Sunday, November 30, 2014

Digital detox

This morning while riding the stationary bike and surfing channels, I ran across an episode of a "reality" television program called "The Sisterhood" about a group of young women who are considering entering a religious community. As it turned out, the community they were investigating is one that I used to know well and where I had given a number of retreats. I watched a few minutes of the show to see if I saw any sisters I recognized -- which I did -- and to enjoy seeing their place right on the Hudson River where I had spent time.

In the few moments that I watched, the women were taken to the rooms they would use for the period of a few weeks and were asked to turn in their cell phones. This latter thing was obviously considered by them to be a wild request. What interests me is that I have seen online comments about the show in which this request -- that women give up their cell phones for a period that is set aside for personal reflection and prayer about something as significant at what they will do with perhaps the rest of their lives -- is often considered downright abusive. The sisters tried to explain the point, but it was obvious that some of the women found it hard to understand and were angry that it was being asked of them.

So what part of becoming a sister don't you think they understand?

It reminds me of a comic I saw where one character has decided to go into the forest to become a religious hermit. But he plans to take a keg of beer, his computer, lots of snacks and his cell phone along. When challenged about this, he explains that he will need all these to entertain his girlfriend. Well, der!

Today I read an article on the need for a digital detox. The author suggested six steps to take
Here are 6 quick steps to getting your digital detox started immediately.
Disclaimer: these steps are simple, but NOT easy. Use the opportunity of a digital detox to retrain yourself with new habits, to learn how to be with yourself in a new, more connected way.
1. Turn the phone off or into airplane mode before bed.
2. Shower and get dressed before you check your email or social media.
3. Resist the urge to check social media during a meal, especially dinner with family and friends.
4. Buy a real newspaper or magazine and get your fingers dirty from the ink.
5. Leave your phone at home or at the office for at least one walk or errand a day.
6. Stare into space at least one minute a day, without grasping your gadget. Call it meditating or simply "spacing out." Either way, it will be productive and challenge you to loosen your grip on technology.
Turn your phone off when you go to bed

Get dressed before checking email and Facebook? 

Leave the phone at home during a short walk?

How outrageous!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Delton Boom?

Last night I had just unloaded the dishwasher and was walking back into the living room when the house was shaken by a large boom And I mean shaken. We couldn't figure out what it was and even went out to check and make sure no neighborhood home had exploded. No sign of anything.

Back in April of 2012, there were reports of such booms in nearby Baraboo. Here is an account from a Madison television station: 
Neighborhoods on Baraboo's southwest side woke early Sunday morning to a loud boom, and less than an hour later, another one. Both booms accompanied by a flash of light. More than a dozen callers described the sounds of an explosion, blasting dynamite or a gunshot.
A police officer on duty was parked along 8th Street at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday when he heard the boom and saw the flashing light. He immediately thought a transformer blew...
But it wasn't. Alliant Energy told authorities they had no outages or transformer problems.
27 Storm Track meteorologists say it is highly unlikely that what Baraboo experienced was weather related, because no storms traveled through the area -- leading Schauf to the only explanation he can think of: fireworks.
"There's no evidence to suggest that there's anything other than a man made cause at hand," Schauf says.
But many of those who've heard it say it sounded much more intense...
Police say there's little they can do now, unless the city hears more booms.
Tom has suggested that the Baraboo boom has moved to Delton. Rich opined that it was a sonic boom, which is not nearly as esoteric as some of the theories floated after the Baraboo boom and similar booms in a few other communities two years ago, which theories included CO2 sequestration storage, which has been documented to cause “small to moderate earthquakes,” improper disposal of wastewater from a natural gas fracking operation (also documented to cause earthquakes), or more exotic explanations such as the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) or secret underground military tunneling."

High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program? Here's Wikipedia on that:
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).Designed and built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT), its purpose is to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance.The HAARP program operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, on an Air Force–owned site near Gakona, Alaska...
HAARP was a target of conspiracy theorists, who claimed that it was capable of modifying weather, disabling satellites and exerting mind control over people, and that it was being used as a weapon against terrorists. Such theorists blamed the program for causing earthquakes, droughts, storms and floods, diseases such as Gulf War Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, and the 2003 destruction of the space shuttle Columbia. Commentators and scientists say that proponents of these theories are "uninformed", because most theories put forward fall well outside the abilities of the facility and often outside the scope of natural science .

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gathering mistletoe

Bill Robinson, 66, of Decatur, Georgia, was arrested on a misdemeanor firearm charge in December 2011 for gathering holiday mistletoe in the "best way" he knew -- shooting it out of a tree with a 12-gauge shotgun. The fact that the tree was in the parking lot of the suburban North DeKalb Mall (filled with holiday shoppers) apparently completely escaped his attention. 

"Well," said Robinson to WGCL-TV, "about the time I did it, I got to thinking about it. ... I guess I assumed that everybody knew what I was doing." 

This bit of trivia, which I ran across in the archives of News of the Weird, caught my eye because of a childhood memory. I posted about it in 2007 in the context of a visit to Texas and my cousin Rusty, the writer. Here is that post:
I just got back from lunch with Rusty. He took me to a nice Mexican place in Tyler and we reminisced. Then we drove down to look at Daddy Dodd's old property. The house and barn are long gone, but Rusty was able to point it out because he recognizes the big trees that still stand around [where] the house [used to be.] We both remember shooting mistletoe out of those trees decades ago. It was part of the Christmas family gathering tradition.
Since our grandfather had moved to Texas from Georgia, perhaps he brought the tradition with him.

Minor language irritation

I have been seeing ads for a movie (which will go unnamed to protect the guilty) that is the second in a series: a sequel, if you will. It even bears the mandatory numeral 2 after the title lest anyone think it is an original idea.

Then online I saw a reference to the original movie as a prequel.

Under ordinary circumstances, the neologism prequel refers to a book/movie/play that is published or produced after a previous work and which is related to that previous work, but whose action is set in the period prior to the action  in the first to appear. A book/movie/play that appears first in real time and is the beginning of a series or sequence is not a prequel.

There are variations on this theme, and complications such as where a sequel -- which comes out after the first account and is set in the period after that account -- contains lengthy flashbacks in which the action all takes place prior to the first account. I would still call the complete work a sequel, just one that has flashbacks. Some people want to call it a hybridized thing, but that strikes me as a false problem. Otherwise, you wind up with an original work that contains extensive flashbacks -- something not all that uncommon -- being a sort of prequel to itself.

At any rate, for all I know the idea of calling the first movie a prequel is just a marketing device. It seems that so many things are! Maybe they plan to reissue the first version as BLANK 1.

Someday someone will make a movie with the title, Sequel. Then they can make Sequel II: The Prequel. Then they can make The Prequel 2: The Sequel.

Or maybe I could get a life.

Black Friday options

1. Call someone.
2. Bake cookies.
3. Sing a song.
4. Read a book.
5. Write a letter.
6. Take a walk.
7. Visit someone.
8. Play with a child and/or a pet.
9. Draw a picture.
10. Box up items to donate to charity.

Bonus: Feel good at the end of the day instead of tired and angry.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


We had a light dusting of snow this morning, but that turned to bright sunshine before noon. Bright and cold -- a high of 16 (-8.9 C) for the day.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with Rich and Peggy at their house. They did all the heavy lifting. We brought a razzleberry pie, my Archangel Salad and some of Tom's homemade cranberry sauce. Peggy had the traditional turkey, organic stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, a cranberry-pear chutney [I think], cheese and crackers and assorted things of that nature. There was whipped cream for the pie or pumpkin pecan ice cream. Rich had made mango Jello just in case, but we all opted for pie. The fire was going in their wood-burning stove, their poodle Ivy was happy to see us and well-behaved, and Molly the cat deigned to ignore the whole shebang. A good time was had by all. 

We ate at one p.m., which left time for us to visit for a while and still come back across the road to our house for a nice nap and a chance for the meal to digest before I called Texas to talk to my mother. But as it turned out, I did not take that nap but got distracted by email and other sorts of things. Now it is too late to nap before calling, so I will just post this.

Depending on which monastery I was in at the time, we friars sometimes ate the Thanksgiving meal in mid-to-late afternoon. While this gave the cooks more time to get things ready, it always threw my stomach's schedule off. If I eat a big meal at three, I don't want another meal at five or six. On the other hand, I will want something before bedtime ... and the temptation of stuffing with gravy was usually hard to resist. Which helps explain why -- in the days before my thyroid condition was diagnosed and treated -- like St. Nick, my [not so] little round belly shook when I laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

I hope you had a safe and enjoyable day. Thanks for reading! 

PS -- Archangel Salad is my signature salad. Just use the following ingredients in quantities that work for your group, adding or omitting things as you wish.

Romain lettuce (or your preference)
Fresh pear or apple chunks (dipped in lemon juice to prevent discoloration)
Dried cranberries
Sliced seedless grapes
Thinly sliced carrots (or julienned, etc.)
Sliced black olives
Red onion in thin rings
Grape tomatoes
Walnut pieces
Boiled egg, sliced
Coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese

I arrange it in layers in a large glass bowl, but you may prefer to toss it before serving. Serve with dressing of your choice.

This makes a substantial side salad. To make it a light meal, add protein in the form of diced leftover chicken, turkey, roast beef or ham.

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” ― Maya Angelou

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart
it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
― Epicurus

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart

and finally, a quote from someone I met in my St. Louis days:

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful,
but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
― Brother David Steindl-Rast , OSB

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Unanswered prayers

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. -- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I particularly like that last one.


For a few months at the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007, I worked as a "spiritual counselor" for a local hospice. Some would call the position chaplain, but when I interviewed for the job, it was made quite clear that it was a nondenominational position. Today I ran across this entry in a journal from that time:
The company policies are clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate in dealing with the patients and the families. We are there to support them in their journey, not to tell them what journey to take, although we can share our own faith when asked directly about it.

As part of my training I went with one of the other counselors to observe a visit for the first time. It was a positive experience and I think this will be a rewarding position. [NB: Actually I only worked there for a few months, after discovering that I spent far more of my time filling in reports and at staff meetings than I did with clients.]
There was one little bump, though, as I look back on it. The other counselor was explaining to me what she takes with her when she goes -- basically a Bible and a small booklet of devotions. I mentioned that I had also put a rosary in my pocket in case I found I was dealing with a Catholic. She seemed a little taken aback. She had, in fact, already told me that the person I will be visiting on Wednesday has identified himself as Catholic, so it seemed logical to me to be prepared with such a basic Catholic spiritual prayer tool. It obviously had not occurred to her that it would be appropriate, although I don't know that she considered my bringing one inappropriate. She knows my background, after all.

I got to thinking, though, about what passes as the norm in faith in America. I suspect that many Protestants assume that Bible reading would be safely nondenominational -- even though they might read only from the King James version and never from any of the books missing there but found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, some of which are filled with beautiful prayers and consoling words. Because Bible is normal, it becomes normative. Rosary may seem a bit ... well, too Catholic.
I joked that I also had a yarmulke in case I ran into someone Jewish, and that really perplexed her. I got the impression that she might find encountering someone with no beliefs (as she has in this work) less unsettling than if she were to encounter someone with strong but other beliefs.

I don't mean to be critical, because this is a lovely woman, and she was great with the lady we visited together. They were on the same wavelength, and there was bit of "people saved by grace, like us" scattered through the conversation. As far as I could tell, this was well within the parameters of our job description.

But it did remind me how un-normative I am, not only  by being Catholic, and a heretical Catholic at that, but  maybe by being a bit reluctant to assume that everyone is on my wavelength.
A couple of months after the above incident, one of the men I visited turned out to have totally other spiritual beliefs. He and his family did not belong to any church, although they were associated with the Society for Creative Anachronism and had built a spiritual life around mostly Native American traditions, though not Native themselves. They talked to me with great enthusiasm about what they believed, and I listened with interest.

When he died a few days after that visit, the family asked if I would hold the service because I seemed to be comfortable with them. It took some doing, but my bosses finally permitted me to do it -- it was not in a church after all, and I basically was just giving some simple directions and keeping the service the family had planned moving, inviting people to speak and so on -- as long as I did not take a stipend. The family insisted on giving me a donation, which I told them I would give to the hospice in memory of the deceased, and that appeared to satisfy everyone.

Yesterday's thanks

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wander and wonder

Even a walk out to get the mail -- carefully on the slippery drive! -- can be a thing of beauty.

Of course, it is beautiful because we haven't lost power, our roads are plowed and the house is warm.

Greek pizza tonight, to remind us of warmer climes!


Procrasternation -- the consternation created by postponing things that need doing

I get a daily e-mail about things that are supposed to be good for my health-- mental, spiritual and physical.

Recently there was an article about things we do to procrastinate. One of them was doing extensive and unnecessary research about nonessential stuff.

Like, fer instance, reading articles about things we do to procrastinate, maybe?

PS -- I think I made up the word procrasternation. At least, I did not find it online anywhere and I did look for it. Another example of unnecessary research ...

More getting to be the season

Yesterday (Monday) we got our first Christmas card. 

Rick and Steve's card is always the first to arrive, but in the past it has usually come the day after Thanksgiving. I see that they have now succumbed to corporate America's desire to hasten the celebratory aspects a bit. Anyway, thanks to Rick and Steve! Your card has christened the holiday card shelf.

I plan to pick up our cards today, but I don't plan to mail them out immediately.

On another seasonal note, we had more snow. The previous white stuff had melted away, but things were only drab for about 36 hours before the next flurries arrived. Since I usually post photos of the back yard, I thought I would put up a couple of the front, showing Tom's diligent work clearing sidewalk and drive. This all had to be done twice, of course, because after he got it cleaned up yesterday afternoon, more snow came along. We had about four inches and a smidge more, I would say.

And here is our crane, stuck in the snow once again. This year Tom added to the rusty sidewalk decor with that wheel that he found abandoned somewhere.

Monday, November 24, 2014

'Tis getting to be the season

My sister-in-law is getting ready for the holidays and sent this photo of their mantle with stockings for the family, children, children's spouses and partners, grandchildren ... Probably stockings for the pets as well!

I am re-posting the photo that was taken of all of us when my mother and I visited them in October. As someone commented on my post at that time, "quite a brood to provide for at Christmas."

PS to Memories

I remember during their visit to Holy Hill, my niece Kristin (who was six or so at the time) asked me why I looked younger than her daddy. 

I had just turned 40 and my brother, her father, was 37. 

I told her, "Because I don't have any kids."

I think he would agree with me!


June 1990

In June 1990, I had just been elected prior of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery at the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians -- Holy Hill, northwest of Milwaukee. My brother Ted and his family came to visit and he took this picture in my office. That is me in the habit on the left (obviously), my niece Kristin, my niece Kirstin in the stroller -- she had been born the previous October and is the one who posted this photo on her own blog a couple of days ago -- and my nephew Justin. My sister-in-law-Cynthia is standing on the right.

Behind Cynthia at the far right of the picture you can see part of the door that led from the prior's office into a very small bedroom. Kristin reminded me that it had a sign on it that read The Twilight Zone.

Yes, I was that kind of prior.

Oh, the weather outside is white-ful!

Not Cassidy, but pretty much the way she looks right now.

We woke to cloudy skies, which soon began to send down rain, which went through a brief transition to freezing rain/sleet and has now become snow. We expect up to five or six inches of the white stuff by the time this episode ends tomorrow morning.

For Wisconsin, this is not a heavy snow event and the plows will take care of it handily.

I was supposed to meet a friend in town for lunch today, but we decided to re-schedule. She lives ten miles away and should not be driving at all according to her doctor, whom she is determined to ignore. She certainly should not drive under these conditions. So I was glad that weather forced us to change our plans. I am hoping next week I can convince her that it would be better for me to pick her up at home and give her a ride. Her friends are conspiring to keep her off the road, but she is resisting the loss of independence.

It is  not only difficult to get old oneself; it is painful to see one's friends get old.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The many splendored weather ...

Anent my earlier post about weather, Ur-spo commented,
where I live is an absence of weather - monotonous daily sunshine and predictable temperatures. A cloudy day or a rainy one makes headlines.
Such it may be (?) in Arizona. But his words reminded me of a passage in Dame Agatha's A Caribbean Mystery:
Now that she had been here [an island in the Caribbean] for a week, Miss Marple had cured herself of the impulse to ask what the weather was like. The weather was always the same -- fine. No interesting variations.

"The many splendored weather of an English day," she murmured to herself and wondered if it was a quotation, or whether she had made it up.
Apparently this particular construction is Miss Marple's -- that is to say, Dame Agatha Christie's -- own. Most of us, however, at least those of a certain age, are familiar with the song "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" from the movie of the same name.

The phrase "many-slendoured thing" is taken from the poem "The Kingdom of God" by Francis Thompson.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrang├Ęd faces,      
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Whoville News

As of yesterday, the paperback of  Wicca in WhoVille has been approved and will be for sale on Amazon within the next few days. I was able to order copies from the publisher myself, but the rest of the clamoring public (ha!) will have to wait a bit longer.

The slim volume, Wickedness in WhoVille, is already available in paperback.

Sunny asked if the cover art is Tom's work. He did both the art and the layout for the covers. That particular portrait is based on one he had done before, but it is not the one Sunny mentioned, where he had removed the mouth. To see that painting and the post about it, click here.

The Deer Hunter

No, not the Academy Award-winning 1978 movie. It is deer gun-hunting season again in Wisconsin, the time that people who sneer at environmentalists the other 51 weeks of the year get all excited about culling or thinning the deer herd "for the good of the deer and the environment."

A guy who has hunted Tom's property for many years has been plugging away this morning. Usually he wakes me up with a shot as soon as the sun is up and the season officially begins. This year I slept through that first shot, or so Tom tells me, but I have heard plenty since then.

This guy always brings us a gift bag when he shows up, usually with summer sausage, classy crackers, maybe some cheese and a bottle or two of wine. Neither Tom nor I drink, so the wine becomes a gift for someone who can enjoy it. Peg asked yesterday why Tom doesn't tell the guy we don't drink, but he figures after all these years, it would just embarrass him.  A few years ago he gave us a great flamingo mug, and Tom said he finally was getting us. This year he included a bottle stopper with a graceful glass flamingo on top.

There is still a bit of snow on the ground, which makes it easier for the hunters in some ways. But it is warming up -- the deer apparently have a powerful lobby with the Person Who Makes the Weather -- and the snow will soon be gone. Then tomorrow it will rain.

Our neighbor's son is now 12 and at the age to experience the hunt. He and his sisters have constructed a fort of sorts out in their woods, and today he, his dad and a friend from church intend to perch out there and see what happens.

On a side note, a few days ago when the kids were sledding down the ridge in the back, they heard growling. After a bit of investigation, we now know where the black bear has chosen to nap away the winter. Forewarned is forearmed.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Homilette for the day: Be kind

I had breakfast with a friend this morning and talk turned to kindness. I am often struck by how much better kind people make me feel, how much safer they make the world feel, and how they make being kind seem such a simple thing.

Yet I know how easy it is for me to be unkind, to make unkind remarks to or about people or groups. Even when I control my tongue, I find myself harboring very unkind thoughts, thinking things I would never dare say out loud but ...

I need to remind myself from time to time to be kind. As Fr. Gerard Taylor, of blessed memory, used to say, "Be kind. If you can't be kind, be kind anyway. If you can't be kind anyway, then just be kind."

The Dalai Lama says, "Whenever possible, be kind. It is always possible." And in his suggestions for how to begin the day, he includes the intention: "I am going to have kind thoughts towards others." Note -- not "I will omit being unkind or I will have kind words towards others." I am going to have kind thoughts towards others.

When I have kind thoughts towards people, my words and actions are kind.  

Sometimes I wish that God had made that one of the 10 Commandments, or that Jesus had said it explicitly. They probably didn't think it necessary. Maybe people who speak in the name of God or Jesus would make more of a difference in the world if they were perceived as a bit kinder.


Lately it has been very cold -- down into the single digits at night, with daytime highs in the teens or low twenties.

I am not sure whether to mention it. It sounds like I am either complaining or boasting. And neither of those is very attractive.

On the other hand, it is supposed to get a bit above 40 this weekend for a couple of days.

And rain.

A delightful and unfailingly kind friar I once knew would sometimes find himself part of a conversation that was becoming awkward. His solution was to smile broadly and say, "Well, we sure are having a lot of weather lately."

We sure are having a lot of weather lately. How about you?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Books small (or at least minor) and great

Well, this morning I thought the paperback version of Wicca in WhoVille was ready for approval and distribution. Then at the last moment I found two things that I wanted changed on the cover. Tom was very patient and made the adjustments. So I sent the new version in for one last -- please, please, please make it the last! -- review. With luck, maybe sometime tomorrow I can submit it for final approval and distribution.

While I am at it, I want to congratulate the winners and honorees of the National Book Awards. I would say I am always a groomsman, never a bridegroom in this competition, but I am, of course, never a groomsman, usher or even candle-lighter in this particular celebration.

James McBride won the award for fiction for The Good Lord Bird, about a slave who unites with John Brown in Brown's abolitionist mission. If it is any consolation to other writers, it got favorable to mixed reviews by critics.

That may sound heavy enough, but if you want something even weightier, try the nonfiction winner, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by American journalist George Packer. The book uses biographies of individual Americans as a means of discussing important forces in American history from 1978 to 2012, including the subprime mortgage crisis, the decline of American manufacturing, and the influence of money on politics. Not the happiest book in the world, I'm thinking.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I have always liked this prayer, ever since I heard it read at a funeral when I was on sabbatical in Rhode Island almost twenty years ago. (How is that even possible???)

I realize today, looking out on the snow that has whitened our yard the last couple of days, that it is largely up to me whether I see beauty or not. The snow is just snow. I can see the beauty in it, the way it softens the sharp edges of the wood piled up in the back, the way it softens the sounds, the way it makes the day brighter when the sun breaks through.

Or I can see the annoyance of sidewalks and decks to be cleared, of roads that must be traveled with greater care, the way even small errands become hassles.

So many people in our world today, even in our nation and our neighborhoods perhaps, see only ugliness and danger around them. I do not say they are projecting some inner ugliness. There is danger  and ugliness in the world. I only wish for them the ability to open their eyes to see more than just the ugliness, the danger-- to see the beauty.

I am reminded of this quote from Fred Rogers:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping"
 News stories about Ebola, for example, can frighten us because of danger. Or they can inspire us because ordinary men and women choose to place themselves at risk, even of the real risk of death, in order to help those who suffer.

They walk in beauty.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I saw this on Kenneth Walsh's blog and wanted to share it.  The real question is, how much did they charge her?

Paperback book in hand ... but!

The paperback proof copy of Wicca in WhoVille arrived in the mail today. I already knew about one correction that I need to make on the interior copy, but it turns out that there is also a typo on the back cover. Tom and I both missed it when we looked at it on the computer screen. Fortunately, the back cover is not part of the Kindle versions which have already gone on the market.

It is a simple matter to make these corrections. Then the paperback will be available shortly.

Although the book is the same height and width as my other books, it is much thicker -- twice as thick as the John of the Cross mystery, for example. I don't feel as guilty about the price now, but I do hope the handful of folks who read it can make it through to the end.

Not vamp, vape!


Oxford Dictionaries announced today (November 18) that they have made vape their international Word of the Year 2014.

This odd little word, with its compounds, has risen from almost total obscurity to high fashion in less than half a decade. The award has been made because its use has more than doubled in the past year alone.

It’s now widely known that if you vape, you inhale and exhale the vapor produced by electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs). These contain a solution of water and glycerin plus nicotine and flavorings. This mixture is passed over a hot filament to deliver it as a vapor. Using an e-cigarette makes you a vaper. The action is vaping, and a single inhalation and exhalation is a vape. The e-cigarette is also sometimes itself called a vape:

The apparent rise has been rapid. The first e-cigarettes were put on sale by a Chinese company in 2003. They were initially marketed as ways for smokers to cut down their tobacco consumption or kick the habit altogether. Instead, they came to be widely used by smokers and non-smokers alike because they seemed to be a cleaner and more healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. This is denied by many health experts and their advertising and use are being restricted in some jurisdictions.

One of my favorite verses

  Yet I seldom heard sermons based on this passage from the prophet Micah.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Birthdays -- PS

I realize that I forgot to mention another reason my mother distrusted my father's birth certificate date of September 17.

My father and I were both born in Georgia. I was born May 19, 1950. When it was time for me to start school in 1956, my parents had to produce a birth certificate proving I had been born prior to September 4, 1950. First-graders had to have turned six by Labor Day of the year they entered, because school started the next day. My brother, incidentally, who was born October 1, had to wait until he was almost seven to start school.

When they applied to the State of Georgia for my birth certificate, it turned out that there was no record of my birth. The doctor who had delivered me, however, and the assisting nurse were still alive. They signed affidavits which enabled the state to issue a Delayed Birth Certificate.

The certificate arrived, showing the date of birth as May 19, 1950. I was allowed to begin school.

Only later did I notice that the birth certificate had two places where the date of birth was entered. The main entry was correct, but in the other place the date was given as September 1, 1956.

Had this been correct, I would have begun school when I was less than a week old.

What we imagine happened was that the clerk typing the form had inadvertently entered the date she was filling it out. I used to joke about it, but people warned me that when Social Security time came around, I might not find it so funny.

At any rate, years later when I applied for my first passport, the State of Georgia corrected the error and my birth record is now clear -- should I ever run for president and the question arise.

So my mother did not have a lot of confidence in the records of the glorious State of Georgia. And for a few brief years, I was five and a half years younger than all my classmates.

Pileated problems

We enjoy having pileated woodpeckers around. They are startlingly large and really do make a sound somewhat like Woody Woodpecker. Whenever one shows up at the suet feeder or on a tree near the house, we call one another to come see -- moving slowly so as not to startle them

Lately, however, a pileated has decided that the birch tree near the bird feeder is a good source of food, too. I suspect this indicates a good supply of sub-bark bugs. But the pileateds do a number on a tree and Tom doesn't want this tree destroyed. We have lots of old trees for the birds to peck, and we have lots of dead trees that they have shredded. 

What to do, what to do?

Sunday, November 16, 2014


My niece Kristin celebrated her birthday this past Friday and her husband Garret celebrated his on Saturday. I hope they had a wonderful time and that their new year of life is filled with happiness.

Birthdays tend to clump up. My brother and my other niece were born in October. My mother and my sister-in-law were born in December. My nephew's two daughters were born in February. My other niece may give birth in February, and her son and I were born in May. Kristin's son and daughter were both born in June. And two stepdaughters in this outfit were born in February. It may be the shortest month, but there are four (soon maybe five) birthdays in that month for my family. My nephew is the lone April birth, although he also celebrates his anniversary that month. His wife is the only July birth, but my father's mother was born in July and Kristin and Garret have a July anniversary. Brandon, Kirstin's mate, is the only one in August. To the best of my knowledge, that is uniquely his. But then I don't know all the birthdays and anniversaries in his family or in my sister-in-law's (and so Kirstin's) family...

My father, James Byron Dodd, -- Byron to everyone who knew him -- was born in 1921. For almost half his life, he celebrated his birthday on October 17. That is the date of birth on his school records and his military records from when he served in the Navy during World War II.

He was a great teacher. In the early 1960s, he applied for a job as principal of the school at a Job Corps Center near where we lived. Things seemed to go well in the application process. but then there was a long and unexplained lull. We had just about given up hope when they contacted him. He found out that the federal government was concerned that his birth certificate indicated that he had been born on September 17 and everything else said October 17. The discrepancy bothered them, even in those pre-Homeland Security days. They had contacted his parents about it, something that riled my grandfather a bit, I am sure, since he had little use for the government to start with.

The United States government finally decided or decreed that Byron's real date of birth was September 17, 1921 and they gave him the job. 

His mother insisted that he had been born in  October, basing her belief in part on the fact that they were making some kind of syrup at the time. My father checked with an uncle who assured him that they made that syrup in September in Georgia, not in October. So my father was convinced and ever after told people he was born in September. He had it changed on things like his Social Security records and his driver's license.

My mother, on the other hand, could not bring herself to accept that a mother would forget in what month her second son was born. So she continued to believe somewhat in the October date. She and I always wished my father happy birthday on both dates -- the official one that everyone else including him accepted and celebrated, and the October one that only my mother, I and he remembered. I used to tell he he was twice his age because he had two birthdays.

He died August 9, 2011, just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday in September and his 180th in October. Had he lived to January 10, 2012, he and my mother would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
His tombstone lists his date of birth as September 17, 1921.

The small marker from the Veterans Administration that is at the foot of the grave lists his birth as October 17, 1921. 

Some folks think we should have that corrected. My mother and I think he would have liked it just the way it is.