Monday, December 31, 2012

And another one ...

Someone said youth is when you are allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, middle age is when you are forced to and old age is when no one can make you.

I won't say into which category I fall, but I expect to greet the New Year at some point in the wee morning hours when I get up to go to the bathroom.

This past year has been interesting to say the least. On February 29, Piper Leigh joined the Dodd clan with a birthday that is unique to us.  In July I retired from the library and in October was hired to do some freelance editing work for the Carmelite publications office. We had the mob for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas, which meant we got to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners at neighbors' houses, making our own holidays bright and easy. We survived the summer drought and a December blizzard. The cats are still demanding snacks every time they wake up from a catnap. A former apartment-mate from Michigan State contacted me and it has been good renewing that friendship. I weaned myself off of Facebook again. I have a couple of writing projects underway, and every month brings in a little bit of royalty money. My books are available on Kindle and Nook now, and selling reasonably well on Kindle at least. The royalty money helps because my Social Security does not even cover the cost of my health insurance, much less any actual health care. But no need to talk about things like that, right?

There is not much news today and tomorrow will probably be calm, too. The weather will be dry but cold, with lows below zero at times this week. And the University of Wisconsin Badgers will be playing football somewhere ... California, is it? They expect clear weather and a high of 59 for the game. Poor them!

I hope you and yours enter into the new year with hope and that in every way things are getting better for you all. Certainly 2012 brought surprises and 2013 will, too. "Big wheel keep on turnin'," as the song goes, whether you want it to or not.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolution: A better New Year for others

 In the wake of our nation’s grief over the Sandy Hook massacre, NBC’s Ann Curry has urged Americans to undertake one act of kindness for each of the 26 innocent lives that were lost.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Be kind

One of the finest men I have ever known was Fr. Gerard Taylor, a member of my Discalced Carmelite Province. When he died, a priest friend who was with him turned to one of the friars who was also there and said, "Who would have thought that so great a heart could ever stop beating?"

Gerard used to say, "Always be kind. And if you can't always be kind, be kind now. And if you can't be kind now, just be kind anyway."

As one year draws to a close and another is about to begin, this is the thought I want to share. Seems I am in good company.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick thought and weather report

I am taking a break from my editing work -- which is going well -- to report on our weather and to share a quote.

First, the quote, for which I have no attribution:

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be  yours” 

Second, the weather: We woke to over 7 inches of snow this morning. Now at 11:30 a.m., it is 9.5 inches.

Snow is expected to continue through the day and turn into a blizzard (not just a big snowstorm) around noon. Total accumulation may be 18 inches by the time it is over tomorrow morning.

Stay calm (and warm) and carry on.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I think we (I) must learn the lesson of Job. We (I) must avoid the pious temptation to be like his so-called comforters.

This may take some time.

I have a major project to do for the Carmelites, and I will not be posting here for some time.

Enjoy the break!

Thought for the day

Pride without gratitude is arrogance.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 18:  "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

God help the families and the children of Newtown, Connecticut. 

Because my mind works this way while it is waking up in the morning ...

Back in the day, one of my favorite television programs was Zorro, in which Guy Williams played Don Diego de la Vega, who disguised himself all in black to fight corruption in Spanish California. The character was based on a creation by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919, and has appeared in numerous films and television shows. The name our hero gave himself, Zorro, means fox in Spanish, which makes for a good name and also allows the distinctive Z that Zorro slashes into those he has bested.

But this morning for some reason, I was thinking that one word for skunk in Spanish is zorrillo, which could also be interpreted as little fox.

Does that mean when Don Diego was just a boy, he was Zorrillo, the skunk, and that he did not slash a Z into their shirts but splashed them with a really cheap cologne?

Like I said, that's just the way my mind works in the morning.

Just fly

If you wish to travel far and fast,
travel light.
Take off all your envies,
and fears.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The New Normal

No, not the television show. (About which ... meh!)

This year we will not have "the family" here over Christmas, but I have been reflecting on what the holidays mean. Our family in some ways reflects the new normal in terms of which holidays are celebrated.

We have some family members who celebrate what most Americans think of as a regular Christmas on December 25.

We have at least one who celebrates the Orthodox Christmas, which takes place on January 6.

We have those who celebrate Hanukkah.

I have family members who belong to Christian churches that intentionally do not celebrate Christmas Day as a religious holiday at all. That is the way I grew up, celebrating the secular holiday but not the religious one.
I remember once remarking to a friend that it struck me as odd that we went to church three times a week, but we did not go at all on Christmas. He looked at me suspiciously: "What are you, Catholic?"
And of course we have family members who do not belong to any religious tradition and don't celebrate anything as a religious holiday.
Sundance and Cassidy, I suspect, keep their own ancient Egyptian belief that cats are divine beings and expect us to celebrate the two of them with snacks and other offerings every day, not just once a year. 
We all manage to sit down and enjoy Whatever, by the way, when we do all get together. (We haven't had to resort to calling it Christmukkah or Festivus, yet.) We try to do this as seamlessly as we put together menus that can accommodate those who need to go gluten-free, those who cannot eat shrimp, those who keep kosher, those who might be vegetarian or whose fast days happen to forbid even fish on certain days. That's what you do. You don't get all agitated or try to force me and John to eat shrimp, no matter what it may do to us. You work to make everyone comfortable at the table. It doesn't always work out without struggle or tensions, but that is part of the new normal, too.

The strange mix of divorce, remarried, partnered, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian as well as Orthodox Jew, atheist, agnostic and haughty feline seems to represent the American reality in 2012.

I look forward to the day when, as a nation, we can all sit down at table together and celebrate it all. Hasten the day!

And, oh, yeah. I have been told that Normal is just a setting on the dryer anyway.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photo change

A friend told me that the blog photo of me in the straw hat made him think I was a farmer wanting to sell him organic veggies or something. So I am posting a new one, taken a couple of years ago.

Pardon the smirk. I have a very English gap between my two front teeth -- "All I want for Christmas ..." -- and have never learned how to smile naturally. I either look preternaturally (look it up!) solemn or snarky. This one is a mix of the two, I guess.

This is more or less what I look like now, except my hair, what there is of it, is longer. (Santa, if you're listening, besides the two front teeth, I would be happy to get my hair back ...)

Tom's Hanukkah movie

It's not that there aren't any Hanukkah movies out there during the holiday movie season, but just for fun, you might run through your listings and see how many you can find. even has a joke list of the top 10 Hanukkah movies -- and it's blank. A couple of movies are mentioned there, however,including Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights, Rugrats Chanukah and The Best Christmukkah Ever. I have seen the Rugrats one, natch, but I am not an Adam Sadler fan and have no idea about the Christmukkah one, except that it is an episode of the 2003-2007 television series The O.C.

A few years ago, we ran across this Disney Channel made-for-tv movie, about a basketball team at a Philadelphia Jewish school, who get help from a professional player who is in a personal  slump. Tom looks for it every year now. (I think it is not so much that he likes the movie, he just likes the fact that there is at least one!)  In case you want to watch it, I want add any spoilers, but it does bring in the Hanukkah miracle of lights for a truly Dinsey-esque ending.

Friday, December 7, 2012

So I'm a little OCD about being late...

Wednesday, December 5, I got out an old shoe, put paper cups in it, filled the cups with individually-wrapped Godiva chocolates, made a tag wishing the library staff and volunteers a Happy St. Nicholas Day, stuck the tag onto the shoe took it over to drop it off ... and then realized St. Nick's Day is December 6, Thursday. Wednesday is my day to volunteer, so I took it anyway.

So in keeping with the tradition of being a wee bit early -- which I inherited from my father -- here is my Hanukkah greeting for friends and family who are getting ready for the Festival of Lights:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"It's easier to be critical than to be correct."
- Benjamin Disraeli

Another sad story

Bullying Led To Gay Michigan Teen's Suicide, Say Parents

Josh Pacheco, a 17-year-old junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., took his own life on November 26, after he was relentlessly bullied for being gay, according to his parents.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

December 05 2012 1:42 PM ET

Josh Pacheco was a junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., where he loved theater, his Advanced Placement history class, and his friends and family, his mother Lynette Capehart told Michigan Live. But the "sensitive" teen was also the target of relentless antigay bullying, which his parents believe led the 17-year-old to commit suicide on November 27.
Pacheco came out as gay to his mother just two months before he died, Capehart told MLive. Capehart and her husband, Pacheco's stepfather, didn't know the extent to which their son was bullied, being shoved into lockers and harassed both in and outside of school. Their first indication was when Pacheco returned from a homecoming dance on October 6 in tears, but wouldn't elaborate on why he was upset.
"He was having problems with bullying," Capehart said. "He didn't really want to tell us very much. It was very disheartening to me."
MLive reports that Pacheco questioned his life and his future in conversations to his siblings, which prompted his mother to make him an appointment with a counselor. But Pacheco never made it to the counseling appointment, posting on Facebook near lunchtime on November 26, a quote from J.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."
When a neighbor checked in on Pacheco at his stepfather's urging, the neighbor found the teenager unresponsive in his truck, which had been running inside a closed garage. Pacheco left a note in the truck which said, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."
Capehart says that since her son's death, students and teachers have approached her, telling her they knew that Pacheco was being bullied. She told MLive she was upset that school officials never notified the family about the problems. 
"We weren't aware of any specifics," Superintendent Ed Koledo told MLive. "There's been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators.]"
In response to Pacheco's death, school officials accelerated plans for an antibullying hotline called the Eagle Hotline, available at 810-373-2131.
Young LGBT people struggling with depression, isolation, or suicidal thoughts can call the Trevor Lifeline and speak confidentially with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Well, I completed the National Novel Writing Month program, although I have not completed my project. I hit the goal of 50,000 words on November 20 and had 70,253 on November 30. I have continued writing and when I quit writing earlier this morning (December 1) I had 72,360 words. In pages formatted like my three published books, that is 342 pages. 

I have been using this process to write my memoirs, so I consider it cheating because it is not totally fiction. On the other hand, memoirs tend not to be totally non-fiction, so it is a gray area at best. 

In the story-thus-far, I am 24 years old. If I were to keep going at this rate, the final product would run about a thousand pages. No one needs to read that many pages of my life. It would take too much time away from their own life!

Of course, this is an unedited draft. Also I have no intention of publishing this. I have shared parts of it with a couple of interested friends, but this is not something designed for general circulation. Mark Twain points out that no one can be totally honest, no matter how hard they try, with their own life story. I agree with that, but I have tried to be as honest as I could.

Anyway, I am just reporting in that I accomplished this short term goal. I have learned a lot about just-keep-writing, which is the most important point of this activity. Now I have to turn that to the things I do want to publish.

On another note, I heard this week from the editor for the Carmelites. She had two good bits of news. First, the timelines I worked on were fine and I can expect payment for those soon. Second, she asked me to do a first-read-light-edit of a manuscript she had just received. This is a translation of an autobiographical text by Jerome Gracian, who is a character in my mystery novel and the author of the Treatise on Melancholy that makes up the bulk of one of my other publications.  

(Tom designed that cover, using an old drawing of Gratian. BTW, his name is spelled Gracian in Spanish and both Gracian and Gratian in English. The translator, editor and I all agree to use the Spanish spelling in this new work and in all future volumes from ICS Publications.)
I hope to receive that in the mail next week, and that should keep me busy for a while. I am not sure how long the manuscript will be, but the published Spanish edition runs to almost 400 pages. Yipes!


Friday, November 30, 2012

World AIDS Day -- December 1

For those who have died, for those who have mourned, for those who work toward a cure, for those who work for prevention, for those who work to educate, for the next generation and those yet to be

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another dream sequence

Well, BadgerBear, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are ready for a dream sequence. (BTW, I watched "Where the Bears Are" over the weekend.)

In my dream I am at the library. I am already retired but am volunteering. As I get ready to leave, one of the librarians asks if I know anything about sixth-century shrines. Some guy had come in and wanted information on sixth-century shrines because he wanted to carve a model of one. I said I wasn't sure, but the guy arrived right at that point. He came in with a whole group of people, most of them Indian (India-Indian). They are waiting for their leader and want to have a meeting about the shrine. One of the women takes out a notebook to keep notes on the meeting. I say I am leaving, but she insists that I have to stay. She asks me to write down my name for her and I try two or three times. For some reason my hand is shaking badly and I cannot write it legibly.

The leader arrives, takes one look at me and comes over to lay his hand on my shoulder. He begins to rub my shoulder and all of a sudden I get dizzy and attain enlightenment. (Think of Buddha. And yes, I realize the sexual overtones, Dr. Freud.)
This experience of enlightenment, which I can recall fairly well but cannot in any way describe, lasts for what seems a very long time. When it settles down, I find myself alone in the room and it is 5:45 p.m. I realize I am going to be very late getting home. When I leave, three women are waiting to meet me. I bow to them, they bow back and begin to whisper among themselves. (Yes, I realize the religious overtones, Dr. Jung.) I feel normal but know that something totally transformative has happened. I remember the saying, "Before enlightenment, there is the hewing of wood and the drawing of water. After enlightenment, there is the hewing of wood and the drawing of water."

I speak to a few more people and the dream ends.
Make of it what you will. I woke up a little later (being a man of a certain age), but it seems it was just a dream. I don't think I am any more enlightened than when I went to bed. Before I went to bed, there were cats demanding snacks; after getting out of bed, there are cats demanding snacks.

Speaking of cats, I had another dream in which Cassidy almost killed my pet naked mole rat. And, Dr. Freud, the nonsexual association for naked mole rats is that Ron Stoppable had one named Rufus on the old Kim Possible animated feature. And, yes, Dr. Freud, I know who Rufus Wainwright is.

Oh, enough of this.

Sweet dreams, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Meanwhile ...

 If you look back too much, you will soon be headed that way   
 Unknown source

Fiber optic internet arrives!

The guy who was supposed to connect our fiber optic internet service rang the doorbell a couple of minutes before his appointed time of 8:00 this morning. He ran into some problems because of some tangled something somewhere nearby, but it didn't take too long to get things up and running. Tom had carefully prepared everything he could in advance, and that meant the in-house stuff was set up right and did not need tweaking.

It is great, at least so far.

The good news: I can watch streaming episodes of The Big Bang Theory.
The bad news: I watch streaming episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

No doubt the novelty will wear off quickly and I can get back to using my time more productively.

I should note, however, for the record, that despite having been under the weather for the past week, I have written 39,788 words towards the 50,000-word goal in the National Novel Writing Month project. That puts me at an average of about 2,653 words per day, which is 985 words per day over the 1,667 per day needed to reach the goal.

I should also mention that this does not mean I will have a book ready to publish at the end of November. This is very much a crank-out-a-first-draft approach. What I like most about it is that it is getting me into the habit of daily writing and of pushing ahead instead of constantly going back to tinker.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Feline bait-and-switch

Bait-and-switch is a form of fraud, most commonly used in retail sales but also applicable to other contexts. First, customers are "baited" by advertising for a product or service at a low price; second, the customers discover that the advertised good is not available and are "switched" to a costlier product.

The cats are addicted to their Greenies snacks. I used to give them some in the morning before I left for work and when I got home from work. Then they wanted some in mid-afternoon. And in late-afternoon-but-before-dinner and then ...

In their feline way they can be very persistent and whiny.

Peggy gave us some cat food a while back. It is just cat food, not snacks. But since it is not the cat food they usually get, our cats think it is a special snack. So I get a few pieces and give that to them for their between-snack snack. Seems to make them happy. And since they could go eat out of their bowl anytime,  I don't think I am overfeeding them.

Neither one seems to be getting any fatter. And now when they want snacks, sometimes they go to the place where the non-snacks are kept instead of the real snack jar. I am not sure who is training whom, but it works.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hi fiber

We expect to get our new fiber optic internet connection this week, and we are really looking forward to it. Our current connection can be amazingly slow, and pages often hang up when loading.

I know this is a high end problem compared to what people have suffered from hurricanes and things, and I realize that having any internet connection and any electrical power at all is a gift. And I am grateful.

But I am still looking forward to the improvement.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012



Northeast corner of the United States,  78% white, 82% Christian
North-south slave-holding border state during Civil War
Stolid Midwest, sometimes called Minnesober.
Northwest corner, state motto is Alki, Chinook Wawa, meaning "Eventually."

Eventually, from sea to shining sea.

Surviving an election

No, I am not talking about any of the candidates. I am talking about my experience working as a poll judge (or whatever you want to call it) at the Town of Delton polling place yesterday.

I got there a bit before the designated time of 6:30 a.m. Polls open in Wisconsin at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. I left there at 10:30 p.m. Loooooooonnnnnnng day!

It was very busy, with only one little lull in early afternoon. We had an incredible turnout and 10% of the people who voted yesterday registered to vote on the spot.

I understand the value of letting people vote on the day of the election -- and trust me, the ID'ing process was thorough and firm. At the same time, this meant that our town clerk spent her entire day filling in forms. So she was not able to do lots of other stuff to make things go faster after the polls closed. Registering is no longer a "show ID, sign here" thing. (NB: I am not talking about voting if you are already registered to vote where you live. That is a breeze.)   It takes a bit of time, and at times the line for people waiting to register was much longer than thost for people already registered and waiting to vote.

There was very little waiting for those already registered. People who had to register first had to wait up to half an hour and a number of them had to go back home and return two or three times before they got the required paperwork. So to all of you who are working to get out the vote and getting people to registered: Please try to get them to do it before the election. It will save them lots of time to register when the clerks aren't swamped and it will make their actual voting experience better. We had one woman snap. "This is why people don't want to vote!" I am happy to report that after she had voted, she was all smiles and thanked us profusely.

Excursus: This is the United States of America, people! If you are eligible, you should be registered and you should vote! And not just every four years in national elections. Your individual vote probably has much more impact on local elections where only a few thousand people vote and where the outcome will have more direct impact on you because those elections deal with your school system, your roads, your garbage pickup, your property taxes.
Thanks for your attention. We now return you to our regular rant, already in progress.

Things went smoothly with only a couple of ballot machine jams, caused by absentee ballots that had been poorly folded. We only had three or four "difficult" voters, but I think the eight workers all handled themselves well. And the difficulties were not disruptive, just annoying.

A local caterer provided food, which meant no one starved.They do the food thing differently all the time, but everyone else (I was the only newbie) thought the catered thing was the best choice. They brought tons of food, perhaps assuming they were going to be feeding police and fire personnel. Apparently they threw in some extras, and I imagine they will get to do it again.

Another little rant, and this is serious, although I doubt any of my readers need to hear this. DO NOT WRITE IN JOKE CANDIDATES OR ANY CANDIDATE UNLESS YOU ARE VERY SERIOUS. When the polls closed at 8:00, there was every reason to expect we could be done and out of there by nine. Instead, because two or three dozen people, out of all those who voted, chose to write in Mickey Mouse of None of the Above. I know how you feel folks, but we spent an extra hour and a half tracking down, sorting and recording those ballots. Voting machines detect that a someone circled the write-in line, but each one has to be located and hand-recorded. No one was getting paid to do this. So unless you are serious -- and I know that there have been incredibly successful write-in votes -- please don't just make more work for people. Serious write-in campaigns can register, and the state provided us with a list of all those who had done so. None of the write-ins we had to search for was for one of these candidates.

So please, please, please -- poll workers are volunteers. They are providing a valuable public service which helps make our democratic (or republican) way of life possible. Thank them when you vote, and don't mess around with things. Eight people spent 16 hours each -- a total of 128 work-hours -- yesterday at our little town polling place. Multiply that by the numbers of polling places across the country and you get an idea of the magnitude of what is happening.

Register. Vote. Be responsible.

And in the immortal words of Bartles & Jaymes, "Thank you for your support."

Friday, November 2, 2012

No H8

I just got my new computer with Windows 8.

I am tempted to say I H8 it, but I am getting used to it.

Little by slowly, as a friend up here says. Little by slowly.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pharmacological and such ad-speak

"Severe liver problems, some fatal have been reported."
English translation: This stuff has killed people.

"Do not stop taking XXX without consulting your doctor first. If suicidal thoughts occur, stop taking XXX."
English translation: Do not start taking XXX.

"Tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure."
English translation: Do not take advice from a doctor who did not take your blood pressure the minute you arrived in the office.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hard disk, hard times

Last night my laptop, which had been getting slower and slower and s-l-o-w-er lately, decided to die on me. We went to Staples this morning, which had a bunch on sale because of Windows 8, and bought a new one. They are trying to recover and transfer data from the old one, but it will be middle of next week before I learn anything. Fortunately I back up a lot of things, including the autobiographical stuff I am writing. At worst, I think I will lose what I wrote yesterday.

There are other things I may lose, but I don't think anything of great importance that cannot be reproduced from hard copies. We will see.

Meanwhile, I am using Tom's laptop to fill in.

And just to give you something else to ponder, did you know that if you drive 10 miles to buy a lottery ticket, statistically speaking you're more likely to be killed in a car accident than win the jackpot?

Get yourself a piggy bank, tuck those dollars in there every week instead of buying lottery tickets, and at the end of the year, treat yourself or someone you love to something nice.

Your call, of course.

I read that a statistician had run the odds and it turns out your chances of winning big in the lottery are almost exactly the same, whether you buy a ticket or not.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blatantly stolen/adapted from Frasier

This morning there was a line in an old episode of Frasier that I thought might be appropriate for the United States, all of us, especially our politicians, to hear at this time.


"America, Copernicus called. You're not the center of the universe."

Monday, October 22, 2012

The times, they are a changin'

Sign of the times:

I don't mean because this Christian dating site exists. I know people who met their spouse on a Christian dating site.

I mean because this Christian dating site is one of the sponsors of Will & Grace on the Lifetime channel.

Tom and I, incidentally, met the old-fashioned Christian way -- through a mutual friend at church.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meeting Report

I had an enjoyable meeting this morning with Pat Morrison, the Editorial Director for ICS Publications. Although we discussed three large-ish projects, none of those are ready to be handed on to me. She did give me a small project to start with, one that involves research. And I love research! So this makes me happy and gives me something to do. I saw a couple of the friars and met their new dog, Jack, which was nice, too. Jack looks like Buddy except that he is much smaller.

The drive down was drizzly -- Tom did the driving -- but the countryside around the Hill is beautiful any time of the year. There were still patches of color, but you can tell that fall is falling fast.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

No H8! An admonition for all times

Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.
Buddha (c. 400 BCE)

Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.
John of the Cross (1591)

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.
Jesus (Matthew 5:44) (A.D. 30)

There is a saying: If you hang around a barber shop long enough, you're going to get a haircut.

If I spend my time listening to messages of hate, I will begin to hate.
What do I listen to all day?

I cannot control what others say. I can control what I listen to.

It is not enough to "not hate." I must "put love."

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Paul of Tarsus (A.D. 54)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cautious cats

The cats are still adjusting to the new arrangement in my room. Whenever one comes in, she stops with one paw in the air and looks around. Then she slinks over and sniffs all the furniture, looks up to see what's on the bed, crawls behind the bookcase or crawls under the bed, examines the Leopold bench Tom made. Last night, Cassidy got up on the bed and slept at the "wrong" end, not the one she usually likes. Today when I took my nap, both cats got on the bed and slept right up against me. When I started to get up, they looked panicked at the idea that they were going to have to get up.

Of course, that could just be because they are cats and had not had their regulation 32 hours of sleep yet today.

Happy Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

Although a great mystical writer, St. Teresa is perhaps most popularly known for something she may hot have composed herself. After her death, a few lines were found in her handwriting on a scrap of paper she was using as a bookmark. It is a good reflection to begin and end one's day.

Let nothing disturb you; 
Let nothing frighten you. 
All things are passing. 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things. 
Nothing is wanting to one who possesses God. 
God alone suffices.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seasonal adjustments

This past week we picked up Tom's paintings, which had been on display at the library since July. The monochrome portraits are back on the wall in the great room entrance, and it feels more like home. In the interim Tom had hung a couple of other paintings and had a whole row just propped up along the wall.

One of the paintings had been over my bed, and when we were trying to get it back in place, we pulled nails out of the wall, leaving a patch that needed to be retouched. I had been thinking of rearranging the furniture in my room -- this means moving the bed to the wall where the bookcase was and moving the bookcase to the wall where the bed was. That is about all you can do. One wall is all big windows and the other has a built-in desk and bookcase that Tom had designed and built.

The main reason I wanted the change is that when the cats open my door to come in (as they always do at night after I am in bed), the television screen light shines in my face. Now I will be facing the other way. Of course, this violates the Shedlonian principle that one's head should always be facing towards the door so that one can see if anyone is coming in to attack. Tom suggested I place a mirror appropriately, and I have done so. I am not sure Sheldon would totally approve, but we do what we must.

While we were at it, Tom touched up a couple of other spots on the walls. I vacuumed the carpet, did the linens and pondered which paintings to use in the new set up. It is a hoot to live with an active artiest: there are at least a dozen paintings to consider. We decided to hang the one that had been over the bed back over the bed in its new location. Over the bookcase, we hung the diptych I have been calling "The Florentine Masque". That makes it visible to anyone glancing through the door to my room, and it is too nice a piece to hide.

I did not take before photos,  but here are some after shots.

The new bed wall:

The new bookcase wall (with The Florentine Masque)

Here is a (somewhat) better shot of the painting, to give you an idea.

 My work space (which did not change) with all Tom-made furniture except for the desk stool:


The view as you come into my room, with the window blinds up so you can see a bit of our fall backyard. Notice that this photo was taken before the bookcase shelves were stocked. 


The cats, of course, are still adjusting grumpily to the changes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Generation WHAT?

While researching something about what it takes to make a marriage succeed (Tom and I went to a bridal party last night), I ran across a comment from a woman who described herself as follows: "I am older, middle-aged, part of Generation X."

Wait a minute? I thought Generation Xers would think of themselves as young. I know I am a Baby Boomer, and that there are cohorts called Generation Y (also the Millennials) and Generation Z (also iGeneration, Net Generation, Internet Generation), but ...

So like the good librarian I used to be, I looked it up -- to discover that Generation X refers to those born from 1960 to 1980. So there are Generation Xers, like the woman I mentioned, who consider themselves middle-aged  ("older"). If you were born in 1960, you would be (barely) a Generation Xer and be in your early 50s.

The dates for Gen Y are amorphous -- later '70s to early years of this millennium. Gen Z are those born from sometime in the 1990's to ?

If you read about this, always bearing in mind that descriptions of a large group of people may apply to the whole but not necessarily to specific individuals within the group, you will note that not only are there clear and important differences between even adjacent cohorts, the time period describing each cohort seems to begetting shorter. Gen Z and Gen Y overlap. Even the people who routinely use these categories have not agreed on a dividing line/year.

A so-called biblical generation was 40 years. Yes, that is what all those stories about 40 years mean in the Bible. It was not that the earth had circled the sun forty times but that a generation had lived and died. What about forty days [and forty nights]? Basically it meant a long time. When I grew up down south, you often heard "a month of Sundays", as in , "I haven't seen you in a month of Sundays." Literally that would mean 30/31 weeks. Actually it just means a relatively long time. It is no more specific than "It's been a while."

As the pace of technological and social change speeds up, we have the anomaly of a generation (Baby Boomers) living longer, up to twice as long as the biblical standard of forty years.And we live into not only the next generation but into the following and maybe even a bit into yet another.

Remember when you wrote letters, stamped and mailed them? Except for the glut of junk and political mail (just a category of junk, IMHO), how many times a year do you get that kind of mail now? When did you realize that your grandchildren don't bother to check their mailboxes regularly? I often email my sister-in-law to text her daughter to check the mail for something I have sent for my great-niece. Four generations: I mail, my helpful sister-in-law (younger than I am) texts her daughter. Who knows how my niece and her daughter will communicate ten years from now.
Remember when you first sent something by Fax? When was the last time you did that? When I worked at the library, people came in to use our fax machine. We were one of two places in town with a fax machine for public use. And we could only send, not receive. Why weren't these people scanning documents and emailing?
Remember when you got your first email? To keep up with your grandkids? To see pictures of same?
Remember when you discovered your grandkids no longer bother with email and you had to get on Facebook or Twitter?
When did you start asking your son or daughter to take the pictures off of Facebook and email them to you?
When did you give up on ever seeing all those photos that lived only on cellphones?
When did you realize your grandkids think that Facebook is for old folks?
When did you make the decision to text or not to text?
Do you still have a land line (telephone) even though you care never more than one foot away from your cell phone?
Do you surf the web on your smartphone? I have had people ask me to show them how to do things on their computer, things they already do all the time on their smartphone. Why are they even bothering with the computer? I usually find out, after I have given them computer lessons, that they just went back to the phone anyway.

Me? I'm just at old coot enjoying early retirement.
Who made the decision not to txt.

How long will I be able to hold out?

PS -- I have been blogging since 2004 or so. Blogging has come and gone, too, it seems. Most of my friends who blogged (including quite a few that I met through our blogs) seldom post anything anymore. Judging from the stats that Blogger keeps, there are eight or nine people out there who occasionally read this blog.   Hey, how ya doin'? It's been a month of Sundays since you were here last.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Peter posted something about regrets on Facebook, and it got my Sheldonian brain searching the web ...

I ran across this interesting article about what an Australian nurse says about her experiences in palliative care.(Think hospice.) She lists the top five regrets people expressed to her in their last days:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
 Had I died ten years ago, I would have had many of these regrets. I am happy to say that in the past ten years, as I have changed, many of these things have changed, too. Thanks to all you who helped that happen.

I imagine there will be things that I regret when my time comes. How could there not be? The world is full of so many possibilities and I cannot see everything or hear everything or meet everyone.

But I have seen so much beauty, heard so much wonder, met -- and loved -- so many amazing folks. My life has already been full and for that I am grateful. ("Full" includes sadness, disappointment and loss, of course. But those things do not spoil or diminish the other.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Six degrees of Sheldon Cooper

 Six degrees of separation is the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare. (The movie starred Will Smith.)

My brother, Ted B, knows Howard Joel Wolowitz from the days when he worked for a computer firm. Howard Joel Wolowitz was once the partner of Bill Prady, one of the creators of my favorite television show, The Big Bang Theory. Prady thought that name -- Howard Joel Wolowitz -- was the perfect name for the Jewish nerd character they wrote into the show, and the real HJW gave permission for them to use his name.

The real HJW recently sent my brother (among others) an email about a visit he and his wife had made to the Bat Mitzvah of Prady's daughter. While in California, they also attended a taping of the show and met members of the cast.

So I figure the steps between me and Sheldon Cooper (actor Jim Parsons) are:
1.Me to Ted
2. Ted to the real HJW
3. The real HJW to Sheldon Cooper/Jim Parsons.

That's the short version. The full six steps could be
1. Me to Ted.
2. Ted to the real HJW
3. The real HJW to Bill Prady
4. Bill Prady to Chuck Lorre (the other creator of TBBT)
5. Chuck Lorre to the fake HJW (actor Simon  Helberg)
6. The fake HJW/Simon Helberg to Sheldon Cooper/Jim Parsons.

I only did it the long way because of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. And if you don't know about that, you can look it up.

And a shout out to my brother for making it all possible!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Election 2012

This afternoon I got a call from the Town of Delton inviting me to work at the polls November 6. Not sure how they decided to ask me, but I am pleased to have the opportunity. The Town is fairly small, and I doubt we will be overwhelmed. The hardest thing is that I have to be there at 6:30 in the morning; the polls are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. (and if there are people still in line at 8:00, until they have voted). We don't even get to leave for meals, so I pack a lunch or someone will go pick up hamburgers, for which we have the privilege of paying ourselves. I will stay until all the votes are tabulated and reports done. So it will be a long day.

But it is worth doing. I vote in every election, including all the small local ones, and I am usually one of the first two or three to vote the morning of elections. (I have a flag-pattern tie that I wear. I am wearing it in that photo in the sidebar, but you can't tell much about it.) This time I will vote early so that I can be at my post from the beginning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Texas, our Texas ...

 Clarendon, Texas is about 70 miles south and east of Borger, where my brother, sister-in-law, one of my nieces and her daughter live. The Church of Christ is the church in which I was raised and to which many members of my family belong. Please note the quotation marks around the word "source" in the ad mentioned in the article.

 Texas Gay Couple Told to Leave or Die

Clarendon isn't so safe any more.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

October 04 2012 2:13 PM ET

A gay couple in Clarendon, Texas, awoke Monday morning to find a death threat spray-painted on their front porch, an act of vandalism that has left them both fearful for their lives. Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers reported the hate-filled vandalism to the local police, according to Pronews 7. The message read, "Leave or die fags," and it appeared not long after an area minister's antigay advertisement was published in the local newspaper. Clarendon Church of Christ pastor Chris Moore's ad listed the "platform" of the "Homosexual Movement," which included this line: "Folks, don't be fooled, the 'gay' agenda isn't about 'equal' rights for gay couples. Their agenda would force everyone to compromise their values, make our children legal prey for pedofiles."
Pronews 7 reported that the "source" of information cited in the ad, the National Coalition of Gay Organizations, was a convention that was held in 1972.
Donley County sheriff Charles "Butch" Blackburn told Travis Ruiz that he does "consider it a hate crime."
The two men, however, are planning to do just want the vandal ordered: leave Clarendon.
"It's sad," Jeffers told Pronews 7. "For the first time in my life, I have never felt this scared."

Fall and fail

This time of year can be beautiful up here. Cool, crisp days, blue skies and gloriously colored trees. This shot of Berry Road in front of our house (we are on your right as you look at the picture) gives you an idea, although the colors are better than my little camera will capture.

The trees below form part of the treeline running in front of the house.  The gold one is at the corner of the yard by the drive.


This flaming bush is on the side of the house, near Tom's room and the guestroom. He and Helen put in a whole row of these alongside the house, but they won't show this color until next year. The red is very intense.

Most of the flowers are gone, but these asters (I think) are giving a bit of color by the sidewalk.

Tom says the white oaks are usually brown, but this year, perhaps due to the drought, they are almost vermillion. This one is out back. It looks brown in the photo, but there is enough red in the real thing to make it beautiful. We had some great reds in a couple of maples, but the color faded into brown before I got a picture.

But all is not beauty this year. The drought has had a serious impact, as these pictures of some of the young pines show. If you look at that pine in the background, it looks green but you can pick out some dead straw on it, too. Many of the trees look like that. I understand that we are ten inches below normal for rainfall.


So we have some fall and some fail. We won't know until next year how many of the trees will bounce back.