#GlancingKnow

Doltdrums

DoltDrums
"We both want family for the holidays, but we're settling for turkey again."

By mid-November I've grown weary of braises. My larder looks like a mid-winter Moravian supermarket with overflowing bins of carrot, parsnip, turnip, celery root, potato, garlic, and onion aching for another long, slow, covered bake. I can't bare to bake anything anymore. The quick chop chore, the boring obligatory stock pour-over, the tough cut tucked in underneath, with a splash of wine or cider. This all seemed wilder and more attractive back when it was just an emerging seasonal alternative. Now, it seems like the only game in town and I know for certain, before the first die roll, that Colonel Mustard will have done the deed in the drawing room with the freaking candlestick. Not an ounce of mystery or discovery to be found within any of it.

My menu leaves me feeling stupid, uninspired.

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InFLUence

inFLUential
Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le peuple
"We live almost exclusively by anonymous association."

Who's following who? Fergetabout leadership, whatever that was, we've traded in that weary old meme in favor of being seen with someone truly inFLUential. I follow, therefore I am. I must seek first to inFLUence, to infect others with my opinions, delivered so subtly and forcefully that few can resist my call. Is this really all that came of the great revolution, not so much a chain of relationships but a gaggle of clans, each following their man or woman, no longer even desiring to think for them self. I shamelessly footnote, citing some source more reliable than little old me, someone genuinely in the know, someone genuinely worthy of me following? How many followers must one have to be widely considered a thought leader? Lead me, please, not into temptation and deliver us all from evil.

Which side should I be on?

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TheOppositeOf

opposite
"Our dichotomies seem to be trying to define us …"

Opposites distract. Absolute opposites distract absolutely, dangling modifier and all. The chief difficulty with opposites lies in the simple fact that they almost never exist except as placeholders for an absolute absence. The opposite of a tree seems easy enough to conjure. It's no-tree, isn't it? But what precisely (or even imprecisely) entails a no-tree? Every blessed thing except a tree? Hardly definitive. In mathematics, opposites emerge with the simple flip of a sign, except when encountering a nothing zero or a confounding square root. Sometimes, an absolute opposite amounts to just the same thing as its opposite, flash and bone, glimpsed unreversed mirror images which might make anyone's head hurt to consider. It might be that all opposites qualify as completely imaginary, useful perhaps for comparison, a defining opposition, but nothing much beyond that.

We inhabit a world which sometimes seems floundering on a surfeit of opposites.

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BetterByes

petunia#2
Petunias #2, Georgia O'Keefe 1924

"Flipping off winter won't slow it down, …"

You might have noticed that season ends almost always offend me. They come too early or too late to properly please me, yet I strive to be prepared when the actual shift occurs. I never complain about how early winter leaves, no matter how rainy the early spring. Likewise, I usually embrace summer when it finally arrives, though fading daffodils and tulips turn that experience bittersweet. I'm usually unprepared to let go so that the following season might simply come. I am never the one discarding perfectly matured petunias just because an overnight freeze impends. You can depend on me to hatch some season-extending scheme to defer an inevitable season end. One year, I tarped up the whole deck garden to defend against an intruding frost, and the tactic worked, extending blossoms another full two weeks before a more insistent freeze finally settled in. This year, I chose the best and brightest for sequestering in a corner of the garage, and I've extended their lives at least an additional month. I've dutifully carry their pots and planters out into the bright sun on clement days and left them tucked away through now the fifth snow event of this season.

I've been secretly hoping that the bastard deer would find them and provide a demise worthy of them.

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Demoncracy

demoncracy
"The Hapsburgs were plenty happy enough. Their ungrateful peasants, not so much."

Some insist that we have the best democracy money can buy, though our Founders did not originally intend our Big D Democracy to belong within the set of purchasable things. They'd naively intended it to be differently participatory, open to all free, landowning white males. Oh, sorry. They designed it as a plutocracy, ruled by the wealthiest, which historically has usually translated into a de facto kakistocracy, government by those least suitable and capable of governing. The majority who might actually depend upon what a Big D Democracy might deliver, those not male, landowning, or free, could go piss up a tree to realize their liberty, or so sayeth our heralded Founders, who turned out to be more eloquent than prescient, for their declarations out-stretched their designs. Later generations interpreted their intentions much more broadly than they had. Landless males would gain franchise, then former slaves, then women, as our original demo-aristocracy struggled to become an ever more-perfectly liberal democratic union.

We're still perfecting.

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Prosperitease

Prosperity1
Gustav Klimt(1862-1918) / Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, oil on canvas, Neue Galerie, NYC
"I intend to bequeath no inheritance, …"

My parents were raised through The Great Depression. They instilled in their children all the phobias common to anyone raised with unresolvable want. They'd caught on early that the system was rigged against achieving prosperity, though they labored hard to achieve a modest level of financial security. My mom sewed her kids' clothes and taught her daughters to sew for themselves. My dad taught his sons to put their heads down and toil without complaint. Sloth stood as the sole unforgivable sin. We learned to get by in spite of whatever game the rest of the world seemed obsessed with. Prosperity meant not complaining about stuff that couldn't possibly matter. We had each other, and a fine home filled with make-do eccentricities. The windows might have frosted over on the inside on the coldest winter nights, but one could wear a coat to bed or throw on another hand-me-down quilt, the coal fire would be warm in the morning.

My parents never once owned a new car, and never really wanted to.

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Time-Id

Time-Id
"I continue to be my own worst tyrant."

Six days in and I'm thinking that I might have finally resolved the fall-back time change problem. Dropping daylight savings time feels like punishment to me, a cruel bait-and-switch. Just as daylight becomes increasingly scarce, we, by fiat, by mere convention, agree to swipe another hour of it from the time we need it most, from the end of already seasonally dreary days. Could there be a better way to ensure the onslaught of seasonal affective disorder? I think not!

Most years, I've become a complaining victim to this curious convention, shuffling along into longer and darker nights, but this year, I decided to take a stand.

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Interpregating

Cat_kitten_avatar-35-512
" … he seems to be Interpregating, interpreting to integrate rather than to separate."

This world seems to be continuously trying to teach me stuff. I remain a reluctant student. I suspect that I absorb most of what might eventually become learnings sub- or pre-consciously, and I feel truly grateful for this small gift, for if I had to maintain attentive concentration, I'd certainly fail to learn much of anything at all. We've acquired a kitten who reminds me what learning actually entails. The Muse and I find his antics entertaining, sometimes in a rather mean way, for he seems to endlessly play the fool for us, perhaps to teach us something. Learning seems to entail much foolishness, approximations of congruent responses morphing over time into ever more well-adapted ones. The first few attempts qualify as genuine comedy, easily observed when someone else performs but not so easily recognized when we mount the stage. We're always on stage but only occasionally aware of the observers surrounding us. We're probably always trying out some new routine, but largely unaware that we are. The more well-rounded among us might construct lives of well-practiced, numbing routine, but even these masters might continuously try out fresh variations unaware of just how silly they might seem to the rest of us.

The best I can claim about myself seems to be that I'm still learning.

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Volting

Volting
"A red state turns purple with suppressed rage before finally blowing up blue."

The Muse and I live in an area reportedly beset with voles. Our neighborhood ListServ frequently reports troubles blamed on the hamster-like critters, though we've never experienced a single instance. They're essentially invisible tunnel dwellers, browsing from the bottom up, apparently devastating some neighbors' plantings. We try to keep with native plants, not mistaking this region as part of the Northern Arboreal Belt. Trying to maintain some semblance of a classic English Country Garden here seems to buy more trouble than satisfaction, so we keep our garden aspirations modest and hopefully aligned to our seventy eight hundred arid feet of altitude. We consider the lowly vole as much a part of the native fauna as the deer and the elk, features rather than pests, and we try to live while letting them live.

Come election day, though, it seems as though the voles rush to the polls to cast votes in favor of those initiatives only a tunnel-dweller could love.

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FallTogether

FallTogether
"Small completions seem to render everything possible."

How fortunate for my life to FallTogether in the Autumn. So much these days seems to be progressively falling apart; my present great good fortune seems an outlying experience, almost a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. I'll manage my accompanying guilt somehow. I'm much more practiced at coping with guilt than I'll ever have even half a chance of becoming at coping with good fortune, so perhaps the two will balance out each other. Months of accumulating procrastinations have been resolving themselves with little effort. I cannot claim to have cleverly planned my present state. It visited me without making reservations. Nor did I finally achieve a level of self-loathing which finally pushed me onto a straighter and narrower path. I simply seem to have stumbled into this place.

One thing leads to another.

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Reflexivity

reflexivity


"It takes someone completely immersed in a subject to explain it in ways that nobody not immersed in that subject could ever understand."

I enthusiastically reserved George Soros' latest book, a collection of essays on the subject of Open Societies. I'd read other works by this great philanthropist and self-proclaimed failed philosopher, most memorably the one where he deconstructed the 2008 market crash. I found him both insightful and frustrating, as he exemplifies the above quote. He's long railed against certain foundational tenets of economics and social science in general, arguing that these fields seem to suffer from physics envy, and attempt to find level ground by adopting perspectives that could lead to truth only when analyzing physical stuff and might reasonably only lead to useful insight when applied to human systems, those being where human judgment and preference cast deciding votes about the outcome. He characterizes social science as compromised by investigators trying to emulate their physical science counterparts while lacking necessarily separate, agreed-upon social-science methods. Building upon Karl Popper's postulate which claimed that scientific facts forever remain hypothetical—prone to undermining with a single example of falsehood—he notes that social science cannot hope to achieve even that modest end, since social sciences rely upon human perspective, always subject to change. If you've ever gone shopping for something you deeply desire, found exactly what you'd imagined, then found yourself dissatisfied when using the product of your successful search, you've experienced Reflexivity. All human system most prominently exhibit Reflexivity.

The scientist, though, seems schooled in a firm belief in objectivity, a fundamentally paradoxical perspective which seems to hold that one could muster an observation without utilizing the services of an observer.

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Thyme

Thyme
"I might even throw up a fresh shoot or two in defiance of a regulating authority hardly worth believing in."

Our thyme plant expanded to several times its original size before I brought it inside for overwintering. Its tips turned brown though its stalks still seem viable and green. It's assumed a rather wiry habit, tough to harvest and difficult to strip, stems more like twigs than herbs. I remain fully aware that I fiddled with time, attempting a premeditated extension of an admittedly over-shortened growing season. The whole herb pot, a slat wood peck basket, now overflows with mutating herbals. Relocated into a sunny kitchen corner in front of the sink, sure, but missing wind, rain, and the temperature shifts that once kept its contents pliable and young. The contents have entered another stage of life, on the first hints of life support, destined to die, but not quite yet. The tarragon yellowed in protest, though it also threw up a few fresh shoots as if mistaking this recent life change for Spring. It will most certainly never see another Spring.

Daylight Savings Time seems like a godsend to me, its annual disappearance always more a setback than a simple falling back into regular time, for there never was any such thing as regular time.

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Dayzed

25 five hour day
"I'll recover somehow."

I take too much pride in my ability to thrive with little sleep. Pride, going just before falls and all, presciences inevitable downfall. I probably over-rely on this gift, for it leaves me with scant margin. I seem to do just fine with four hours sack time, but less than that can really cut into me. I imagine that someone who routinely sleeps two of my short nights' worth, won't so much miss an occasional odd hour or two shortfall, while I most certainly will. Micro sleep usually comes with some sort of travel-related activity. The last night in Vienna might find me sleeplessly waiting up so I won't miss my obscenely early ride to the airport, but little's lost as I'd just as soon crash on the plane crossing the pond, anyway. Giving others a ride to the airport provides a similar experience but with the downside that I'll then need to drive back without losing too much of my consciousness along the way.

Of course necessary stops seem to hinder my return.

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Dismay

dismay
Portrait of Doctor Gachet, Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
" … we're likely to be recovering for a very, very long time."

The news deeply disturbs me. We have a madman in the White House. It's not that I don't understand, because I do understand while reportedly so many clearly do not yet. Yet. Did we just grow to take for granted that an election would filter out the most glaring extremes and prevent anyone actually barking mad from taking the top job? I'll grant you that we've had a bad run, from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, we've seen Presidents push around our Constitution, largely, it seems in retrospect, due to their utter ignorance of its tenets. But this guy combines ignorance with arrogance, distain with cruelty, self-dealing with amorality, and lies heaped with even more lies until his inner insanity screams for wide public recognition. Yet the wheels of Constitutional government move achingly slowly, particularly when populated with those who've sworn fealty to absolute insanity.

Corruption should have more consequences than any election.

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OnceInA...

OnceInA 8.07.17 AM
"We take turns, one day the fool and some days the fortunate child, …"

We live in extraordinary times, or so the media insists. Who among us could resist reporting that seems to so solidly confirm just how special we must be to live in such extraordinary times? The old hometown team won the World Championship for the first time in ninety-six years. "We" set several low-temperature-for-the-month records this week. Never before has "it" been so damned cold this early in the year. Surrounded by unlikely events, we don't have to pretend to be special anymore. Even acknowledging the obvious fact that several of these stats seem spurious,—I mean, who keeps track of all this crap?—nobody can deny that we seem to find ourselves living in truly extraordinary times; just like yesterday, just like last week, just like every day since time immemorial.

Every day brings another blue moon somewhere.

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Preparation

Preparation
"Failing to fully prepare might resonate nothing more alarming than the human condition …"

No one has yet discovered a fully adequate replacement for a sincere lack of preparation. Google 'preparation' and you'll receive the sort of wisdom nobody really needs. You'll hear that "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and other equally vacuous advice. I'll excuse you if you come to believe that preparation is the universal key to success, the Midas Touch on wheels, and the one absolutely irreplaceable determiner. Preparation is clearly the key to every kingdom, except, of course, for all the ones where only a deeply sincere lack of preparation reigns. The difficulty arises when we realize that we cannot always predict when preparation will be key and when a sincere lack of preparation might better prepare. I'm noticing that many people carry a sort of civil engineering preparation philosophy. Why wouldn't one prepare before engaging in activities focused upon moving stuff through space and time? Many activities, though, can't qualify as amenable to civil engineering preparednesses. For those, some sort of non-preparation seems if not necessary, certainly justifiable.

My greatest shortcoming as a project manager was always my lack of prescience.

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DreckNology

captcha
"These are clubs I might be wise to decline every opportunity to join."

My friends host podcasts, but the technology supporting those baffles me. I sometimes think that I really should offer an audio version of my daily musings, but the gauntlet of interfaces separating me from that end reliably chases me off again. Somewhere in that chain, I encounter a Captcha barricade and I cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm supposed to be matching. They want a Pastword, too, and while they offer to allow me to reset forgotten Pastwords, that process, too, proves impassable. I experience technological damned-whatever-I-Do until I construe what seems their underlying intent. Perhaps they're paid for attempts to scale the ramparts rather than by whatever they dangle as possible inside. It's all hidden behind crude sophistications that leave me questioning just how smart our overlording technologists might not be. Nobody ever once designed an interface with me in mind.

I don't mind, or not that much.

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SnowingIn

SnowingIn
"Lord knows this world could use some concerted frittering today."

The weather reporter seems to imply that I should consider panicking. I'm not panicking, though. I know that this storm will most certainly threaten my precious mobility, but it encourages me to reconsider just where I thought I was supposed to be going from here. A lengthening list of sudden imperatives intrudes upon my serenity, but the increasing impossibility of resolving even the least of them quietly thwarts those wants. None of them fully qualified as needs and I decline a clear opportunity to become ruled by whatever I believe myself to need. What if I needed nothing more than what already possesses me in this very moment? Invulnerable to any supplemental advertising, I might revel in some temporary semi-self-sufficiency.

The snowplow plies the roadway outside, piling freshly soiled snow berms across the driveway entrance.

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BreakingIn

BreakingIn
"At least I was used to them."

Our new cat slinks around the place like a sneak thief or spy. I fancy that I understand why, for I, myself, never qualified as resilient when encountering change. I tell myself, and rather over-proudly, that I carry an extreme form of context sensitivity such that I become a very different person when I'm immersed into a different place. I could be the poster child for Heraclitus' old saw about the same old thing being different in different places. As a child, when press-ganged into visiting my aunt's family in Southern California, I'd usually hold out for two or three days before finally consenting to eat anything there. Even familiar old milk tasted different, and not better different. I could even hold out on using the bathroom until my parents would finally resort to force feeding me into restarting my essential life systems. I empathize with the new cat. How utterly strange everything must seem to him.

We imagine that holding him will soothe him rather than ourselves, but he flees behind the couch when unattended, batting idly at curtain strings, peeking around the corner until we sing out another intended-to-be welcoming greeting.

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Pending

Pending
"I, too, am my father's son, and he could not fix much of anything at all."

I sit between storms this morning. Snow still covers the ground from that last one and the weather app warns of worse than that last one to come. Pending seems a perpetual state in these mid-latitudes. Living here yields a life spent somewhere in-between. When will that next storm arrive? There's always a next front just over the horizon. Will it come from the north, west, south, or, that most dreaded of all directions here, the east? Storms from the east seem to violate the first principle of western weather, which almost always travels on the eastbound train. When a counter-clockwise flow kicks in, though, it means heavy wintertime snow or battering summertime thunderstorms. Winter gets called for a day or two of spring before resuming its seasonal status quo again. Summer snow's not unknown. Like everywhere, the locals here proudly proclaim that if the current weather doesn't suit you, just wait a minute or two and another climate might just pass through. It's high desert with seasonal monsoons, crazier than a flock of schizophrenic loons.

Snow serves as the iconic image for all of Colorado, though peaks, let alone snow-capped peaks, do not cover most of the state's surface.

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Insubstantial

insubstantial
"The considerable spaces between molecules far out-measure the span of substances themselves …"

It first seemed as Insubstantial as pollen. I had to squint to see it at all. Even then, I felt uncertain whether I should trust my vision. I'd been fooled before, moonlight casting a convincing illusion of snow, though I was prompted by the weather report to believe a real dumper was coming. Even when I stepped outside, I simply could not tell for sure whether it was really snowing or just blowing around a little freezing fog. I stopped watching, focusing my attention on my inside chores instead, and shocked myself an hour later when I found the start of substance accumulating outside. The onslaught continued into the night, finally sticking to road surfaces around sunset. I'd check from time to time, still unable to tell if it was really snowing out there, whisps of blowing snow coming off the roof edge my only intermittent clue in the porch light backlit by darkest night. The ten o'clock news reported that the freeway was shut down for the twenty miles West of us, cars and trucks spun out in what so recently lacked any substance at all.

The next morning, the deck seemed knee deep in this so recently tenaciously insubstantial substance, a genuine undeniable presence by then.

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Homing ...

Homing
"Family catches up with us, not the other way around."

Homing pigeons have nothing on me, or on any of us. A serviceable homer might reliably return to a familiar place, but people can return to places they've never been to before. Home moves like a spinning kaleidoscope for us, vectoring overlays, a twisting Venn diagram casting a wide variety of shadows. Our home seems like a mobile home, unlike the old home place which passed out of the family after my mom sold off the back forty to the neighbor with the perennially remodeling house, the shabbiest place on the block, clear evidence that she was vacating her once prominent good judgement. Before, family would gather there and feel as though we were home. After, our previous concept of home shifted and still refuses to settle.

Home seems more concept than place now, contingent upon who's present more than where we congregate.

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PTBD

550px-The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Bosch_High_Resolution
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights,
oil on oak panels, 205.5 cm × 384.9 cm (81 in × 152 in), Museo del Prado, Madrid
"I seem to be better able to recognize blessings in retrospect."

Trauma seems the most modern of disorders. Everyone I meet seems to be working hard to recover from some past experience. Unsurprisingly, most of these prior traumatic experiences lean toward the painful side of the ledger, but not all. A curious portion of these traumatic experiences seem to have been more closely associated with pleasure than with pain. While the painful ones grab the bulk of the headline space, I thought I'd today reserve a little place to speak about the other, less widely advertised ones, those traumas resulting from a surfeit of blessings, good fortune, or luck. I can speak for myself when I insist that my most difficult to recover from traumas came about because I experienced an unaccustomed stream of extremely good luck. I'd been seemingly bred for coping with negative outcomes, but found myself utterly unprepared to integrate dream-come-true quality experiences. I most often created some uproar in response, upsetting some otherwise perfect little applecart, which enabled me to quite cheerfully switch into a minor form of disaster recovery mode, a response I might refer to as PTBD or Post Traumatic Blessing Disorder.

Literature seems woefully ill-prepared to present portraits of prolonged happiness, reserving the happily ever after for a footnote very near the end of an otherwise disastrous tale.

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GreatSignificance

michelangelo-creation-of-adam
"Whether any of this amounts to anything at all, couldn't possibly be the point."

I try to imagine myself accomplishing things of GreatSignificance, though I usually struggle with my attempts. GreatSignificances only emerge from great distances, it seems, and almost never from up closes and personals. Later, perhaps much, much later, the parsing might resolve to highlight just how terribly important that by then long-distance event was. It might be important to acknowledge that in the actual moment of occurrence, its GreatSignificance had yet to emerge, however much any participant might have sensed its presence then. Within the larger scale of history, most current events resolve to fuss, perhaps fuss with feathers flying, but little more than fuss. I suspect that any odd second might spawn the greatest event in the history of our universe, but it probably won't.

I'm picky, anyway, sincerely believing that I might pick and thereby choose the activities destined to age into a legacy of personal greatness.

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BigDeal

BigDeal
"If I'm not feeling overwhelmed, I'm never feeling very much at all."

I'm at my best when under the thrall of some BIG, hairy, audacious something. I might be able to limp along with some molehill conflated into a mountain, but my mileage soon lags as if I were dragging along rather than leading any charge. I find my best resources when I'm almost convinced that I couldn't possibly access enough to satisfy the situation before me. Furthermore, I seem to need to really, really, really want some likely impossibility before I ever come close to discovering what I'm capable of producing. I initiate none of these pursuits confident of my ability to achieve closure, quite the opposite. The pall of probable failure must accompany me almost every step of the way. I might conclude my work uncertain if I actually crested the originally-envisioned peak, but for the duration of the effort, I will feel curiously compelled. I might conclude afterwards that my efforts were never really about achieving anything, but more about the heart-filled pursuit.

It doesn't work to make a BIG deal out of some obvious triviality.

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HollowSpace

hollowspaces
"No will in the universe countermand's any season's commands."

A glance out the front window into the predawn darkness convinced me that a thin dusting of snow had fallen overnight. Stepping outside, I saw that moonlight had created an optical illusion. No snow had fallen. This morning, I told myself that I would not be fooled again when I glanced through that same front window, then I stepped outside to find a light dusting of snow and no moon. The neighborhood, and by extension the whole world, seemed hollow inside, as if I live within a snow globe's confines with no possible escape route. I felt hollow inside, too, a recursion befitting the season. Septober's definitely over, Octember's clearly begun.

I'd pruned out the wildflower garden in my shirtsleeves the afternoon before, absorbing warmth from the late day sun.

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Conflating

conflating
"My weaknesses could be my greatest strengths in unlikely guise."

Conflating doesn't have to mean mistaking one thing for another. Congruent conflating means nothing more sinister than combining two separate entities to produce an integrated new whole. Incongruent conflating, though, juggles apples and oranges while imagining them the same because they both travel beneath the ambiguous flag of fruit. Add a tomato into this conflation, and a logical fallacy might become more obvious, since most of us know but cannot quite accept that tomatoes are fruits rather than vegetables. Conflations seem to say much about how one parses their world. Insanity involves employing differing parsing strategies. So does genius. Seeing similarities between traditionally divisive distinctions can create harmony or great discord. Jesus is said to have insisted that he would see the unapologetic sinner on an adjacent cross in paradise. His conflation of sinner and penitent might have blown up the distinction between good and evil. He claimed that all humans are sinners. How do we tell the good guys from the bad one, then? Hat color? Religious turmoil persists.

Conflating has become a growth industry.

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AfterEffects

AfterEffects
"How else could any of us deal with the volume of accumulating AfterEffects we inherit?"

We talk about effects, but might be more deeply affected by AfterEffects, those unanticipated externalities closure brings. AfterEffects delay that expected closure, sometimes permanently. Long after "completing" the race, the race somehow continues in the complaining of a suddenly and surprisingly bum knee where there was never before any bum knee. The race continually haunts, threatening permanent disability. My two weeks spent devotionally kneeling before my great wall refurbishing project left a little knee stiffness behind after I'd finished my extended display of agility up and down the scaffolding. I thought little of it at the time, as though it might prove to be little more than a mildly bruised ligament or less. It's been over ten days now and the discomfort seems greater now than it did when I'd just concluded. I wonder if I've deluded myself again.

This bum knee encouraged me to think about all the AfterEffect externalities I carry with me.

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Reassurances

reassurances
"We need more critics about as much as we need another alarming increase in greenhouse gasses."

I believe that reassurance must be the primary responsibility of primary educators. I'm not suggesting that reading, writing, or even 'rhythmatic should disappear from the curriculum, just that Reassurances seem an essential precedent to successfully learning anything. The ever-popular whip and chair techniques only scare students into attempting compliance. The result might well seem wooden and tentative, lacking supporting self-confidence instilled first by means of repeated Reassurances. For those concerned that prominently focusing upon reassuring might produce snowflake students, so emotionally dependent upon supportive stories that they lack the callouses necessary to get along in life, I turn a scoffing cheek. Those who rarely receive reassurances turn into the most emotionally needy, callouses and all, if only because they ARE emotionally needy thanks to the severe shortage of Reassurances in their lives.

I was always afraid of my teachers, and almost terrified of learning.

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Slurvey

"You're doing just about as well as anyone could reasonably expect, given the circumstances."

I visited my nurse practitioner last week, so I could hardly feign surprise when the easily anticipated customer satisfaction survey showed up in my message queue. My first thought insisted that I should just delete that sucker before it spread, but I felt too lazy for such decisive action then. I this morning decided to just open up the link to discover if anything there might prompt me to respond. I was pleased to find that this survey had been designed as I believe all surveys really should be designed. I could respond to any question by not registering a response to that question, a critically important feature of any useful survey, lest the designer's presumption that their target might provide useful information to any question doom the potential relevance of the whole danged instrument. I usually peruse these damned things before deleting, if I even peruse first, but this time I decided to duck through the small gauntlet of questions by not responding to any of them before completing the two designated optional boxes at the end. I told them who I was and how they might contact me, then slammed the enter key (which, predictably, exited me from that domain.)

I despise surveys because they almost always ask the wrong questions, and sometimes fail to even successfully present a single wrong question, but simply irrelevant ones.

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Playoffs

Playoffs
"I know that it's never over until it's over …"

By mid-October, even the very best major league baseball team has been running on fumes for at least a month. Whichever team embodied invulnerability through August, starts showing some cracks. A key player or two show up on the disabled list and the play-by-play commentary starts leaning toward the team that was rather than the team remaining on the field. Playoffs seem like a Special Olympics for professionals by then more capable of delivering winces than clutch hits. Games become excruciatingly tedious as recently reliable pitchers revert back to their pre-season performance levels and batters watch pitches repeatedly wiz almost over the plate. Some games see almost no scoring, so-called small ball, where strikeouts and short flies dominate what hardly passes for play. Other games turn into stumble sessions defined by errors and misjudgments. The two teams surviving this final gauntlet, one from each league, are deemed proven prepared for one final best of seven game face-off, one of which might be called due to snow.

Players show up wearing cowls and layers, and balls fly about as well as rocks.

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Nevermore

Nevermore

"Why, I wonder, has it taken so very many words to report that no words visited me today?"

What if, I wondered as I slinked down into my writer's chair this morning, I find nothing to write about today? I peeked back through the last three years of material I'd written on this date and found it good. I scrolled back through the prior couple of weeks' stuff and stumbled away impressed (if I do say so myself), but what if this morning brought the day when I found nothing remaining worth saying anything about? What if? I've seemingly invested so much of what I've grown to believe represents me being here that I fear a vacuum might make me disappear. It would be as if my recurrent delusions of invisibility had come to fruition, that my walking could no longer produce footprints, as if the shrubbery no longer whispered with my passage. I wouldn't even be a ghostwriter then, perhaps not even a ghost.

I received in my email this morning a request to connect with a fellow on LinkedIn.

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ArmchairPhilosophy

armchairphilosophy
" … nobody ever really pays the slightest attention to philosophers …"

I hold the opinion that there's no such thing as a comfortable chair and that the belief that there could be such a thing has become a burden to mankind. I freely admit that I possess a deep aversion to furniture in general, particularly to the purchase of it in any form, though I do allow inheritance as the sole proper means for acquiring it. The Muse and I own a remarkably mismatched furniture inventory. Different ages, styles, colors, and concepts combine to exude an otherwise unattainable Early Undergraduate ambiance. Each chair stands as a unique form of torture, with each most certainly its own form of torture. Oh, one might just seem comfortable upon first sit, but try staying put for a half hour. I simply cannot. I can perch for a few fleeting moments before something seems terribly awry and I simply must move myself somewhere else.

I've grown to prefer sprawling on the floor when I watch television.

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AntiSocialism

AntiSocialism
"In any contest between social and anti-social, I choose the social, even if some wag attaches a misleading -ism to the tail end of it."

We live in an era of rampant paradox. I wager that nobody understands a single slogan, yet we speak almost exclusively in slogans. We interact via a medium euphemistically referred to as Social Media, a place where anti-social speech seems expected and surprises nobody, not even those it shocks. In politics, we argue as if every issue were all or nothing and as if moderation rather than extremism was the greatest crime of our time. Trump employs the most offensive speech for those he derisively refers to as socialists, offering a clear choice, I guess, between social and anti-social candidates, with him embodying the latter. His strategy seems to rely upon confusion as its primary enlightening element, betting that he can persuade more voters with provable bullshit than his more social opponents ever can with simple truths. Truth, in his crude calculus, is socialism, pure and simple, and socialism, by definition supported by flurries of out-of-context references to obscure discredited economists, seems to be evil. Truth is thereby proven to be evil. How could it be otherwise?

I will not mention the most "socialistic" government program ever devised, the Oil Depletion Allowance, the original tax-everybody-to-subsidize-the-richest operation, and perhaps the most socially ruinous, vehemently defended by the most self-proclaimed conservative and anti-social voices.

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OilyBoyds

OilyBoyds
"Just who could I think of myself as being otherwise?"

Back in the days when high speed Internet access was scarce, I took to writing at Starbucks when away from home. I'd arrive when they opened at five am, and settle in to write at a front table looking out on a deserted street while conversation from across the shop grew increasingly loud and occasionally annoying. I'd slip in and out of my writing coma, barely aware of my surroundings. An hour or so later, I'd finish up, surprised at just how bustling the place had become. The early arrivers seemed to invariably be older men. Their conversation an unsurprising mix of sports, politics, and local gossip. They seemed insular, a self-contained little society, probably life-long friends. They seemed to be on a first name basis with the counter help. I seemed hardly a shadow there, myself.

As I've grown older, I feel a growing compulsion to get up and out early in the same way as a younger me might have felt compelled to go out in the evening to mingle with crowds.

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TheEllWord

IMG_4381
Before
Painting by D. Wilder Schmaltz, May 2001
IMG_4373
After
Photograph of the same place, October 2019
"True love doesn't guarantee a happy ending, but a more engaging life."

A friend asked me why I went to all the trouble of scraping and repainting the front of our house and I surprised myself a little bit by responding with, "Love," but I couldn't honestly explain my effort in any other way. I feel a devotion to that place, a deep sense of stewardship that might not make any sense to anyone else, but which makes perfect sense to me. Over the nearly twenty years that The Muse and I have owned the place, it's taken up a great deal of space in my heart. I might, by all rights, hate the place by now. It can be overwhelmingly needy. It's proved me the fool so many times that I by all rights should be reduced to drooling my dinner down my shirtfront. Worse, we've lived away from it longer than we've lived IN it. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

It keeps calling me back.

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TranSitIon

TranSiTion
"I have no idea what comes next …"

The early flight out of Walla Walla departs at 5:15 AM. I wake myself at 2:30 to watch my alarm clock tick down to my scheduled wake-up time. I'm out the door before a quarter to four, struggling with my brother-in-law suitcase over-stuffed with leftover tools and work clothes. I call that suitcase my brother-in-law because dragging it around feels like I've brought a clumsy, indecisive shirt-tail relative along. I find a conspicuous spot to ditch the step=son's enormous truck and lock the keys inside, then schlepp my baggage into the terminal. Small town airport check-ins lean toward the informal until trying to pass through Insecurity, which seems over-staffed with a half dozen unbelievably busy agents hovering around the process. I'm almost first in line, but still spend fifteen minutes while two agents pour through my knapsack's contents, which I know includes at least two illegal items which I should have sequestered into a separate plastic baggie. I've carried that nasal spray and those eye drops through Insecurity for over ten years and never been busted. They ineptly reorganize everything before passing the bag back to me, curiously handing over my car key and a flash drive separately. The couple behind me receive similar scrutiny.

The airplane looks like a preying mantis, ungainly in the pre-dawn squall, the inside miniaturized.

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FiguringGround

FiguringGround
" … even if that hero only ever existed in my own mind."

I ask myself, "What am I to make of that?" because my experiences seem unendingly ambiguous. Was that a last result a blessing or a curse, or even worse? I never can tell for certain, so I face some choices. By what criteria might I judge an outcome, each of which seem to serve as a set-up for some subsequent experience in a seeming never-ending chain? Today's delay might later prove to have more properly positioned me in ways that an on-time arrival could not possibly have. Today's disappointment might well become tomorrow's godsend. Today's blessing, next week's curse. It's even worse than simple either/or. Though the patterns seem to replicate, none of any of this has ever happened before. We are the pointy end of a very long stick. We clearly perceive neither our origin or our destination.

Two weeks of intermittent effort seems to have produced an array of changes.

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Dreader

dread
" … no easy mark for all the voices that shriek through the dark."

Some seem to exude confidence. I inhabit the other end of that scale. I exude dread. I don't envision worst possible scenarios because I'm confused by the concept of worst, but I only very rarely anticipate anything turning out right. Any impending event can send my imagination spiraling into likely complications. I tend as a result to enter well-prepared for what only very rarely ever occurs, and no amount of contrary positive experience has (yet) drained me of my preternatural dreadiness. Any fresh challenge, every freaking aspiration sends me crouching into the experience. My current refurbishing project serves as a fine case in point. I fuss the finer points, sure, and also natter over the larger ones, too. My head grumbles like a zoo just before feeding time.

Am I a man of little faith?

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Workitation

workitation
"Those without long, unforgiving rows to hoe might not ever come to know …"

Plumbers work with their mouths closed. Some work demands taciturn incumbents. Long incommunicado hours foster a rich internal world. Ear worm jingles give way to recollection and quiet consideration and a kind of meditation sets in. Endless uncountable hours spent in repetitive motion does not degrade the craftsman, but seems to elevate him instead. He's not so much working as workitating, as immersed in his experience as any cloistered monk might be within his. Time loses relevance. Aching joints shed their significance. Authentic transcendence settles over the job site. Phone calls seem to come from other dimensions. Removing gloves to answer disrupts the trance, if the ringing even penetrates the serene flowing bubble. I might not be home then, anyway.

Judgement seems to sharpen within this flow.

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Yretsam

MirroredMastery
"I didn't know how to tell him that my paint choice had almost nothing to do with the end result."

I suspect that every social scientist suffers from Maslow Envy. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which presumed to delineate a set of sequential stages necessary to achieve self actualization, reverberates as perhaps the foundational presumption of most every social science. The nagging fact that it's probably wrong notwithstanding, it provides a clean and convenient framework within which to consider otherwise terribly fuzzy concepts. The fact that it's irreducible, remarkably impervious to scientific proof, only makes it more powerful. If only I could concoct such a foundational model rather than run down one that just seems so right to so very many. I'm not even a social scientist, yet I admit to carrying my fair share of Maslow Envy, too.

Back when I was still an active consultant, I employed models to impart concepts I thought my clients might find useful. Some actually proved useful

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WrestOrRant

smallplates
"I'd really prefer to depart with something other than notching in my belt on my mind."

One phrase strikes terror into my soul: Small Plates. Tapas run a close second place. I never know these days what I'll find when I step into restaurant or diner. Dinner might await me there, but it seems increasingly likely that I'll find little more than a feast fit only for a Barbie® doll and her friends. The menu might not describe the portion size, misleading my mind into believing that just because it promises roasted winter veg that they won't come reduced to a meager puddle almost obscuring the three (count 'em, three) halved fingerling potatoes vainly trying to avoid suffocation. The lamb chop up top, so encrusted with heirloom herbs and crap that it appears to have been a stillborn mistake from a faulty EZBake oven in the back. I'm still hungry just looking at it, the plate that would be supper. I'm still hungry after, so I order another consoling beer and ask the waiter to bring me a pile of fries like that woman's plate over there. He does not charge me for this supplement to my meager supper.

Restaurant has come to mean, loosely translated from the original French, "leave hungry."

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MissedAppropriation

MissedAppropriation
"I might most vehemently defend what was never really there at all."

We seem to hold many fallacies as self-evident truths. Even those who preach against the likelihood of physical evolution seem to hold social evolution as unimpeachable truth. We might not be descended from monkeys, but some (most prominently, themselves) sure seem clearly superior to others. They might even cite some behavioral psychology experiment performed on birds or dogs to justify human behavior, shrugging in acquiescence to what they might firmly believe to be immutable scientific fact while quietly discounting a raft of conflicting experimental results. They defend social status quos as god-given and progressive-minded change as the devil's own handiwork. I suppose, given random, entropy-infused experience, humans simply must project some sort of reassuring patterns onto the screen. Our projections seem drawn from simple models, side-stepping the more physically common exponential and logarithmic progressions, preferring straight-line addition of two and two over anticipating any point on a wave or curve. We fill ourselves with these fantasies and they quickly become our baseline realities.

What are we supposed to believe, anyway?

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Hard(ly)Work(ing)

HardlyWorking
"I am a man because I harbor such delusions."

My Puritan forebears would today easily be classified as masochists. They prayed hard, sure, but they worked harder, and not exclusively for the glory of any God here on Earth, but for the glory of the real estate speculators who'd financed their incursion. They arrived at Plymouth deeply indentured, beneath the yoke of powerful financial interests with the ear of the king. Their's was a speculative endeavor, certainly no sure thing. They'd traded a settled existence for an unimaginably primitive one, the sobering yoke of great debt perhaps most prominent on their shoulders. Many didn't make it. I might reasonably insist that only their myths survived.

Their myth intertwined piety with hard work, self-sacrifice in pursuit of so-called higher ends.

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IdlingTime

IdleTime

"The end, a terminal condition where IdlingTime starts threatening me again"

Forget the Chinese Water Torture. Ten years at hard labor? Kid stuff! If you want to inflict maximum punishment, mete out a sentence of a hard week of forced idleness. Prevent the convict from breaking big rocks into little ones. Set him in an isolation cell with nobody to tell him to do anything at all. Treat him as if he was not there and he'll more than disappear. Forced IdlingTime takes away even the more engaging mind. Force me to take a week reclining on a sunny sugar-sand beach and I swear that I'll go bat-shit crazy for you. Take away my keyboard. Rain me out for two mornings in a row and I already know where I'll go. I'll try to escape into sleep, but sleep won't come then. I'll look for a place to lie down, then watch my mind spin without engaging any flywheel. I'll burn my whole tank of gas without leaving anything behind to show that I was even there. True desperation.

I do not find vacation time rewarding.

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PickEmUp

pickemup
" … fifteen hundred pounds hauling a bedload of air and leaves blown in there late last autumn."

I possess no more than glancing knowledge of PickEmUp trucks. For me, they serve as an annoying presence on the road. They goad me from behind before leaving me in their dust and coal smoke. I've borrowed my share from brothers-in-law to haul the odd load of yard prunings or to move a few bed-fulls of grape skin mulch from a winery, but always with an alien's eye, the driver's seat too impossibly high a perch. The steering wheel positioned inconveniently right between my eye and the windshield, a patina of dust and grit priming dashboard and jockey box. I'd crawl between destinations feeling as though I was piloting The Queen Mary through narrow channels, the turning radius of a mile-long coal train, gun rack in the back window.

These ungainly vehicles have become an unlikely symbol of masculinity.

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RainedIn

cancelled
"What else was life supposed to be besides a series of clever recoveries from the way it was supposed to be?"

The chairs still sat atop the tables with lights still low when I showed up at 'my' Starbucks to write this morning, so I decided to try the truck stop instead. I found a welcoming wi-fi signal there, and an atmosphere much more conducive to pursuing my intention. No soundtrack blaring. No deaf regular screaming everything he says. No altogether too high-test decaf to jangle my spirit. As quiet as a library. My huge DIY project looks like it will be delayed today, with weather reports increasingly agreeing that today and likely tomorrow, too, will be rained out. Baseball games still get rained out. Sometimes schools close when the snow flies. Flights might get delayed or cancelled when threatening weather settles in, but most activities continue as if invulnerable to any kind of vagary.

Where might a person find a reliable source of disruption for their plans if not even a rainstorm can get much cancelled?

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MindlessEffort

MrMachineManual-7
"My name is Mr. Machine!"

Once I've laid out the job, my mind starts reducing it, influenced, I suspect, by The Principles of Scientific Management I've so long reviled. I am not, I insist, a machine, except, of course, when I willingly assume the role of machine while in pursuit of completing some repetitive series of tasks. Then, I'm actively searching for movements I might reasonably eliminate, seeking a pattern of least resistance, creating a simplified set of repetitive motions of the sort which might well leave behind permanent damage. I willingly, enthusiastically become a machine. The jingle from that sixties toy commercial endlessly echoes through my head: "Here he comes, here he comes, when you see him, you'd better run 'cause his name is Mr. Machine." I am become not light, not a force for goodness and right in this world, but a genuine machine.

My mind feels perfectly satisfied with my self-appointed role.

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ExpertAdvice

expertadvice
The Conjurer, 1475–1480, by Hieronymus Bosch or his workshop.
"Another spare ounce of budding expertise standing in for a ton of actual skill."

Experts tell others stuff, exercising cheeky presumptions that the advice seeker cannot validate. Some of the stuff they share seems unlikely to the point of unbelievable, but then the more complicated human activities have always seemed counter-intuitive. Charlatan experts abound. There are probably already a hot half dozen YouTube videos posted on whatever subject you need, ready, and perhaps a tad too willing to offer "good advice," each of which kind of contradicts every other, worth every penny any novice might not agree to pay for it. Real expertise seems different from the phony kind, though, and as I began yet another semi-massive Do It Yourself project, I decided to engage in the one way most seriously dedicated DIYers never would, I consulted a genuine expert.

I had reason to believe that my expert was of the genuine variety.

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Trabbeling

trabbeling

"Do not for a minute envy my mobility."

The Muse and I find ourselves Trabbeling again. Merriam-Webster defines Trabbeling as a common variant of the more common traveling, and while a variant, the term seems to better impart what I experience. The Muse Trabbels all the time these days, so her mileage varies considerably from mine. I once lived on airlines, weighted down by so many frequent flier miles that they had to seat me way up front so as to counterbalance most of the rest of the load. Then, I was a fearless flier, unruffled by turbulence normal or exceptional. Now, I've matured into more or less a complete ninny.

I presume that an airline reservation will probably fly me into the valley of the shadow of death, so I consider flying anywhere a reminder of my inescapable fallibility.

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Septober

Septober
"If I can't own up to the inescapable fact that I started out all wrong again,
I will never make anything right."

This morning dawned grey and gloomy. Septober arrived with her usual mope. Autumn never has qualified as even the second runner-up in The Hopeful Seasons Pageant, a little too much goose flesh showing during the Catalina Swimsuit portion of the competition, I suspect. We know where Septober's going. In with a mumble and then out with a slam. It signals the start of a season featuring thick socks, slamming doors, and serious preparations for another overlong hibernation. We should feel cranky when considering this nap time.

The Muse and I head out early tomorrow morning for yet another extended absence from the Villa Vatta Schmaltz High, this time to try to refinish the front of the original Villa Vatta Schmaltz before Septober suspends outside work for another year.

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