or Japanese chess. I've already got a nice set of Shogi pieces, and a folding wooden Shogi board. What I've ordered now is a more "upper end" board: several inches thick, big block of wood like a butcher's block, sitting on wooden legs. It will be shipping to me from Japan soon. More on that when it arrives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rain Gauge Time

rain gauge
Got out my rain gauge and set it up weekend before last, in the midst of powerful dry weather. Man, did we need rain! You'll notice, I set up the rain gauge on a wooden stake, surrounded by a fence, and flanked by a pair of mystic guardian birds-on-a-wire.

All the better to keep the lawn mowing crew from running my rain gauge over, as they've been known to do sometimes twice in a single summer.

Saturday night we got rain at last, three tenths of an inch. Then yesterday evening we got a mighty thunderstorm, an inch and a tenth; though a neighbor tells me he got an inch and a half. His rain gauge is probably more accurate than mine.

Though nobody's got a rain gauge with such cool birds as mine. Guardian Cardinal to the left. Guardian Baltimore Oriole to the right.

That rain gauge has got power.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Non Computer Mentis

I'm just not in computer mode this morning. There are books in this house, lots of books. Chess set. Radio. There's the new shelter out back, I've been spending time sitting out there this weekend. This being my day off, I could get in my Jeep and go somewhere. Or I've got a couple of projects I could tinker with at the workbench out in the garage.

In short, there are plenty of things I could be doing around here today which have nothing to do with computers, the Internet, or blogging.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Leap Without Looking

stand rock
Another one of them pictures I ran across out there somewhere. The small town in Wisconsin where I grew up is about halfway between Madison and Wisconsin Dells. I remember when I was a kid hearing about Stand Rock, and how people would leap across like that. Whether they were still doing it at that time, I have no idea.

Are people still making the leap at Stand Rock today? Again, I don't know; though in this day of bike helmets and warning labels ("Caution: Coffee Is Hot!"), I very much doubt it.


Friday, May 11, 2007


Phobias. I have a few phobias that are fairly common: fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of sharp pointed objects such as needles. But I have one phobia that is not at all common, and I call it domophobia.

Domophobia: the fear of large enclosed spaces.

Large wide open spaces, fine. Small confined spaces, fine. I don't suffer from agoraphobia or claustrophobia. But put me in a really, really large enclosed space, and I start panicking. Heart pounding, hard to breathe, icy fearful full-blown panic.

Actually school gymnasiums are okay. Cathedrals are usually okay, though it depends on how big they are— the big cathedral-like chapel at Duke University always used to send me into a tailspin. Large barns, usually not okay. Large enclosed spaces with dark or "primitive" or unfinished interiors, definitely not okay. Capitol rotundas, aiiiieeee!! When I walk across the rotunda of the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, I am careful never to look up into the empty space inside the capitol dome, lest I suffer a panic attack. I suppose it would be the same for me in a roofed-over sports stadium; though, you know, I assiduously avoid such places...

Looking back, I'm pretty sure that a capitol dome is how it all got started. June 1963, I was six going on seven. My dad was a commissioner to the Presbyterian General Assembly, which was meeting that year in Des Moines. So while he was off attending meetings, my mom took me and my brother around to see various places in Des Moines. Including the Iowa state capitol.

Back in those days, you could go climbing up to an observation dealie up on the very top of the capitol dome. We started from ground level, climbing up endless flights of stairs, one after another. Finally we got to a doorway at the base of the capitol dome, which led to the final flight of stairs up to the observation post.

We opened the door, and stepped through. And believe me, I panicked. We all panicked.

Because there was the huge, dark, unlit interior of the Iowa state capitol dome. Huge! With rickety wooden stairs winding up and around, attached to the inside of the dome, stairway enclosed in chicken wire. Spiraling up and around in the gigantic enclosed darkness, up to the top of the dome. Huge, dark, primeval: there may have been a few small windows here and there, letting in a little light. But overall it was the most horrifying view of large, dark, enclosed space I had ever seen.

Panic! We turned around and went back down, retracing our steps. And from then on, I had a phobia of large, enclosed spaces. I had a monthly comic book I drew in little note pads, and I have stories in there from that era of my super hero, the Scarlet Streak, fighting super villains inside the huge dark immensity of the Iowa state capitol dome.

Domophobia: the fear of large enclosed spaces.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Shibboleths and Hobby Horses of the Left

The other day I was thinking of an old Leftist friend of mine whom I haven't seen now in many, many years. I was thinking of the good old days when you could always identify a Sandinista sympathizer, because he pronounced the name of the country as "Neekarrrrrahgua," instead of "Nicker-rogwa."

In fact, my old Leftist friend used to insist on pronouncing Moscow as "Moskva" (accent on the last syllable), and Paris as "Paree"; and he would argue at length that the only reason any English speaker ever pronounced these names otherwise, was out of hatred of the Frenchies and the Commies.

It was fruitless to suggest to him that the real reason might be that historically, speakers of English had had more to do with Moscow than with, say, Birobidzhan. I mean, familiarity breeds nicknames, and not necessarily contempt. No, no, no, quoth he: it is never anything but hatred that motivates any speaker of English to refer to any other city or country by anything other than the native pronunciation of its name.

By this time my eyes would be glazing over, as he would drift on to explain to me that the obscure Peters Projection was the only acceptable map of the world, and that the well-known and widespread Mercator projection encoded in its geometry a hatred of Third Worlders, because notice how much smaller the equatorial region is on a Mercator map... It was fruitless to suggest to him (is this starting to sound familiar?) that the real reason might be that historically, the Mercator projection was the only map on which ships could plot their projected course as a straight line. No, no, no, quoth he: it is never anything but hatred that motivates any map user to use the Mercator projection, instead of the Lefty's favorite, the Peters Projection...

Yes, my Leftist friend was in the grip of monomania. He insisted that the Peters projection was the only acceptable world map. When I suggested that this depended on one's purposes, and that some map projections might be better for one purpose, others better for another purpose... No, no, no, quoth he, it is always only the Peters projection!

I told my friend about the world map that used to hang at the front of my fourth grade classroom... It was that projection that looks like an orange peel, isn't it the Mollweide projection? No, no, no, quoth he, grade school classrooms never use anything but the Mercator projection; when you get into the upper grades they may briefly expose you to a few non-Mercator maps before putting them back in the locked map drawer, but otherwise it's never anything but the Mercator projection...

(I know by now you may think I'm making this up, but believe me, I'm telling it like it was. This conversation took place, over a couple of meals at a pizza joint, back around 1985. My jaw was hanging nearly as badly as yours, to hear this line of "argument.")

I went home and paged through the dogeared atlas which I kept in a magazine rack alongside the Throne of Excremeditation. It contained I believe 209 maps, maybe three or four of them Mercator, the other 200+ being other assorted projections. When next we met for pizza, I relayed these figures to my friend, who flatly refused to believe them, on the grounds that the eeeeevil Mercator projection is everywhere.

He related as proof of the righteousness of the Peters projection the fact that he had introduced the Peters projection in the adult Sunday school class he taught, and one man objected, "No, wait, that map doesn't look right!" Proof positive that my friend was right— since, à la cocktail party Freudianism, whenever you object to the approved party line, you're merely demonstrating your own hangups. I replied to him that of course there's a certain shock value to the unfamiliar, just as someone might have a feeling that something "doesn't look right" about the much less familiar 49 star U.S. flag, as contrasted with a 48 or 50 star flag. But that in evolutionary terms, there's a survival value to having that tingling "spider sense" when you encounter the unfamiliar.

Ah, the flag! Bad example to use in an argument with a Leftist, who felt that people damn well ought to feel that something "doesn't look right" about the American flag! I eventually managed to drag him back off that tangent, and observed that any map projection will have advantages and shortcomings, since any 2D map is inherently an imperfect representation of a 3D globe.

No, no, no, quoth he, why then do the racist colonialists of the world always have the globe with the Northern Hemisphere pointing upward? Is it not merely out of nothing but hatred for the oppressed people of the Southern Hemisphere? Is not the globe too nothing but a tool of Yanqui colonialist exploitation?!

I dryly suggested he buy one of those globes which you can rotate any which way in its mounting.

Once again, I know this may sound incredible. But I swear, I'm not making it up. This conversation actually did take place, pretty much as recounted. I could point out the Pizza Hut out by the highway, if it's still there today.

But that was back in the days when I was a callow youth, and I did not yet fully understand that monomania is monomania is monomania, look out! Or as it has been more poetically put, Cast not your pearls before swine...


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Pair of Black Cats

black cat
Stumbled across this black cat on a blog out there somewhere, lost track of just where.

black cat
Then I rummaged around on Google Images and came up with this black cat. Somehow they seem like long lost twins.

The black cat that's been flying around in my imagination for like 40 years now is a black cat, jumping through a number 9 (though from right to left), against a blue night-sky background, beneath a yellow five-pointed star, and the cat is named Jinx. In some variants, JINX is stamped in big bold letters right across the black cat jumping through the number 9. All as if printed on a playing card.

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Geographically Challenged

Back more than 20 years ago— August 1983, to be precise— I was heading out West from my home state of Wisconsin to spend a year in Washington. On the way, somewhere out in Montana, I happened to fall into conversation with someone. They asked me, "So where are you coming from?"

I said, "From Wisconsin."

They said, "Where are you heading?"

I said, "Washington."

They said, "Washington State or Washington, DC?"

Well, duh. If I'm coming from Wisconsin, why would I be driving to Washington, DC by way of Montana?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday Ramble

Well, it's Monday, my day off, and I think I'm just going to crash today. Yesterday was our St. John's Chicken BBQ, and we drew a big crowd. Didn't get the exact figures, but it was a big crowd. People ate down in the church basement. Carry-outs were handled from my garage— which I also get cleaned out for free before every one of our church dinners, nice side benefit. Crafts and bake sale, also plants, in the old German schoolhouse over on the other side of the church: I came away with yet more plants, my study here in the house is now overflowing with plants.

The chicken was barbecued out back, in the brand new shelter which was built just this past week. Very nifty shelter, four large BBQ pits set up inside, vent running the length of the roof, tarps set up around the open sides of the shelter due to the raging wind we had this weekend. Now, when you consider that this shelter is not much more than 10 yards outside my back door, I think you can guess where I'm going to be sitting many an evening this summer.

Slept soundly last night, except for when I woke up once in the middle of the night and spent some time rummaging around online, tracking down yet more bandwidth leeches who are hotlinking to my pictures. Found one who hotlinked to a picture of mine just two or three days ago, and that picture has already gotten over a thousand hits on their site. Well, I put a stop to that. I can't afford that sort of bandwidth loss. Really, people, I am highly sympathetic to the notion that information wants to be free; I don't mind someone borrowing my pictures, as long as:
  • it's for noncommercial use
  • they don't try to pass my images off as their own work
  • they host a copy of the picture on their own webspace instead of hotlinking to me
I suspect I ought to make another try at writing up a .htaccess file, that would be the ultimate fix for this sort of nonsense. However I've tried before, and have run up against the quirks of my webhost, I suspect there's something in their configuration that works at cross-purposes with what I'm trying to achieve. (They're a subsidiary of FortuneCity, if you've ever noticed how quirky FortuneCity sites can be when it comes to displaying pictures.)

Today I'm just going to sit around. I have various personal tasks that are waiting, but they'll just have to wait. I have a new Linux release I'd like to install on my computer, but not until a day when I'm better rested and clearer in the head.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Samba — Triple Deck Canasta

samba three deck canasta
Here's that Samba set I ran across in an antique shop recently— Samba is pretty much like Canasta, only played with three decks instead of two. With the added possibility of a seven-card sequence meld called a "samba."

Note, decks still in original cellophane wrappers, with old-fashioned tax stamp. And made by the ARRCO Playing Card Co., Chicago.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Springtime in the Country

Beautiful day yesterday, sunny, 69° or 70°. The trees have been leafing out. The asparagus is coming up next to the old garage. The grass is green, and the lawn is sprinkled with dandelions and violets. The farmers have been busy out in the fields, out here in the Iowa countryside.

And you can hear the birds singing outside. I can't do justice to all the birdsongs. I hear them out the window. It reminds me of back when I was a kid, and my brother and I would be staying at our grandparents' farm house up in central Wisconsin. And with the window open in the evening, you could hear those birds singing, too-wit, too-wee, chee-chee-chee-chee-chee, down the road and over amongst the pines.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bald Spot

Just last week I discovered something I never knew before, and never would have guessed: I've got a bald spot on the crown of my head.

Someone took photos of our Youth Fellowship bowling outing, and in one of the pictures there was a shot of me from behind... that had to be me, didn't it, no one else around here answers to the description of a big fellow in blue jeans and a blue denim work shirt... a shot of me from behind, with a very visible bald spot!

I nearly flipped. I don't have a bald spot, do I??!

Well, the mirrors around the house were no help. They only deliver a frontal view of me. Until at long last I obtained a handheld mirror, and held it behind my head while standing in front of the bathroom mirror.

I looked in the handheld mirror in disbelief. Sure enough, there on the crown of my head was a very definite and very noticeable bald spot.

A bald spot!

I'm still coming to grips with this latest sign of my aging and my mortality. How long have I had this bald spot? I never would've imagined. Looking at my hair from in front, I do have to admit that my hair is not as thick, and my hairline not quite as low down, as they were when I was in my 20s. But still, you know, I have a full and rather thick head of hair. I've always thought to myself that I'm one of those men who's in no danger of ever going bald.

And then I found out that I have a bald spot... :-(

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dental Odyssey

Back over in Madison yesterday on my day off. There I had a permanent crown placed on a molar, finishing some dental work I had done while I was on vacation a few weeks ago. And bringing to completion the dental odyssey which began two years ago, when I returned to the dentist for the first time in almost 20 years.

One crown, a few fillings, and a piece of bridgework later, my teeth have finally been brought up to speed and are in need of no further work at present. Of course, it warn't cheap: the dental work of these past two years comes to more than the price of my old used Jeep. But it is a relief to be able to chew food on either side of my mouth indifferently, and with due maintenance these teeth ought to stand me in good stead on into my old age.

Now the next task is to get me to go back to the doctor after 20 years. I dunno, a dentist can only do so much to you. Whereas with a doctor, it's always like, "Now, let's amputate your right arm, and see if that helps lower your blood hemocyte test numbers..."

Welcome to the Blogroll

I recently added to my blogroll the pseudonymous Spengler, who writes a column for the Asia Times Online. Like his namesake Oswald Spengler, he is gloomy, erudite, oracular, sometimes wrong and often stunningly insightful. Though (as I see from his latest piece), don't let Spengler hear you call him creative!