#PureSchmaltz

If-ification

Classification
"… maybe next week will turn into being all about doing for a change."

Friday arrives again, time to look back over the past week to see what might be derived from the last seven days of PureSchmaltz' GlancingKnows. It was a tumultuous week for me, for this week my writing finally found an identity, an If-ification. I'd persisted in producing—going on ten manuscripts over the prior two and a half years—without possessing a crisp response to the apparently fundamental question: "What sort of books do you write?" I'd tried a string of cute, generally self-effacing responses, but to little benefit and perhaps inflicting some harm, but a precise classification had eluded me. Those who know would innocently ask what my works were similar to, an impossible question for any author to answer. I only manage to read three books per week, so my bibliography seems pretty thin. I do not have access to the population of potential comparable works.

Part of my difficulty seemed rooted in the great variety of classes from which to choose, which the existence of most I remain unaware.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchlockyEditing

schlockyediting
"Maybe I should be grateful that it seems to slow down this progression."

If I can write a book in three months, how long should it take me to edit the resulting manuscript? The correct answer turns out to be 'a lot longer than three months.' I don't know precisely how much longer, but it's definitely longer. Once completed, the editing shows that the first draft was pretty close to finish-quality from the outset, hardly more than moving the occasional dangling modifier or correcting the usual 'that' in lieu of an intended 'than.' The effort falls far short of any contemporary understanding of what constitutes work, yet it takes a very long time for me to complete it. Between compiling the pieces, properly formatting them, printing them out, reading and marking up, updating the original soft copy, then distilling into a fresh copyedited work, months might pass, much of the time spent procrastinating from the task at hand. Procrastination constitutes at least ninety percent of the effort, and it's by far the most exhausting and depleting part.

The chief difficulty lies in the inescapable fact that I'm one Schlocky editor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dawning

Dawning
"Neither of us will wear western-cut slacks or string ties."

The sun seems a son of Kansas. It crawls across the sky, casting shadows for a living, before retiring to California. I know altogether too much to believably spin fresh creation myths, though I swear that I could use a few. Maybe we all could. Once I know better, I don't seem to imagine better. I adopt my reality and pretty much stick with it, no matter how poorly it serves my vitality. I feel attracted to the idea that the sun hails from Kansas, just another exported offspring of that windy weed patch of a place. I like the idea that it retires to California to wear western-cut slacks and sport a string tie, and drive a 1953 Ford station wagon with clothes pins on the fuel line.

The magpies serve as the most viable community in my neighborhood.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Literally...

literally
Andre Derain - Three Trees, 1906
"I'm mostly focused upon the quality of your story …"

I suppose I should affix a little warning "Do not interpret any of the following Literally" on everything I write. I'm no journalist and never really aspired to become one. I do not trade in objective facts but subjective description. I appreciate that this convention relies upon my readers to perform some cursory interpretation, especially if they're expecting just the facts, but so be it. Fix those expectations first. I do not have access to the facts, and even if I did, I'm experienced enough to understand that I can't usually combine facts to produce a decent punchline. I'm not dealing in fake news. I'm not dealing in news at all. My purpose lies closer to attempting to induce insight more than knowledge, enjoyment more than education, and perspective more than acuity. Some truths lie more deeply than any fact. Some facts materially misrepresent experience.

Writing seems most often about inducing a felt sense.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Snidely

snidely
"I'm always free to interpret a tad more generously …"

I remain surprised by how quickly even animals jump to conclusions about others. People seem infamous for our ability to conclude with almost no supporting evidence. The merest glance informs many of our actions, often resulting in anything but equal opposing reactions. Even I frequently jump first and only rarely ask questions after because my reaction seemed to need nothing more than the barest supporting evidence, if even that. I have no idea how often I'm wrong because I only very rarely find reason to second guess my instantaneously drawn conclusions. They imprint immediately and persist in spite of refuting evidence or experience. The GlancingKnow behaves as if it actually does know all.

I suppose that this facility results in certain efficiencies, but evolution never was an efficiency-seeking undertaking.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DoubleStock

doublestock
" … nectar only fully appreciable by gods."

The Muse and I must own almost a dozen stock pots. These range from huge to mid-sized, and we regularly, as in weekly, use about half of them. We employ them for more than making stock, but we make a lot of stock. Every blessed bit of veg trim goes into an ever-burgeoning baggy in the freezer. Same with meat trim, leftover bones, and even over-ripe fruit. About a quarter of the kitchen freezer always seems filled with bits awaiting transformation in a stock pot. It doesn't ever take much material: a chicken carcass or two, a couple of quarts of veg bits, a few herbs and spices, water, heat, and time, and I'm making stock again. I might make up a small batch just for a single dish, but I most often roast up larger batches for pressure canning and longer-term use. Replacing stock when a recipe calls for water dramatically improves the resulting dish. We're stock people.

I could not seem to learn how to make delicate stock like consumme, and not only because delicate dishes do not please my palate.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Weighting

Weighting
Norman Rockwell Visits a Ration Board, Norman Rockwell, 1944, The Saturday Evening Post

"I'll probably never learn."

The queue seems endless, progressing painfully slowly. I'm suddenly uncertain what brought me here. If I expected service, I know for sure that I have not found it yet or it has not yet found me. The system might have been designed to extract blood as a prerequisite for being allowed to donate blood. I feel like a shriveling turnip, but I will not leave. Once in line, and once hemmed in on either side, I hold territory which seems to need defending. I will not surrender, no matter how inconvenienced I feel. I hold a waning faith, but still some small potential for grace, a hope with most of its shine dulled to buff. I've already had enough but I will not be shouting "Uncle!" just yet, if ever. Probably never!

Some waits weigh more heavily than others.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

PreparationPrep
"The dinner, like my GlancingKnow Story week beside it, came off like a dream …"

The Muse and I tend to spend the week before any holiday in preparation. The key to holiday satisfaction seems to be paved with Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. We need to secure little nit-picky items like Pomegranate Molasses as well as the over-sized fowl. The Muse takes the lead preparing for Thanksgiving, for she follows recipes and respects her food heritage enough to try to recreate it for holidays. I try to support her efforts by washing pots and pans AND my presence seems to throw off her rhythm, just as her presence in my prep kitchen throws off mine. She maintains a backward sink discipline to mine, for instance, as she insists on putting her dirty dishes into the clean dish sink and vice versa. She blocks off access to the disposal and completely complicates any attempt I might make to assist, as I simply must clean up her organization before I can help clean up her pots and pans, and my reorganizing her organization throws hers into arrhythmia. I'm forever walking on some tacit plot line she's following and so I eventually retreat to the further corners of the Villa and let her have her way. I justify this by saying to myself that I carry the bulk of the prep work on ferial days, so she can carry that weight on festal ones.

Last week, I started a fresh tradition, one with no cobwebs on it yet, the practice of briefly summarizing the prior week's postings.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LearningToPlay

LearningToPlay
Baby at Play by Thomas Eakins,1876, National Gallery of Art
" … we're still managing the odd, awkward, occasional pet and heart-melting purring."

Molly spent her first few days with us cowering in the furthest back corner of the most remote room in the house, the cold and drafty room at the very end of the ductwork. I'd crawl back in there to point my finger at her nose while she eyed me sullenly at first, then suspiciously, occasionally permitting me to touch her head, sometimes even submitting to a seemingly welcome neck scratching which usually ended with her startling out of her budding delight before administering a scratching swipe and trying to take a bite out of the hand that had just been stroking her. She seemed sullen in the shelter before we'd brought her here and after hearing her life story from her caretaker there, I concluded that she'd earned her sour mood in the oldest of old fashioned ways. She could still technically pass for a kitten, though I doubted if she'd ever spent a day or even an odd morning at play. Her feral parents taught her what they could, a strong sense of self combined with powerful defensive survival skills, but between being trapped, neutered, ill and recovering from what I understood to have been two bouts of serious feral diseases, she'd apparently never learned to play.

I know, LearningToPlay seems the most oxymoronic of phrases, for play seems as though it really should be more spontaneous than learned, and needing to learn it seems at best likely to result in some wooden analogue of the genuine McCoy.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GivenIn

acquiesce
"I suppose that I'll need to be generous toward myself; not giving up, but GivenIn for now."

I arose early thinking that I would head right out to scrape off the overnight snowfall, but the snow still fell at a forty-five degree angle and the back deck drift looked close to two feet deep. I can't really tell in the dark, but my intentions conflicted with one of my more deeply-held convictions: one should never start shoving snow until the snow has pretty much petered out. This snowfall showed no signs of petering anytime soon. I peeked out the front and found our two step entryway an alabaster impressionistic sculpture of its usual self; a Brancusi, perhaps, concrete smoothed and implacable. Arming myself with my snow shovel against this monster would be worse than a soldier heading into battle armed with a twig. I'd have to sit and watch.

My acquiescence came easily, perhaps too easily for my Take Charge snow day attitude.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Impending

impending
"I know no company will come."

A giddiness takes over the place. Even Max The Ever-Curious Kitten senses it. Something's up, or, more properly, almost up. Everything appears perfectly normal as of this moment, perfectly normal and also odd. I know, though the sky hasn't started showing any sign yet, that a snowstorm's been moving in our direction for the last couple of days. It's slated to hit this evening, so this day already carries a last day aura, as if it offers a final chance or two. By this time tomorrow, travel will have become difficult to perhaps impossible. A gallon of milk might just as well sit on Alpha Centauri as on the shelf of the village inconvenience mart; both will become equally inaccessible by then. My mind races trying to remember what I need to do before, because there will be no doing after this storm hits.

Of course there will still be doing then, but this Impending upends my sense of continuity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchlemielTime

GimpelTheFool-970x710

A portion of the cover art from a 1957 edition of Gimpel The Fool, a short story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Saul Bellow: Noonday Press

"A well-stocked larder seems the source of most of my supper-related satisfaction."

I have been repeatedly accused of publishing food porn photographs to my social media feeds. I suppose that I am guilty as charged, but I never post the deeper and more representative portrait of my food life. I am mostly a schlemiel in the kitchen. I cannot for the life of me follow even simple recipes. I have not yet learned how to replicate a single dish, each one a genuine original, turning out as it turns out, with repeated practice, if anything, leading me further from a perfection than my initial accidental outcome suggested I might possess the skill to produce. I cannot seem to understand all the theories governing food preparation and do not reliably intuit oven temperatures, grill heat zones, or ratios. My meals are almost universally accidental convergences, relying much more upon luck and quality ingredients than upon my skill. Still, I've accreted somewhat of a reputation as a cook, one which has done nothing to blunt my ever-deepening sense that I remain an apron-wearing imposter holding a spatula just off camera.

The Muse seems nonetheless appreciative, if only because I remain mostly a reliable preparer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SeasonalSourcing

SeasonalSourcing
"Our holiday tables will not feature that summer vegetable again this year, which might be Thanksgiving enough for me."

I asked the produce clerk when Buddha Hands would be on the shelf. He looked up surprised, reporting that they'd come in that morning. "We weren't gonna put them on display until tomorrow," he replied, "but I'll be happy to bring them out for you now." The Muse and I twittered in the aisle, barely able to believe our good fortune. In past years, our seasonal search for this distinctive fruit took us further than far and wide. One year, when we lived just outside Washington DC, we must have clocked well over a hundred miles on failed Buddha Hand forays, returning empty handed day after day after freaking day. This year, we happened upon a virgin stash. We'd get first dibs on a fresh boxful of these babies. The holidays began that instant.

The arrival of this fabled fruit always kickstarts a season of baking and rendering.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DerivingWisdom

DerivingWisdom
The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court (Matejko,1862).

“I see no reason to turn down any DerivedWisdom, especially if I discovered it myself.”


This week, I wrote essays which garnered 504 individual views, on a curious variety of topics, totaling just over five thousand words if I don't count the individual introductions. What do you suppose those words meant? I mean really? Individually, I might summarize them like this:

•I spoke of how I could not honestly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even with the intercession of an insistently supportive god. (
MyTruth)

•I then switched to speaking about my long and largely uninterrupted twice-daily meditation practice, admitting that I feel no closer to enlightenment (whatever THAT is) than when I started, but how I still feel enormous pride in and deep satisfaction with my discipline. (
TabulaRascal)

•I wrote about the inequality money seems to inject into our justice system, perhaps disclosing how little I understand about gilt and the nature of G(u)ilt. (
G(u)ilt)

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PhysicsLesson

CatPhysics
"I needed to no more than generally understand how the slope of my stance might influence my ability to respond …"

Since our new kitten Max arrived three weeks ago, he has slowly expanded to fill every square inch of The Villa. Wherever I go, he's already there, though often hidden until I pass, whereby he pounces, perhaps targeting the leather laces on my slippers, which long ago proved themselves capable of untying themselves, though they seem to welcome a cat claw's assistance. Each pounce seems a PhysicsLesson involving opposing forces, vectors, and gravity. Always gravity. Max, who weighs only a pound or two encased in fluffy fur, executes many pratfalls, none seeming to leave any lasting damage and none dissuading him from additional attempts to understand how the physical world surrounding him works. It's one PhysicsLesson after another from long before dawn until an hour or more after I've laid my own burden down in bed.

I woke a few nights ago to find him sleeping on my head, though I didn't immediately understanding that I'd been shanghaied into the role of lab rat in yet another PhysicsLesson.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GodSends

GodSend
"I try to remember that each initial provocation might well have come from the hand of some curiously benevolent God …"

Good fortune moves in mysterious ways. Nothing says how any experience might turn out. An apparently advantageous first move might turn south without warning. An obvious initial disadvantage might likewise at any time seem to turn itself around. How any experience turns out depends upon where I decide to place the punctuation. It ain't over until I apply the hard stop designating the end. Many of my experience extend like run-on sentences, featuring more commas and semi-colons that words, it sometimes seems, continuing until some favorable twist renders a favorable outcome. Then and only then might I feel deeply moved to stop the progression. It's all progression, no matter the number of obvious regressions appear between here and that ever-emerging there. Even the fabled fat lady might have this once chosen to sing during an uneasy intermission rather than wait clear until the end.

GodSends might not appear to have originated in the hand of any recognizable God.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Means&Ends

Means&Ends
"Where would my dignity reside if I didn't have to try so damned hard?"

Ends never justify means. Means usually, if not justify, then certainly serve to validate whatever ends eventually emerge. Those who cut corners on their way to the top inherit a legacy of continuing paranoia. Sure, they achieved the top, but their top can never actually belong to them and they understand that they do not quite belong up there, either. Their imposter syndrome isn't delusional, but well-deserved. But, you might ask, how might one compete if the world contains plenty of cheats who don't seem to carry remorse about their underhanded techniques? Everyone else is speeding. Why shouldn't I? Discarding the decorum erodes something significant, yet subtle. One refrains from ignoring the law not because of the associated penalties, but because respecting the law serves as a means for preserving one's self respect.

If preserving this self respect seems like a shallow payoff in a venial world, you've encountered the dilemma.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Appreciations

appreciations
Wheat field With Crows, Van Gogh, 1890 (believed to be Van Gogh's last painting)
" … you probably don't know what I would say."

I speak today of Appreciations, those most curious of the many human expressions. A single appreciation, properly done between a single one and a single other, cannot scale, though some of us more shy ones will attempt to execute a blanket appreciation addressed to "You Guys" or "everyone." These fail to satisfy the underlying purpose of an appreciation because they are at root and inescapably an expression of a personal relationship. Any relationship seems threatened by being taken for granted. Continuing proximity need not necessarily breed contempt, but more often a certain complacency, an apparent indifference to its own continuation, a natural by-product of familiarity. Eventually, repeated, such casual interaction might easily spark certain questions such as, "Does he even care that I'm here?" The universal cure for such conditions lies in the skillful application of Appreciations.

Not that Appreciating's all skill, quite the opposite.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

G(u)ilt

G(u)ilt
"The g(u)ilty seem more likely to walk away free to commit their crime again."

Our criminal justice system struggles to treat everyone equally under the law. Those who can afford expensive delaying actions tend to invoke them, deferring justice if not thereby outright denying it. Years later, the urgency of meting out justice erodes and the well-heeled defendant might find the charges dropped or simply turning moot. The poorer defendants might find admission more attractive, throwing themselves on the supposed mercy of the court or hoping to bid down the damage through sincere contrition. The merely guilty and the more g(u)ilty experience really different days in court. The guilty might hang their heads in shame while the g(u)ilty might find any of an array of deflecting blames to hide behind. Until the jury's finished deliberations and the judge pounds his gavel, all seem equal under the law. Once that gavel sounds, the g(u)ilty will more likely walk away free.

The G(u)ilt seems obvious on the wealthy man's face, but it's a face more belligerent than contrite.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TabulaRascal

TabulaRascal
"Meditation might be my very best imaginary friend."

As a twice-daily meditator over the last forty-five years, I feel somewhat competent to speak about the practice. First, it's not what you've heard. For me, there never was any sense of Tabula Rasa, no emptying of the mind. My mind might even slip into a sort of overdrive when I meditate, more TabulaRascal than empty and open. I might even be doing it wrong, but I figure that I've been doing it my way for long enough that I might have gained license to do it however I damned well please, to accept it however it seems to come to me. For me, it requires no more than an ounce or two of light discipline, just enough to encourage me to sit and do nothing for twenty minutes at a time with no soothing background music or expressed purpose in mind. I consider this my repayment in kind, a tithe of my available time. I read in the press that few people feel comfortable sitting with nothing to do for more than five minutes. The fidgets take over and nervous energy expresses itself. I would consider even this an acceptable form of meditation rather than an example of how not to successfully engage. It's at root an exercise in simple acceptance for me.

Whatever happens, happens.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MyTruth

TheTruth
"Anyone bringing dog shit to a Stone Soup party should be forced to swallow the resulting soup themselves …"


"Do you swear to tell The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth?" No, I'd feel compelled to decline this common invitation, and not only because I could not possibly have access to The Truth, let alone The Whole Truth, not to mention possess the superpower to access Nuthing But The Truth. This oath seems altogether too absolute, for I (along with every other human) can only access an offshoot truth, one I think of as my own: My Truth. I expect My Truth to be riddled with inadvertence, misconceptions which I have probably conflated as truth, but which perhaps represent common cognitive mistakes. I might have misunderstood an implication or two. I probably assumed some portion of My Truth to be utterly self-evident, when it doesn't seem to be self-evident to you. My beliefs and expectations likely affected not only what I perceived but also how I interpreted, catalogued, and stored my sensory experience. On close reflection, I realize that I don't feel nearly as confident of what I witnessed. I can offer only my impressions.

My impressions might well prove useful, however, even if they cannot quite meet the standards of genuine The Truths, The Whole Truths, or Nothing But The Truths.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

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.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

KnowingNuthin

snob
"I shake my dead in weary dread
when I sense a superior beside me."

Supremacy carries the certain scent of some internal sense of its own inferiority. Lording over another seems to leave the lorder looking a lot less lofty. Feeling special doesn't seem to be anything special, we've all experienced it, but that sense of being special serves like a museum piece, meant to be exclusively displayed on interior walls. Taking it outside disqualifies in ways nobody can convincingly say without appearing a contender as superior scold. It demonstrates a disagreeable neediness in the proclaimed possessor, a separation between heart and soul we all know signals a moldy mushiness within. It hardly seems to matter where the realm of superiority lies. Holier than thou seems more than slightly similar to smarter, richer, handsomer, and cliquier. Effeteness sleeps in its own lonely backstreet.

The effete sometimes gang up.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BegEnding

Oroboros
"I hear autumn approaching."

I never come seeking closure, though sometimes closure seems to stalk me. It whispers, "The end draws near." It promises clarity but demands that I forfeit purpose, to exchange kinetic for static, questions for settled certainty. I never feel more alive than when first setting out. That first step seems the stuff of eternity, the last seems simply past. This book making makes for the strangest bedfellows, ones who sincerely want to share my scheming, who seem to need to somehow capture my soul, perhaps to sell it for something less permanent, like gold. I'm told that something called a market stands out there. Precisely where this chimera might lurk, I do not know. I do know that nobody could possibly show me where. It might exist in the great unmappable nowhere. Its presence scares me.

I come to the end of another season, one I began, like I start all seasons, with a purpose, indistinct as all proper newborn purposes should be.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FakeNews

Bullshit1
"Simply swallowing seems to make me sick."

Our venerable New York Times seems to have come under harsh criticism for having published a glaring omission, a shortcoming that they reported shortly after publishing. The harshest critics complained that this little incident, and it really was, in the scope of everything, a microscopic error, proves a point they'd been trying to make forever, (Or did it just seem like forever?) that the mainstream (or, in their vernacular, "lame stream") media has always been untrustworthy. The critics scream (must they always scream?) "Fake News" again, but we're deaf to their frenzied exhortations. We know that the REAL Fake News outlets never report on their own shortcomings, so na-na-na-na-na-na!

Truth is, the venerable New York Times has never once published an edition that failed to include a few errors. It has likewise never published an edition that did not feature an A Section column entitled Corrections, where the editors fess up to their own shortcomings. It also publishes readers' letters, a disturbingly large percentage of which take umbrage with something the paper published. Hardly invulnerable to criticism, seeming to embrace it instead, this whipping boy of those who insist it deals exclusively in Fake News somehow manages to maintain the self esteem to publish, then publish again. Shameless!

Well, perhaps not completely shameless.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PatTurns

PatTurns
"I already drive an autonomous car most of the time."

I'm reasonably confident that I'm not closely related to sheep because my coat has no wholesale market and because I'm a pickier eater. In spite of the inescapable fact that I'd much rather bleat than bleed, I consider myself a notch above the typical lamb on most cognitive scales. My will seems freer and my judgement somewhat more sound, but I still seem to spend much of my life on autopilot, not really observing, thinking, or choosing for myself. My vast body of experience easily convinces me that I might reasonably just go with the apparent flow without frequently intervening to change course. Once settled into a pattern, I tend to stay down in those reassuring ruts.

I suppose that I turn where I turn because I didn't get burned by going that way the last time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Messo-

messo
" …to feed the needs you never genuinely had …"

I'm wondering what to call the kind of illusory examples I seem to be drenched with in my media-saturated world. I catch on that I'm supposed to sincerely want whatever's being advertised, whatever's being described, yet I know the ad and the description might only be best understood as examples of studious omission, contextless impossibility devoid of externality, a terribly alluring NuthinMuch at all. Have I become so suggestible that I swallow these seductions without catching on that they're cardboard cut-outs without the cardboard? It seems so sometimes. I understand that they tug at my heart strings. I'm supposed to want and I even do, sometimes. Other times, my heart aches as if I should be wanting but simply cannot. Someone left a Post-it® sticker on my screen door yesterday which reported that many of my neighbors have been replacing their windows, and I might want to seriously consider replacing mine, offering discounts I cannot afford to pass up. I moved the sticker to the front of my garage refrigerator so it can remind me what I'm supposed to really be wanting whenever I fetch myself a cold beer.

What IS going on here?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Spindly

spindly
"I'll notice what left us behind."

Late Summer has a broad belly but stands on Spindly legs. Spiders spin increasingly frantic and Spindly webs, seeking to secure more of the last of their weary prey and set their egg sacks away. Pumpkin fields feature more desiccated foliage than green. Foothills regain their usual buff beige as their velvet turns back into crunchy sandpaper again. The mid-days retain their brightness and their heat, but each day's celebration rolls up the sidewalks by seven and sleeps until almost seven the following morning. We still sleep with our windows wide open, but slip out from under covers to don a supplemental sweatshirt before dawn. Flannel moves a few spaces closer to the functioning end of the clothes closet, eyeing the lightweights ahead of them as if they were already gonners. I seriously consider wearing socks again, but stave off that siren's song for now. Their time will come too soon.

The produce stand started stocking squashes and pumpkins, elbowing aside full summer's contribution to the diet

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InSpite

InSpite
"Every completed one turned out just precisely how it was supposed to."

InSpite of the plan, which I'd carefully crafted during the days before starting the little project, my anticipations quickly went to Hell. This was in no way a surprise. I would and should have been much more surprised if they hadn't. My decades of experience crafting clever plans convinces me that they are most often conceived to fall apart. This doesn't excuse slipshod planning, for shortchanging the process limits the insights resulting from a southbound effort. If nothing much gets invested in how it's supposed to be, no Oh, Shit experience will result, and these spark the insight essential to actually completing any effort in a satisfying way. Only actual experience can temper the confidence motivating the beginning. Only insight can spawn whatever's actually needed to get the job done. It's a rule or something.

The spite emanating from these sorts of realizations could power the electric grid.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Educationing

educationing
"In practice, we're all mostly making it up as we go along, …"

Surprisingly, I don't consider myself to be stupid. By many measures, though, I'm clearly not smart, certainly not THAT smart. In school, I learned that I was not smart, with this lesson repeatedly reinforced until it became almost the only learning I retained, which might mean that I was at least smart enough to learn that I wasn't smart. I've retained that foundational lesson through my entire adult life so far, reinforcing it through near constant repetition. For instance, Denver's close-in western suburbs feature several North/South arterials. I frequently use two of the most prominent ones, Kipling and Wadsworth, yet I can almost never remember either name. I know just where they are, but when The Muse asks me which route we're taking, I might hesitate a beat before replying that we're either taking the W or the J street. Unable to recall the precise name, I offer some lame placeholder instead. I'm forever calling Wadsworth Wordsworth, which seems like a workable-enough alternative. Numbered highways don't even get placeholders out of me. The ring freeway is either 730 or an unnamed entity, I cannot seem to retain its real designation. The highway between Golden and Boulder has no name as far as I'm concerned. I think it's ninety something, maybe seven. Yet I can usually navigate without overmuch trouble, the names hardly mattering in practice.

School taught me that I don't seem to store information in crisp little recoverable packets.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wall-tering

IMG_4347

" … nobody but the next painter to follow will ever see the subtle complex symmetry I somehow left behind."

Today's project, should I muster enough gumption to begin, will result in a repainted wall. It's an exterior, southeast-facing wall, angled and elevated, lightly weathered by a hailstorm over two years ago. I've prepped and repainted all the south-facing walls in the period since the insurance adjuster proposed hiring painters and I replied that I preferred to do my own painting, thank you. I spoke the truth, I really do prefer to do my own painting. I work at a pace that leaves me coming in second place behind any snails in the field, but I think of myself as someone who values quality above speed. I first excruciatingly evaluate the surface from several perspectives. I stand close, then move further away, building an ever-deepening understanding of the effort facing me. I imagine how I'll begin, what tangles I'll likely encounter, how much paint I might need, and what tools I might employ. This considering might take weeks, with me finding ample reason to dread in anticipation, which might encourage me to consider even more.

I know for sure that once I begin, the work will quickly become my obsession.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Choosiness

choosiness
"Unsettling, isn't it?"

When I was a younger man, I experienced a great revelation. This hardly qualifies as a headline-grabber because great revelations seem the sole property of youth. Older folks continue to experience their share of revelations, but they only very rarely strike them (or anyone else) as particularly great. The notion that age brings greater wisdom beggars belief, as anyone paying attention as their grandparents, then their parents, entered old age. At some point, accumulated wisdom seems to pass backwards to the following generation, often without their permission or immediate recognition. Catching on to this transfer might be the final great revelation most experience, though this ordinarily appears as a genuine "Oh, Shit!" moment.

My great revelation whispered that it's all about choice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Winning

winning
"They will celebrate by ceasing further play …"

I explain that I've never been terribly competitive. The Muse objects to my self-characterization, reporting that I have gotten fairly fierce at the old Scrabble board sometimes. Perhaps, I reply, but how often do I play Scrabble? It's not like I make a habit of engaging in competitive 'games.' I find every other board game aptly named. They bore me. I never really learned to play cards, chess, or the lottery. I have twice entered casinos only to realize that I didn't have the first clue how to engage in any of the 'games' there before going to find a quiet place to read. I sense the rising tension in a late-inning close call baseball game, but I never quite lose the understanding that winning and losing never mean much. There's always tomorrow or next season or never lurking around the corner. Winning's more transitory than cloud, so I don't quite understand the roar of that crowd.

Yet I do not characterize myself as a loser, either.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Inconspicuous

inconspicuous
" … enable each of us to make choices which could leave us stepping a little more lightly as we conspicuously stomp around our Eden"

A hundred and twenty years ago, early economist Thorstein Veblen published his The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. The book reads almost as if it were parody, like any great work of economic theory should. He noted a strong correlation in the US between what he labeled Conspicuous Consumption and status. The higher the status, the more one would willingly pay. He noted that the old 'buy cheap, sell dear' ability said to underpin capitalism was not evident among major capitalists. Quite the opposite. Maintaining status required public profligacy. He provided numerous examples, several aimed at what we now call Elite Institutions, universities that built and maintained terribly expensive Gothic enclaves. As with anyone audacious enough to commit this sort of public truth, he was eventually blackballed out of academe. He died a decidedly inconspicuous death while living in an empty shipping crate which was situated just off Sand Hill Road, where Silicon Valley's venture capitalists now maintain offices, overlooking Stanford University's gothic enclave in Palo Alto. He'd reportedly adopted a pet skunk, the only remaining company he managed to maintain through his declining popularity.

Judging by the number of McMansions and McEstates dotting the Front Range around my more humble abode, conspicuous consumption has not diminished in popularity over the intervening years.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CityOfScolds

scold
"I propose starting with me."

I live in a CityOfScolds. Any stranger will most likely receive a cold reception. Any neighbor might get burned. Judges seem to always be on duty to notice should anyone stray from somebody's straight and narrow, and it never seems to take much to be accused of stepping over some line, especially the ones only the judge ever knew were drawn. Such constant vigilance never was the cost of anything but sure and certain humiliation and ever hardening feelings, for we're all little kids stranded in big people bodies, mistaken for omniscient when only innocently faking it through. I seem certain to offend you as you seem equally certain to offend me. I feel well-justified in calling that foul, in exhibiting my very best scowl for you, though you always seem to me to be a tad too picky with me. Maybe that dog barking really should be prosecuted as the Federal case your reaction seems to indicate that it should be. Maybe my innocent inquiry broke every tenet ever known for propriety. Maybe your piety stands more than head and shoulders above mine. We each seem to have gone into the business of failing (flaying) to fix the recent past, aghast.

We behave as if we were each justifiably offended by each others' presence. We endlessly inconvenience each other.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Smell0Vision

smellovision
"When well-produced fantasy becomes the new reality,
what does the viewer become?"

I do not know how deeply television has influenced me. It might be that it's in the nature of TV that no viewer could ever know how deeply it influences them. What I experienced as a passive watching, though, seems to have been a more complicated interaction than I sensed. I know that in my youth, I would have chosen TV over almost any other activity, even if, as was often the case, "nothing was on." I became a fairly indiscriminate consumer, relatively indifferent to the actual content and much more intent upon experiencing that zoned-out state. Before sex, drugs, and rock and roll, TV was there. More importantly, I was eventually, always there for TV.

My folks kept their TV on every waking hour. Mornings brought The Today Show mumbling behind their morning routine. It seemed to be their morning routine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HotGreen

HotGreen
"Eat to excess whatever's in season."

This statement encapsulates my personal produce philosophy. I will probably shun any fruit or vegetable until I find fresh and local, but when I find fresh and local, I turn into a genuine glutton. The Muse and I share this guiding philosophy. Winters force us into crouched, defensive positions where we somehow subsist upon root veg and obscure members of the cabbage family. Sure, we could score asparagus from Peru and blueberries from New Zealand, but we'll shun those carbon-clad choices. We'd really rather starve. Spring and Summer, though, find us enthusiastically frequenting the family produce market where The Old Man drives to the other side of the state twice each week to bring back truckloads of whatever's presently in season. We dutifully buy then eat to excess whatever's fresh each week. No produce better exemplifies this philosophy in action than the audacious HotGreen Chile.

No, I do not mean Jalapeño, that seemingly ubiquitous pretender pepper, the Wonder® Bread of hot chiles. I find the Jalapeño uneatable, mean heat accompanied by the flavor of muddy lawn.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reating

reating
"Neither exclusively a reader nor a writer, …"

I read a lot more than I write. Reading's how I fill my writing hopper, not so much with fresh ideas, but with inspirations. I read like an interior designer surveys paint samples, not to copy anything, but to remind myself of the possibilities prose holds. I am susceptible to subconsciously replicating whatever I'm reading, so I carefully choose what I read. I've developed a ruthlessness when it comes to finishing a book or a piece of writing. If it ain't going nowhere, I won't go there with it. When asked what I do for a living, I catch myself mute. "You mean, what do I do for money?" I reply. "Nothing." I read and write instead, mostly read; Reating.

Reating isn't the most lucrative occupation. It's only necessary, which gives it its only defensible attribute.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomingAgain

homing
"I'm a pigeon, for sure, but not entirely one of the Homing variety."

Scientists say that it's an instinct, an irrepressible urge to return home, so they refer to it as The Homing Instinct. This label contributes nothing to my understanding of the phenomenon, though I personally experience it when returning from some travel. As the scenery becomes increasingly familiar, I start feeling like my old self again, my traveling self sliding back onto the back shelf next to where my suitcase lies between excursions. I'm a fine traveler, able to smoothly adapt to a wide range of different environments. Within a half hour of arriving, I will have located some place where I can reliably score my morning decaf and a serviceable slice of bread. I've packed methodically, so everything I might need stays ready to hand, whatever the brand name on the side of that night's hotel. I grow used to the simplicity of the traveling life, a single bag carrying all my necessities. My guitar case hogging more than its fair share of space. My knapsack haphazardly stuffed wherever it finally fits. That's it, my entire traveling kit. I'm able to carry it all in one trip in from the car.

Home presents a wholly different sort of challenge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Driven

Driven1
"I'm cautious as if my fate were not under my own control."

I think that it's safe for me to assert that fewer than ten percent of the people driving cars are competent drivers. This assertion isn't just my snarkier side finding a platform for whining, but the result of careful observation and recent deep immersion into my fellow drivers' behaviors out there on the open road. experienced a remarkable sampling of my fellow drivers' skill, as well as my own. It's shockingly poor, but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I do not consider myself to be any more a competent driver than I consider myself to be a competent writer or cook. As Dirty Harry long ago observed, a man's gotta know his limitations. Because I judge myself a somewhat less than skilled driver, I lack the confidence I consider essential to drive like any self respecting maniac might. The Muse insists that I drive like an old Italian woman, only lacking a few pounds and that ubiquitous black dress from fully qualifying. I do drive safely, which seems to drive my fellow drivers to distraction.

I carry my personal ethical underpinning. I never exceed the speed limit, except when passing another driver who has clearly demonstrated their inability to maintain that limit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

APerfectDay

APerfectDay


"APerfectDay, the memory of which will likely never, ever go away."

I awaken before four feeling perfectly rested just before the alarm breaks silence. I clean myself up for the day before sitting to consider just what sort of day it might become. I decide upon APerfectDay, one for which the memory will likely never go away. We plan upon driving up and over Lolo Pass, as fine a piece of road as exists anywhere, two hundred plus miles of two lane Federal highway alongside the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. It will be the last day of this year's August, hot, dry, and windless, and we will sleep many miles east of where I'm just then waking up. I grab my knapsack and head out just before five, looking to refuel The Schooner, find a block of ice to keep cold through the long driving days between here and Genesee our ZipLock® quarts of frozen wild black currents we'd picked when we passed through the weekend before. I easily find both before heading for the old Main Street Starbucks and the front window table where I've written dozens of stories over the years. The counter clerk already knows what I'm going to order, the same thing I always order, a large (I will not say, "Venti" for anybody) decaf in a china cup. She surprises me by not asking me if it's okay if she has to give me a pour-over. Maybe they've brewed ahead in anticipation of my arrival. Perfect!

I write, by which I mean to say that words come to me, a prose poem to the end of harvest.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReSeeding

Reseeding
" … evenings would have turned to frost and the sky would have become that most remarkable blue."

Want follows excess. The Muse and I climb up and over White Pass, a low route through the mighty Cascades, moving through late summer fields showing the tail end of seasonal excess. Vine maple and alder hold the passage of July's brutal heat in their desiccating foliage. Wheat harvested, stubble fields stand like old men with their pale bellies showing beneath too-tight tee shirts. We drive beneath cool covering cloud until we reach the pinnacle, where the sky opens wider than a clown's mouth in a dentist's chair. High dry hills watch us pass, heading home(s), through our home country one last time, a short stop where our hearts live before heading on to our most current temporary mailing address.

Excess follows want. Our decade of exile taught us more than we ever wanted to learn, thank heavens.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ChickenLittle&TheBigChicken

BigChicken
"The sky is not falling, nor likely to."

I got punked this week. Well, I might have actually punked myself. I read this finely-written article which a trusted source had posted. I found the arguments provocative and convincing. The piece maintained that steady voice I've grown to trust. It turned out to be complete bullshit, especially engineered to punk people like me. You see, I'm at root a BigChicken. I am not generally confident or particularly assertive. I keep a low profile, over-thinking my way through issues. I'm more likely to check twice before believing any house is really on fire. I might be more concerned about over-reacting than I am about missing any BIG news. I'm no ChickenLittle. My sky has never fallen so far. I feel no compelling need to incite any passionate reaction. I'm more observer than activist.

Some people, though, have gone into the business of inciting passionate reactions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MillingAroundTown

MillingAroundTown
"Everyone knew that those logs rafts would never come back …"

The Muse and I will just be staying two nights in the crappy hotel on the edge of the bordering forest. I dutifully slink out to find a Starbucks in the morning since the hotel's internet service can't quite seem to recognize my laptop as a valid user. I don't mind. I usually slink out wherever we stay, unable to keep myself locked away early in a day. My eye seems drawn to the down and out, those who justifiable feel left out; though, as The Muse confided, we seem to have landed on the more fortunate side of our towering Continental Divide. I carry no good advice for anyone trapped on the opposite side, good fortune visited us, and my empathy buys nobody nuthin except for perhaps an insignificant reassurance for myself as I wander through. I did not grow up here, a place seemingly founded to provide a decent back story for anyone fortunate enough to escape. Every Western Washington mill town seemed to have been founded upon this same principle.

Hell if it is the state capitol, it failed to shed its grittier roots.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LeftOut

catlestout

"I almost always will have left myself out when I discover, too late, that I've been left out overnight again."

Before our cats left us, they taught us that leaving them out overnight amounted to the greatest sin we could ever commit in their eyes. This did not happen very often and, to my mind, usually resulted from them being just that much too clever for us. I thought that they'd outsmarted themselves of hogging more than their share of the matrimonial bed and of sharing our overnight body warmth, that they'd lost more than we ever sensed that we'd lost. We'd stretch out into what usually amounted to already occupied territory and accept that additional space without in the moment imagining that the space represented a greater absence. The next morning, opening the door to fetch the newspaper, a grey or ginger blur would slip past me and I'd realize the crime I'd committed. I'd offer the obligatory kitty treats in apology and steel myself for a few hours of glowering stares, for I'd left one of the cats outside overnight where coyotes or owls could have spirited them away. They might have initiated the slip, but I had failed to catch it. The resulting sin got chalked up on my side of the grand ledger and I could never adequately atone.

Anyone who, like me, could never really decide upon what they wanted to be when they finally grew up, carries a sense of having been LeftOut of something.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ghosties

sleazeattle
"It still terrifies me today."

Some places seem permanently haunted. No subsequent contradictory experience ever erases the spookiness of these places. Once jarred, forever barred from comfortable coexistence. Seattle, or Sleazeattle, as I used to call it when I lived here, serves as that place for me. The prospect of revisiting it raised my hackles. The two days before we crossed the Cascades, I caught myself dreading our next destination, even though nearly fifty years now separate me from those times. It was always a cold city, one seemingly still struggling to outgrow its sorry start. The great fire of 1889 seemed to just encourage those who'd grown accustomed to walking its soggy board sidewalks. They built skyscrapers on unpromising fill and kept growing until it began to strangle itself with its own traffic. Hillsides held huge houses overlooking a smoky port. Slums subsumed its Southern third. It was every bit as segregated as Atlanta or Chicago or Boston. It was and remains a distinctly odd place.

Walking this morning through the Pike Place Market before opening time, I find it still just as unpromising as it ever seemed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ImPerfection

ImPerfection
"Dreams come true in the same way that plumb gets achieved, through artful deception."

If I look a little harder, I might glimpse sublime ImPerfection. Peaches quite naturally seem to avoid perfection, the better-shaped ones always turn out to be not quite ripe, the slightly bruised, juicer, tastier. From a slight distance, every item on offer at the Farmers' Market seems perfection incarnate. Step up to the counter and I see a thousand little reasons to turn and walk away. Maybe television has so poisoned my eye to expect every object to have been staged, properly backlit and artfully arranged, that I struggle to recognize as good as anything ever gets, which ain't perfect. I could stomp around in a continual state of learned indignation, gathering complaints and festering them into grudges, as if I had been cheated out of some birthright. The GrandOther discovers a worm in the ear of corn she's shucking. Some of the ears appear, once shed of their silk, as if they could have used some serious orthodonture work. We'll slightly unfocused our eyes as we eat, trading taste for appearance. Up close, nobody can see whether those kernels line up straight, anyway.

A little too hot or just a smidgen too cold. A little early or a little late. My world stands in approximate space where nothing exactly fits together.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CurrantAffairs

CurrantAffairs
"It's no skin off anyone else's back when they hold as secret lore what almost nobody even cares about anymore."

Most everyone living in this region holds a few deep, dark secrets. Among the very most closely guarded, the knowledge of where to forage the best wild edibles. One can tell if they've been accepted into a family if they're entrusted with the location of the most reliable morel patch, huckleberry field, or trout stream. Outsiders need not apply, as if to keep this essential portion of deeply local identity safe from Californication. These special places were invariably originally simply stumbled upon by some fortunate forebear, who sealed his lips just as soon as he realized his great luck. Visitors hear stories, of course, tales of pick-up loads of morels, but they believe them to be mere legend or braggadocio, and so quickly discount them. This perfectly natural disbelief further insulates these Elysian Fields from further discovery and serves as a near perfect defense against outsider intrusion.

The older families refer to themselves as hillbillies.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Poemtry

Poemtry
"The true purpose and ultimate significance can only ever come later."

Another birthday comes and another poem needs writing. Long tradition demands it. Had I never become the sort of cheap bastard who steadfastly refused to purchase presents, I might be off the hook. Instead, I chose the cheaper on the speculation that it might be good, better than the obvious alternatives. "Better for whom?," I ask as I start the annual stare down with another perfectly blank screen, hoping it might blink first. Tabula Rasa seems no great challenge for me. I dream of great inspiration visiting before simply settling in. A garden to weed, a lawn to mow, every routine chore could devolve into a simple bore, though each could become so much more. This pedestrian transformation knows no How To how, a curious emergent property, perhaps, of never knowing how. I simply must begin.

I imagine my dearest friend and I still don't know.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SetList

setlist
"Crazy begets crazy. How else could any love last?"

After writing songs for more than half a century, I've yet to manage to maintain a half-decent Setlist. I most often grab rather blindly when The Muse insists that I perform a short set after one of our suppers. I quite often forget a chord progression or reverse important lyrics to render pitiful my performance. I then return my trusty D-18 to its coffin-like case and set about embarrassingly studying my shoes. Having written a tune hardly qualifies me to perform that tune, and even someone with my experience still needs to practice, practice, practice, even if I never really expect to make it to Carnegie Hall. I well-understand that I really should play every day, but I do not and have not, seemingly wasting my talent. In recent weeks, though, I've begun to play a bit more, fueled by a particularly embarrassing attempt to play just a single song for visiting friends. We all managed to change the subject, but that belly-flop really stung.

Any performer mostly performs for an audience of one, comprised of the most critical observer in the universe, so practicing easily becomes an exercise in serial self abuse.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Onward

Onward
" … I've come somewhat closer to understanding the expansive rules governing the playing of the Infinite Game."

In his Finite and Infinite Games, author James Carse parsed the world into two games: Finite and Infinite. He characterized Finite Games as those played for the purpose of achieving something, typically winning. We engage in Infinite Games for the purpose of positioning ourselves to continue play. I've long thought of my life as a form of infinite play, and not simply because I seem so danged determined to not accomplishing anything. Finite games lost their allure when I started wondering why they were even engaged in. What's decided when two sports teams go head to head? Many thing, but little of any real consequence, I concluded. Mostly, they demonstrate fealty to a set of rules governing play, the occasional bean ball notwithstanding. They agree to limit their behaviors to that small subset covered by Hoyle, then sort of pretend to battle for a win. Infinite games tend toward the much less dramatic.

The Muse and I woke up this morning to face day ten of a twenty-some day road trip.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DisTopia

DisTopia
" … whatever home this world once extended is melting away around me."

Live long enough and your world will have have turned into a DisTopia, the seeming opposite of what you'd hoped it would become. A 70,000 population home town will have mushroomed into a cool quarter million plus. The bordering verdant farmland, so picturesque and quaint, will have sprouted endless identical anonymous suburbs. Backroads will have become four lanes. Favorite haunts will have evaporated, leaving haunted replacements. Solid bedrock will have turned to sand. Your former mastery of your world will have become about as negotiable as leftover Hungarian Florint change, a pocketful of excess weight in the front of your favorite backpack. 'Tiz the way of this world, it seems, to lose whatever once sustained us.

This newer world doesn't feel half as brave as the old one seemed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheOldPlace

PleasantStreet
"New owners are raising their kids within those elegantly crooked rooms and quirky yards …"

By the time I'd grown up enough to move away, I knew every square inch of that short acre. I even knew what lay beneath the landscaping, having scraped, crawled over, or cultivated every corner. I knew that the back forty, as we called the yard behind the garage, lay atop an old creek channel, and so the soil was deeply plated with ovoid rock that drained much too easily. The side yard had been planted over an ancient septic pit. The grass grew much lusher there. Dandelion and plantain favored every inch of the property and required continual scrutiny and counteraction throughout the growing season. We used to spread coal ash clinkers along the driveway in the wintertime. I'd personally dug out the bed alongside the driveway innumerable times, always finding a few half-petrified cherry pits from a tree we'd cut down decades before. I'd fill an old metal wash tub to overflowing with weeds, unwanted roots, and the Silver Maple's helicopter seeds.

TheOldPlace passed out of the family after my father passed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReUniting

reuniting
"A few of these people will always be my friend."

Who did you grow up to be? Probably just who you always were before. I sincerely doubt if any of us ever grow up. Most of us tend to outgrow some of our more troubling tendencies, but most often by some form of out growth rather than by growing much taller than the least of them. Fifty years later, one might manifest a more reliably consistent version of their earlier self without really growing up much. We seem to remain the same kids imbedded within ever bigger people's bodies, still growing into who we probably always were. I speak of we when you probably suspect that I mean 'I', for I can't really know how it must be for you. If you sincerely feel as though you grew up, I say, "God Bless You," and "How did you do that?"

A fiftieth reunion of a high school graduating class comes only once, never to be repeated again. It comes at a reliably inconvenient time,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Payshunce

payshunsh
"Maybe I can simultaneously like it AND lump it for a change."

Payshunce might be the sole necessary skill of modern life. The faster everything goes, the more everything seems to need to spool up before actually accomplishing anything. The Schooner wants to warm up before we zoot off. The laptop decides when I just want to quickly check something to not simply wake up but to desperately need a full restart, complete with demands for a half-dozen Pastwords I cannot remember in that moment of duress. Traffic moves more slowly than advertised, especially when a few drivers choose to go all Formula One on everybody and thereby slow down the overall flow. Queues naturally slow as they lengthen. It's apparently their nature. Your order won't come up until well after that fleeting wave of hunger has left the building.

One learns Payshunce by having it beaten into them, often at one's own hand.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PoeTayToe

potato
"This pony ride's over and done."

Yes, Idaho license plates still proclaim Famous Potatoes, and quite properly so, for Idaho remains famous for its potatoes which, I guess, also renders their potatoes famous for being from Idaho. Fame works like this. The most popular category of famous people has always been Famous For Being Famous, with television celebrities topping this species. Fame must be a critical part of potato marketing, for in the East, Maine plays the Famous For Growing Potatoes Card and further West, Grant County in my native Washington state insists that they raise more potatoes than any other county in the country. Making a fuss seems necessary when dealing in a natively bland commodity. Nobody's license plate proudly proclaims Famous Tomatoes or Noteworthy Cabbage. Only the homely old potato holds this distinction: LPF, License Plate Famous.

In Idaho's specific case, the fame seems well-deserved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Stranging

Stranging
"He freely floats without ever coming close to feeling free."

Stranging should be considered one of the higher forms of art. It could not qualify as a science, for initial conditions inevitably evade scrutiny or systematic analysis. Strangers show up lost and build out from there, taking whatever presents itself, substance generally unknown and likely unknowable. I was blessed with the ability to feel disoriented even when staring at a properly-oriented and obviously accurate map, because North just doesn't always feel like North to me, and my feelings tend to rule. How I feel about a strange place hardly ever influences that place, though, so I wander off in wrong directions whichever way I go. I convene an argument in my head, my feet dishearteningly heading off in what will very likely turn out to be the wrong direction while my head mumbles dissent without even convincing himself. My head will chastise itself, but no argument will resolve the controversy. I might well find my way there and back again, but only by fortunate accident.

Had I tried to be a frontiersman, I would have been one of those whose bones—their story untold but nonetheless obvious—Later Arrivers find mouldering beneath an ancient cottonwood.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ghosting

ghosting
"We're West if, indeed, we're anywhere at all."

The Schooner runs quiet as a ghost. Inside, The Muse and I listen to old jazz, Gene Krupa pounding away on his jungle drums through Bennie Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing. We could be front row center at that famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, flopping to feral rhythms. Just outside, a wonderland passes by around us, with high mountain wildflowers punctuating our smooth passage. We quite literally bop through Steamboat and out onto the great basin country beyond, a landscape defined by uplifts, which naturally lift up our spirits, and spirits we seem to become. A town out there is defined as any relatively wide spot featuring a sign. Several of these exhibit no clear signs of life, but they apparently warrant a sign anyway. A scrappy ex-building or two might show where once some enterprising entrepreneur made a go of something, but the cafe sign seems permanently faded and the gas pumps have gone missing. I suspect that most of these "places" have become ghost towns now.

I think it only fitting that we flit between ghost towns out here because we seem to pass as ghosts, too.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Guesting

guesting
"You're stuck with each other for the duration, at least try to enjoy the dance."

We're all guests here. Neither of us, none of us, have real dominion over the birds in the sky or the beasts in the field, we're stewards. Guesting entails a temporary sharing of a semi-sacred stewardship, with the guest's responsibilities no less or more sacred than their host's. They co-habitate for a spell, the host providing space for the guest to fill. A good guest will fill that thoughtfully-provided space without sucking all of the air out of the rest of the place. They'll appreciate the room, though it's never the best in the house. They will have explicitly explained their preferences and limitations before arriving. Most importantly, the guest should be present, genuinely there, for their presence will serve as their greatest gift to their host and to themselves, so show up on time for meals and limit the appeals for special handling. You represent the Big Door Prize of your stay, but never the Daddy Bear, Mommy Bear, Baby Bear, or Goldilocks. This isn't a fairy tale.

If you find yourself in desperate need of toilet paper or a plunger, speak right up; everyone's been there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Power

PowerButton
"it's the superpower I hold rather than the one I'm unlikely to ever possess."

I was yesterday listening to Alan Lightman's audio book In Praise of Wasting Time while mowing the lawn. He told a story from his youth about when he finally connected with a pitch in a Little League ball game. He reported that this was his first experience of power, and felt great surprise that he, a decidedly non-athletic nerd, might also be a powerful person. Later in life, he said that he looked back on that time whenever he faced daunting challenges, convinced deep down that because he had once demonstrated personal power, that he remained a powerful person at root, and so would most likely overcome whatever difficulty he faced.

I think many (if not most) of us do not carry a similar conviction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CumpKnee

cumpknee
" … genuine affection might be the only good reason to ever host any houseguest."

A buzz overtakes the place a week before they arrive as if the isolation pod can't quite believe it's about to become a social hub. CumpKnee's coming. The Villa will receive a thorough scrubbing, which means that I will scrub and vacuum and The Muse will dust, I long ago having lost my belief in particles too tiny for visual verification. I crawl the kitchen, utility room, and the garage hall floors, scrubbing as I go. I'll displace chairs and tables to dust mop and vacuum up all those odd bits the houseplants exhale all over the place. I unmake beds and the washing machine finally puts in a full day's work. I remake beds with fresh-smelling linen and rework the guest bath (my bath when no guests are around) and move my detritus into The Muse's bath, a so-called Master Bath within which I am not entirely welcome. I scrutinize the larder and perform an unusually picky shop, selecting stuff necessary to satisfy our guest's stated preferences.

I've become unembarrassed to ask after a prospective guest's preferences and prejudices.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PreCrastination

precrastination
"I don't seize my days as much as they seem to seize me …"

I must have been born before my time. This world was no more ready for my arrival than I was ready to meet up with it. The world seems to have been playing catch-up since the day I was born. I've tried slowing down, honestly I have, but the world seems dedicated to tailing me, leaving me to cut the sea ice to ease its weary way. I don't mind. I'm uncertain if I could follow tail lights even if I'd ever found any out in front of me. A few years after I've lost interest in what was once a new phenomenon for me, here comes the world just waking up to that item's existence. The fabulously fresh by then seems simply old hat, for I'm off in some newly uncharted direction, making most of it up as I go along.

I have my traditions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Service

service
"Best Wishes! Your Customer."

My car dealer treats my like a duke. I'm there for an oil change and I'm greeted with a servile deference ordinarily reserved for visiting royalty. I ain't royalty and I ain't on no diplomatic mission. I came for my twenty four thousand mile service. Nothing more. I am nobody's "Sir." Please do not mind your Ps and Qs with me. Gimme a little shit, please, and I'll give you some in return, then we might hold some chance of connecting, of forming a relationship. Your best behavior seems wasted on me and could not possibly be any less appropriate to this situation. Treat me with less pomp and more attention to the circumstances. I'm unimpressed with that box of fresh doughnuts, which, by the way, seems most interesting to your sales associates, who have formed a steady if stealthy stream through the Customer Waiting Area since I arrived. That TV suspended above me seems more threatening than entertaining, distracting me from my reading. Nobody else's watching it, either.

Service has been earning a bad reputation for decades.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ShootingStar

shootingStar

"I inch my way along in near total darkness beneath barely pinpricks of light."

Some nights, I wander through dark rooms, refusing to turn on any lights as if testing my muscle memory. I tell myself that I don't want to awaken The Muse, as if any force in this universe could wake up The Muse once she's down, but I feel genuinely comforted by my resulting blindness. I'm also trying to preserve my night sight for what I might find when I peer up into the sky. The neighbor's illegal upward-facing lights try to blind me from this reassuring night as I find a seat and peer up through the ambient evening air. Stars seem to congregate up here, with the occasional satellite floating across the plane. A ShootingStar streaks across before me, there then gone in an instant, more a blink of an experience than an actual one.

No matter how I might peer then, another ShootingStar will not cross my path.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MovingOn

movingon
" …we drag that home along with us wherever we might get off to."

Out here on the edge of the West, or, as the sign over Golden Colorado's Washington Street insists, Where The West Begins, we enjoy a long tradition of MovingOn. The original inhabitants were nomadic, moving between locations as seasons suggested. Later arrivals showed up after MovingOn from some previous place, many of them nth sons without inheritance to hold them closer to home. Many of those MovedOn to somewhere else when the silver petered out, or moved into a different occupation than hard rock mining. We seem to live in temporary digs, acceptable until whatever passes for silver in our lives peters out. Westerners hold a long tradition of abandoning their past in favor of a more promising or less continually disappointing future. My own forebears rolled those big dice, came West, and somehow survived the transplants. Anyone might think that we're, as a result of this heritage, a fickle people, driving with one foot continually in the ditch, always ready, willing, and able to jump ship. Anyone would be wrong.

MovingOn the Nth time still brings all the anxiety of that first time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Thinking and Praying about Thoughts and Prayers

thoughtsandprayers
"Mutually Reassured Delusion absolves everyone."

I've been Thinking and Praying about Thoughts and Prayers, a solipsistic activity which extends no further than my eyebrows and no deeper than my neckline. It's a genuine echo chamber in there, with thoughts chasing prayers, then prayers chasing thoughts until the distinctions between them degrade into an oily, waxy substance that hardly flows at all. I seem more stuck now, mired in self-reference. Had I the wisdom of any second-rate god, I might have resolved this conundrum by now, but the more I think and the more I pray, the more I seem compelled to pray and the less productive my thinking seems to become. I feel like a genuine recursive mess, hoping to produce something useful, perhaps a solution, but at this point, I'd settle for a second-rate resolution. Negotiating the first SALT treaty could not have been as difficult as dealing with the damned gun lobby, and that involved uniformed Russians! And, as every school kid learned in the fifties, you can always trust a communist to be a communist, but even then, they agreed to reduce their weapons in exchange for us agreeing to reduce ours.

Sometimes, something like a Christian comity emerges between two avowed enemies, a mutual back-scratch; an 'I will if you will' agreement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lib'ral

lib'ral
"It's not that we can never go home again, but that we can ONLY go home again …"

We live in a Lib'ral Democracy, yet I struggle to define just what Lib'ral means. Maybe you do, too, especially if you self-identify as a conservative or a radical. The term has been under constant attack from conservatives, radicals, and those who can't quite grok the idea of any form of governance reliant upon emergence as its central organizing principle. Yet in the nearly two hundred years since its emergence, liberalism has utterly transformed the world I inhabit from one which could not imagine what we merely take for granted today. Authoritarianism, which was pretty much the sole form of governance known to the world before, continues to assault what the vast majority of us consider our birthright, but it only has dominion to defend itself against liberalism's subtle but much stronger power. Plodding and painstaking, the Lib'ral seeks to reduce the net suffering in this world, and has succeeded beyond any of its original champions wildest dreams. This is a continuing contest between endless ebb and flow and periodic gush, and though those floodwaters seem overwhelming and permanent, they chose the long-term inevitably losing side.

Unlike you, I suspect, I've been keeping my political head down since the current incumbent stumbled into office a few million popular votes shy of a mandate.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Health

Health
"Too much scrutiny spoils the soup."

I shrink whenever I enter a Health Food Store. I doubt many of the claims I see advertised there. I came not for salvation, but for non-hydrogenated peanut butter and cheap walnuts. I've never quite qualified as a food faddist, though I might come close to being considered a foodist. I subscribe to Michael Pollin's suggestion that I do eat food, though not too much, and mostly plants. I was raised adjacent to an Adventist community filled with proudly healthy pallid-skinned people who looked like warmed over death and lived to extremely ripe old ages. I've joined food co-ops where I rubbed shoulders with every form of eater known to man, always slipping between the queues to find the cheap but good enough stuff hidden in the bulk section there. I retain a lifelong membership in the Gluten Appreciation Society, an Adele Davis-inspired love of organ meats, and a natural aversion to all soda drinks, especially those touted as especially good for me. I believe Vitamin Water® a scam, whether it is or not, and try hard to avoid the latest recommendations regarding diet. I follow a turn of the twentieth century recipe for cooking beans.

I eat to excess whatever's in season.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SunflowerSeason

SunflowerSeason
" …a glorious season progressing a scant fortnight per step."

In theory, a season should last about three months. In practice, a season's duration varies considerably depending upon location. Somewhere in middle America and perhaps Slovakia, spring lasts three months, everywhere else, it persists longer or less. Should one manage to stay in the same place they grew up in for the rest of their life, one would instinctively sense when a season changed. The rest of us fumble with the obvious differences between what the calendar insists and what we're experiencing outside. Here along the Colorado Rockies' Foothills, to this recent transplant, seasons seem to unpredictably lead and lag. Winter weather will probably infringe upon both autumn and spring, sometimes even summer. Even summer, though, near the middle of its advertised presence, varies from day to day, even hour to hour, leading me to propose that the traditional notion of three month seasons might have never been terribly germane. Seasons seem conveniently subdivided into better-suited sets.

Two short weeks ago, Sweetgrass Season reigned; now, SunflowerSeason.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnderThinking

existential
" … with meaningful insights struggling to be seen, much less appreciated, …"

I was going to write about OverThinking today, but I discovered that I'd already written about that three years ago. I caught myself in one of those rumination loops common to my practice. Prior considering will have only rarely settled anything. I believe that I could infinitely consider any topic and still fail to stumble upon much of a conclusion. Conclusions, I tell myself, seem over-rated, anyway. If I am because I think, as Descartes so proudly proclaimed, thinking might serve as a precondition to my even being here. Should I ever stop, Descartes might predict that I'd simply disappear. Not that my disappearing would necessarily set back civilization even an angry inch. Thinking serves as one of those activities which somehow survives without ever having acquired a cogent definition of itself. In that respect, thinking and I might be fraternal twins. I spend most of every day in my head, thinking, as the presumption goes, but perhaps not OverThinking so much as UnderThinking there.

UnderThinking seems an art, for its purpose couldn't possibly be simple representation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rooms

huge-house-plans-with-second-floor-huge-homes-pinterest-floors-plans-love-house-plans
"It was memorable for a reason nobody could explain …"

Bradford and Hillary Keeney speak of Rooms. Should I feel constrained in the present room, I might simply move to a larger room, one capable of properly containing me. Likewise, should a room feel too roomy, I might move to a room more suited to my size. Bradford and Hillary speak metaphorically, of course, but I've been feeling overly unconstrained lately, as if my present room were considerably larger than necessary, than appropriate for my present endeavors. I feel as though I cannot fill the rooms I enter these days, as if each one had been designed to contain a larger person, a much larger personality than I bring to my game, for I hold humbled aspirations now. I no longer aspire to achieve greater things, but lately acknowledge that my accomplished achievements might well mark the high water mark of my career and my life. I understand and accept that our universe continually expands, but I find this a poor excuse to mimic it. I ain't no universe.

Or, rather, I ain't no large-infinity universe.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EarlyMorning

EarlyMorning

"I will have in EarlyMorning warmed up the bed for him to wallow around in …"

The diners and coffee shops seem to fill with geezers first. Later, the driven corporate types trickle in, thinking that they've seized another day, only to find the territory already settled by second-cup sipping self-satisfied retirees, hard-core unemployables, and maybe a writer or two, those for whom EarlyMorning offers their sole refuge. Nobody watches them rise. Nobody's even trying to catch them along their way. They will become increasingly invisible throughout the following day. They have little left to aspire after, having found their eigenvalue, though they find great fulfillment acknowledging that they once again managed to beat that lucky old sun at his own eternal game.

Not even the magpies hear him rise.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Downtime

Downtime
"The Muse ultimately makes this call."

I will never suspect. I might have noticed a creeping lethargy, a budding indifference, a blooming I Just Don't Care attitude, but I will not suspect that I might have contracted a bug of any sort. In my mind, one can only properly declare illness for a) a runny nose, b) runny bowels, c) sore throat, d) fever, and/or e) a broken bone; basically the same list of acceptable excuses for missing a day in elementary school. Dizzy disorientation falls well north of any threshold under which I can legally claim myself to be under any weather, since I consider it a part of what passes for my usual countenance. I get confused sometimes, as a normal part of my continuing inquiries. The Muse notices, investigates, then declares me out of the game. "There's a bug going around," she says, and I crumble into bed.

I have never made it a habit to schedule personal downtime.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Deadheading

deadheading
"Gardening demands a certain heartlessness."

Gardening demands a certain heartlessness. It ain't all tender nurturing, but also involves a studied brutality: pruning, plucking, trimming, and the curiously-named Deadheading. No, Deadheading has nothing to do with a popular musical group from the sixties, but involves removing spent blossoms and their bud tips to encourage fresh blooming. Deadheading prolongs the purpose of planting the flowers, extending the blooming season beyond what it would otherwise have been. It's picky work, likely to damage the plant should it be clumsily performed. It tries the patience of even the more contemplative gardeners, insisting upon an extended level of focus almost orthogonal to quietly enjoying blossoming flowers.

I water our petunia planters every couple of days through midsummer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Exes

exes
"My first wife will forever have the flu on our honeymoon and my second will always have a cold."

My first wife had the flu for our honeymoon. My second caught a cold. My third wife caught nothing except me, an infection for which there might not be any effective cure, thank heavens. My first marriage ended after I'd fallen in love and turned into a giddy and somewhat irresponsible seventeen year old at thirty-five, my first and most significant mid-life crisis. My second marriage ended after I told a terrible lie. Accused of carrying on an affair I had not engaged in, I admitted to it after realizing that I could never convince anyone, who's identity so utterly depended upon me being such a cad, that she'd just imagined my infidelity. She despised my kids, anyway, which meant in my mind that she deeply despised me. Neither of these disconnects ever got talked out, for each was beyond words to explain. My first wife insisted that we go see a marriage counsellor, but refused to go back a second time when she discovered that the counsellor wouldn't take sides. I continued seeing her and still speak with her today. She's served as my fair witness and refuses to take pay because she insists that I'm an interesting case. My second wife just asked that I thereafter think of her as dead.

While both relations became beyond words as they moved into their ex- states, conversations continued in my head.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheSummerOf1969

summer-1969-lt-blue-prints

"I guess I would have swallowed most anything then, and likely did."

If you weren't there, you're unlikely to believe a word I say describing that time. TheSummerOf1969 seems in the future now, an idyllic upcoming state those of us who were there briefly glimpsed as we sped by. No, I'm not suggesting that everything was rosy then. I lived under the clear and always-present threat that I would be drafted to fight in a meaningless war half way around the globe. My hometown remained securely in the clutches of an entrenched plutocracy. But I'd somehow survived the gulag that was my high school and I really felt as though I was at least ninety percent upside. I had nothing to regret yet. I had not yet fallen hopelessly in love. I had close friends in high places, and while I didn't share their obsession with getting high, I found their presence nonetheless elevating. We fancied ourselves radical and were frantically growing our hair to prove it. Our future was finally now!

The world today isn't painted in the same alluring hues.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeaLonging

sunlitcloudtop
"The curtain hardly falls before another fist cloud boils up into the last of any day's sunlight."

The drenching rain comes in the third act, once the set-up drama just about ends. Some small overlap seems necessary for a smooth transition, but the drenching foreshadows the end. The credits will roll over driveways and ditches draining away the final residue and the standing water starting to seep into soil hardly thirsty by then. I might not even stay up for the final acts, since I prefer the dramatic lead-up much more than the down falling denouement. I appreciate the moisture, but worship the thunder and the lightning.

I saw what first appeared to be tall sails slipping above low clouds already in sunset's shadow.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fambly

fambly
"We think of ourselves as something really quite special, …"

My birth family seemed obsessed with visiting each other. We never once went on a vacation that wasn't primarily focused upon visiting family. We'd arrive and the Brownies would come out and the photographing commenced, lining up the cousins in stair step order, the sisters in mirror proximity, the in-laws as if they were genuine brothers. We also rarely stayed in motels, for there was always some family we could drop in on for at least one night when we were in transit. I suspect that we sometimes came as somewhat of a shock when, near sundown, we'd happen to be near Chico and call ahead to my mom's uncle to announce that the seven of us would be there around suppertime, but we were never once turned away, because we were Fambly.

This was my birth family's experience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SumMorning

SumMorning
" … because I'm already there."

A velvet curtain covered the windows overnight, so thin and permeable that the light breeze could squeeze right through its intricate weave. Morning light slipped through, too, as if the curtain's velvet has expanded to texturize the entire atmosphere. The sunrise screamed through the muffling haze that this would become one of the hotter days, but then, before the paper came, before I could rouse my upside-down American flag on it's stand, the land reclined in perfect ambience. Yesterday's extremes seemed at that early hour a bad dream, though even those extremes hardly blunted my seasonal enthusiasm. We wait through nine or ten months of disparagement for mornings just like this one, mornings which seem to last forever before seeming simply fleeting.

The flower garden's finally as fine as it's going to get, with experiment and old reliable doing their best to please.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

KeepingUp

KeepingUp
"I understand that I'm only marginally worthy of the fruits of their efforts."

I try to keep up, honest I do. I scan the morning news. I do avoid broadcast news, though. Trump's election broke my decades-long addiction to NPR. (Interns seem to have overthrown genuine journalists on NPR. I can tell because they elevate the end of every statement into a question, an annoying affectation.) The fact that it's on the tube chased me away from most televised news, though The Muse and I will sometimes watch the PBS Newshour on a Friday evening just to finish off the week; besides there's nothing else on at that hour. The various nightly newscasts, thoughtfully aired in late afternoon when we're still nose to grindstone, seem as over-produced as any campy Broadway musical. The cable alternatives have priced themselves out of our reach. We unprogrammed our remote's access to our local Faux station, but they never very convincingly pretended to be very interested in broadcasting news. They're a shameless, transparent propaganda distributor. I wonder how they keep their FCC license, or would wonder if I didn't know who was running the FCC these days.

As near as I can determine, anything our President touts as fake news is the God's honest truth news and whatever he touts as honest news is absolutely fake.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Metalogue

metalogue1

" … a snake chasing his own tail,
still deeply uncertain what he might do should he ever finally catch up to it."

Prose comes in many forms: dialogue, monologue, diatribe, lecture, and scold, to name but a scant few of the more frequently encountered types. Fiction and non-fiction hardly stand as distinctive designations, each more dependent upon the author's intention than any pervasively factual foundation. Historical fiction can and does sometimes seem to better represent a period than does scrupulously fact-based history. Commentary takes many forms, and so might be accurately described as a meta-form, one not beholding to any standard classification. Much prose follows subtle rules that if they were ever written down, I haven't found the source document delineating them yet. To speak of these underlying forms seems to require violating those underlying forms, to go meta or mina to them, for speaking of a form seems to require sidestepping the form itself, which might subtly prohibit self-reference as a premise for employing it. My personal ethic to avoid telling people what to do cannot be conveyed by telling people not to tell people what to do, and this highlights the paradoxical territory speaking of underlying forms traverses.

People have been after me to classify my own writing, which I've always found to be a challenge. I can more easily declare what it's not than what it might be.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Righting

righting
"Perhaps I might be an author after all."

I earlier this morning finished copyediting a manuscript I "finished" ten months ago. Copyediting and writing seem antithetical to each other, like shining the brass has almost nothing in common with building a ship from scratch, but the overall effort's uncompleted until somebody polishes that brass. I find this work to be, well, real work, unlike writing, which doesn't usually feel very much like work to me anymore. Furthermore, it feels like picky work, the sort that demands close attention without really paying for it. I'd read each piece before, even scrupulously copyediting them, though I'd never read through the whole work as if I were reading a whole work, which provided a unique experience for me to read something I'd written as if I was a scrupulous reader rather than the proud and slightly defensive author.

I felt surprisingly pleased with this author's work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Sturm und Drang

strumunddrang
"An old saying insists that Sturm und Drang signifies nothing"

I am not a man given to emotional outbursts. I hail from a placid valley where a summer day might passive-aggressively scorch but only rarely degrade into fearful vengeance. Colorado's Front Range experiences a different midsummer normal. Here, a July day's temperature routinely ranges forty degrees or more between sunrise and sunset, heating quickly as morning progresses before monsoonal moisture erupts. The fabled hiss of summer lawns by mid afternoon might routinely transform into brisk then fierce wind followed by first distant thunder, then terrifyingly close lightning, then drenching rain. Colorado's summer weather has serious mood lability issues, and one can reasonably expect it to turn unreasonable with little warning.

It's Texas' fault, a reasonable if slightly unfair attribution.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ComingOfAge

Coming-of-Age
"I expect to continue ComingOfAge until my accumulated age catches up to me,
not until I finally catch up with my age. "

I'm supposed to attend my fiftieth high school reunion in a few weeks, and this event has me ruminating. I was ComingOfAge when I graduated, not yet eighteen and emotionally unprepared to accept that I'd grown up. In fact I had not then completed growing up and cannot yet admit to having finished that labor, for ComingOfAge seems an asymptotic activity, one which never fully completes its mission. I seem to have been chasing the chimera of maturity for as long as I can remember, always pursuing a mythical stable next state which seems to have always been replaced with yet another looming ascension as I grew nearer to it. I remember never having quite grown up into feeling like a fully-qualified high school student when graduation came along, just like I never quite satisfied my aspiration to feel as though I fit into my Junior High School class before graduating from there. Ditto with my grade school and preschool experiences, and ditto to every role I've attempted to assume so far.

I've grown to question whether anyone ever comes of age.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Calculess

carbon-footprint-1
"I might be damned whatever tradeoff I choose."

'They' say that the size of my personal carbon footprint depends upon the tradeoffs I resolve, a series of this or that choices. Many of the choices come cloaked, relying upon me to be alert and aware and present enough to realize in a narrow moment that I'm supposed to be making a choice there. Like most everyone, I live much more automatically than this prescription relies upon me living. I only rarely think twice and even less often ruminate much on whatever choice I've already made, each completed action a sunk cost more than a lesson truly learned. Most of my carbon emissions result from me flipping a bloodless switch. Even so,I know myself to be a serial carbon emitter of the first order in spite (and sometimes because) of my deeply held concern about our precious climate. I'm good as far as that goes, but I'm fairly certain that it's not nearly good enough to matter.

Look, I'd take public transportation if it was available, but it's not.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SlackerDay

fistclouds
"Aren't we all?"

The Muse and I become more insistent than actually obsessive come Saturday morning. We both know what we'll do. Beyond the age when we're obligated to attend any juvenile soccer games, we understand that Saturday morning's reserved far in advance for restocking the larder. This routine repeats itself without becoming ever the same each time, for as the seasons progress, different necessities emerge. In January, our go-to family-run produce stand's closed for the season, so we're relegated to picking through the less discerning supermarket's variety. In high July, though, that stand's finally wide-open, past the Saturdays when they offered the choice between onions and potatoes or both.

Asparagus was finished last week, other than that pencil dick, past season stuff that could be credibly hollowed out and fitted with a graphite core and used for scribbling.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MuseGone

DCConventionCenter
"Those boundary conditions and the rhythm they encourage make my work possible."

The Muse is off galavanting this week. Part of her job involves galavanting, traveling off to conduct business somewhere else. She's done enough of this over the past decade that this week she was named Grand PooBah for Life by the Marriott Hotel Chain. This guarantees that she receives special service, a steep discount, room upgrades, and free high speed internet for life at every Marriott-owned property in the world. She almost always travels alone, leaving me to tend fort while she forays off into hostile territory. Our little fort hardly needs tending, save for watering the plants, so my schedule opens waaaaay up during these absences. Her away schedule allows for two brief check-in periods each day, one while she wends her way to her first morning meeting and another as she wends her way back to her upgraded room and high speed internet service at the end of another over-long day.

These check-ins usually find us with little news.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SweetGrassSeason

sweetgrass
"Do not speak of yesterday or tomorrow today."

The hard luck farmers and harder luck miners who originally founded Denver were probably pretty much ready to head back to from wherever they'd come after that first hard winter and disappointing spring, until a couple of scant weeks into summer and SweetGrassSeason kicked in. Up until then, the region had meted out one humiliation after another. False springs had taunted their cabin fever. Heavy snow had isolated and humbled them. The foreshortened fall before had surrendered too quickly into an early blizzard. I imagine them forlorn with a nagging spouse questioning again just what had seemed so promising about here. But then SweetGrassSeason arrived.

The sky had been cranky, mustering up quick tempestuous thunder carrying torrential rain and hail every damned afternoon.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StayingUp

stayingUp2
"I prefer to think of eternity not as some pearly-gated community …"

When I was about eight years old, I enjoyed no higher privilege than one I created for myself. I'd head for bed at the prescribed hour, feign almost immediate sleep until the bed check passed, then pull my bread-loaf sized radio under the covers with me and listen in to a live broadcast from The Big Y, a turnaround point on the long Main Street drag frequented by high school kids out dragging the gut. The program featured popular music punctuated with news alerts. One unforgettable night, the DJ announced the escape of a kinkajou from a traveling circus. Several nights, someone had escaped from the state penitentiary up on the hill at the far end of thirteenth street. I laid there, warmed by the radio's etherial glow, feeling as though I was situated near the center of the universe. I fell asleep satisfied sometime in the uncountable early morning hours.

A few years later, I took an early morning paper route and over the following several years, transferred that StayingUp reflex into a GettingUp one, finding them both equally satisfying, for both provided that bounded solitude I seemed to crave.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SigjawPuzzle

sigjaw
"I'm more of a tape the box together sort of guy …"

I've put this puzzle back together scores of times. Each time, the age-worn pieces fit together a little differently. My memory holds an impressionistic representation of what the finished picture should be, mostly composed of reanimated routines snugging within old familiars, but it never seems to end up just as I remembered it being before. Each completion an off iteration of whatever had come before. Leaving crumbles the puzzle into constituent pieces, throwing them haphazardly into a box half Scotch® taped together, cover photo faded and worn. Returning pulls that box back out of the game cupboard to lay out those pieces for reassembly, tedious but necessary effort. One cannot stay away for ever and one can never return to find the SigJawPuzzle already completed.

It might not matter where I begin.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lagging

WoolyWilly
" … creating a self-portrait on a Wooly Willy canvas … "

I confided to The Muse that I probably should not be out. We both felt delicate, me having risen at 3am in the guest bed, having no recollection of how I had gotten myself there. The Muse, a reliable last riser, was already up. The laundry was done by seven. We'd gone out shopping at five thirty, aware that we'd left the larder bare when we'd departed for Europe two weeks before. When we arrived at the supermarket, neither of us could think of anything we needed to buy. We returned with a gallon of milk, a quart of yogurt, and a dozen eggs, all of which would remain untouched by the end of that day.

"Where are you going?" The Muse asked as I blew past the exit I had intended to take.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pavements

cobblestone-09
"Those weaned on concrete should struggle to absorb it all."

The flight paths into and out of Denver International Airport have not yet been paved, as evidenced by the routine insistence by every pilot of every arriving and departing flight that cabin service be either suspended three quarters of an hour before landing or delayed for a similar period after takeoff. These departures and arrivals prove to be white knuckle affairs for everyone except the flight crew, and even they give their seat belts an extra snugging tug. I find myself anxiously anticipating every departure and every return before finally submitting to the necessity of experiencing this ordeal, though I don't like or appreciate a minute of these adventures.

In the US, pavements tend toward the uniformly boring.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RulesOfTheRoad

RulesOfTheRoad
"We expect ourselves to behave like the fully functioning adults we know ourselves to be …"

The Muse and I have traveled plenty. We're not genuine World-class travelers, but we've managed to make our way anyway. Our relationship began during a period of rather intense business travel, which we always managed, in the spirit of any fresh relationship, to make into net pleasurable excursions. A week in Winston-Salem rivaled a week in Rome, for we were younger then and so deeply in love. We learned our ropes, our RulesOfTheRoad under perhaps the most positive conditions. We learned not to take much of anything that happens very personally, for grudgy effects could sour an otherwise delightful experience. Stuff happens, inconveniences conspire, it's nothing more than their nature, but we never agreed to become pawns to their conniving games and always managed to have a vote in every outcome. We noticed early on that some people seem to travel for the pure aggravation it provides in their lives. Listening to their travel stories seemed like listening to a particularly vengeful prosecutor talking himself into filing a viscous bill of particulars. Flights arrived late. Hotel reservations lost. Dinners uneatable. Of course these minor distractions happen to everyone who deigns to move beyond the secure confines of home, but none of them amount to the stuff anyone should aspire to make into a Federal case. We early on decided that these amounted to nothing much more than plot twists and need not ever very deeply influence the quality of any outcome. So we arrived hours later than planned? We call this sort of occurrence a So What?.

We do have a few rather hard and fast rules which we intend to help ensure domestic tranquility.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Traveling

traveling
"I expect my shadow to continue to surprise me whenever I chance to see it."

"They" say that travel broadens one. If it does, it accomplishes this end by successively narrowing perspective. From the row twenty-two aisle seat on the transatlantic flight to the semi-private compartment on a Central European train through Slovakia, remarkably tiny spaces contain most of traveling. The broadening, more a smearing, actually, must come from switching out these spaces over relatively short periods of time. Travel from Budapest to Prague involves witnessing a few foreshortened hours of quickly shifting vistas through farmland, picturesque villages about the size of a photograph of them, and through tiny train stations before finally slow-crawling into the massive train yard in Prague. Likewise, walking those old cobbled Prague streets provides no more than the narrowest perspective on the place at any one time. A walk might take one through a half-dozen remarkably narrow passages where one can't see more than a few meters ahead or behind them self. Even the view from the Prague Castle parapet provides less perspective than I might catch from our deck back home. Yet, near the end of an excursion, ten or twelve days in, I feel as though I can see much more broadly than I could from my deck back home.

We spent a few days in a genuinely tiny apartment in Budapest which featured a view clear across a narrow street.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BurrLynn

BurrLynn
"Nuthin-particularly-special, but plenty and enough."

Berlin feels more like an extended suburb than a world capitol. It stretches from horizon to horizon to horizon to horizon, hardly rising from the horizontal plane. It clearly ain't no New York, Paris, London, Prague, Vienna, or Rome. It's looks like more of a Gary, Indiana sort of place with a few canals and a small river thrown in. It once, like many other capital cities, aspired to become the capital of the world, though by aspect alone, it hardly could have ever realistically consummated that romance. It fell, hard, dividing itself instead, a cautionary tale for any place defensively lusting after becoming some place more special than they were. It holds few treasures and more cold memories than any similarly-sized space on earth.

The more affluent neighborhoods have populated their sidewalks, making them appear no different from any other yuppie enclave anywhere in the world.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Good&Lost

Good&Lost
"We can always choose to get bad and lost without really choosing anything."

Neither The Muse nor I seem to be immune from getting lost. Even assisted by GPS and the almost always available GoogleMaps app, we still get lost. We can't credibly blame these occurrences on the mapping software because it's just software and therefore eminently fallible. We can't always blame ourselves, either, and not only because blaming never found anything. In order for blaming to find anything, it would have to reverse the ineffable forward flow of time, which would be an unrealistically heavy lift for anybody. Blaming suggests just going back for a do-over, but there's never any going back and therefore no do-over possible. Getting lost seems an inescapable element of living and probably not that much of a problem, anyway, though it certainly seems like the problem it isn't.

I figure that getting lost serves as a force leveler, protecting me from getting what my mother would call "too big of a head."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GrandEntrances

GrandEntrance
"We will have no opportunity to remake that first impression with another GrandEntrance."

The Romans perfected this schtick. Following some victory in Gaul or equally far-flung place, a triumphant general would ride ahead of his legions into Rome with much heraldry and trumpet-blowing. Employing the photographic technology of the time, the celebration would then be painstakingly carved into a bas relief and cemented into a city wall. An arch might be constructed over the following century or two, ensuring that this victory would live long in the citizens' memory. Today, some nerd schlumps off a long train ride to insist that he doesn't need a cab or a tram or even a subway ride. He and his lovely wife will instead drag their roller-bags through the middle of town during the height of the evening strolling hour. A lasting impression will remain, but mostly in the minds of those pulling those bags over dispassionate cobblestone. Finally arriving sweaty and breathless at their hotel, they receive the dispassionate attention of a distracted night clerk before proceeding without trumpetry to their room where they will leave a temporary bas relief of their exhaustion in the bedcovers when they rise the next morning.

The Muse and I have produced a considerable history of making GrandEntrances such as the latter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ClearingOut

clearout
" … open to discovering fresh futures."

At some point near the end of the first reel or the beginning of the second, the desperadoes would have done about as much damage as they could, given that a posse was at that very minute closing in on them. One of the bad guys, not necessarily the leader, would stand a little taller in his saddle and proclaim, "Let's clear out, boys!" Amid general disarray, then, the desperadoes would depart. I'm thinking about the notion of ClearingOut this morning, as The Muse and I pack up to head on toward our next destination. The refrigerator's emptied and swabbed out. Counters clean. All but the last load of garbage already sits in the bottom of the bin. The bathroom's returned to its original state, our bag's packed, and I'm an hour ahead of our scheduled departure time.

In my home life, I clear out about once a year, usually as spring threatens to cast a scornful light upon accumulated remaining winter sloth, but I never clear out to this degree except when moving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SlightSeeing

"The world-weary traveler just wants to go back home again."

Tourist can become a difficult role to fulfill. It might appear from the outside looking at, that the tourist lives the Life of Riley: chauffeured in an air conditioned bus, put up at tour rates in first class hotels, sumptuously fed on local specialties at every stop, but the non-stop services can leave the traveller feeling done for. When does he get to decide anything? That tour guide with the gaudy pink umbrella she insists upon waving around like she's rallying troops around the flag seems to take a tad too much sense of authority from her role. The bus drivers maintain their steely-eyed gazes. Rumor has it that they're all retired Special Forces with ice water running through their veins. The fellow travelers, too, can wear on a man's patience, capable of moving no faster than a reluctant donkey, a man only rarely manages to hit his stride so he shuffles along with increasing ennui.

After a few days surveying the legacies of several century's worth of royalty, another set of crown jewels resembles nothing more than a sale display counter at Macy's.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hunglish

atable
"I feel like a temporary illusion here."

Walk down any street in Europe and your eye will catch some familiar words displayed on shop fronts. Typically between two words clearly in the local language, a prominent English word appears. Much in the way that a French word in an English advertisement catches the eye and imparts a certain cache even when I don't understand the meaning of the word, I suppose English in a French or Hungarian business name sets that shop apart, perhaps a smidge above, its competitors. Some of the words seem necessary. I mean what besides Burger Bar would one name a burger bar in Budapest? Pizza's pizza the world 'round. The Chinese fast food joint in our Obuda neighborhood declares CHINESEFASTFOOD beside a Hungarian phrase I suspect translates into CHINESEFASTFOOD, so why the concatenated English version? It seems that all Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai places in Budapest prominently feature English on their signs. Are these places there to serve English-speaking visitors, or does this encoding hold special meaning for the locals, too?

Menus rarely feature even a hint of English.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BurgerBar










©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









Comments

You'reUp

Jean-Baptiste_Marie_Pierre_-The Rape of Europe
"The differences seem overwhelmingly superficial …"

Wherever I go, I find essentially the same old thing: people going about living their lives according to remarkably similar patterns. Different places offer different challenges for their inhabitants, but local adaptations aside, humans seem remarkably consistent in their manner of living. Some favor rice for breakfast, while others swear by strudel, while still others insist upon ham and eggs, each difference more superficial than substantial, for each rises hungry and proceeds to satisfy that hunger by relatively convenient means, largely relying upon local availability to determine preference. Some think ham and eggs unconscionable. Waffle House patrons would pass on the opportunity to choose any weird breakfast choices. (Cough, cough)

These superficialities attract much attention, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FakingStock

FakingStock
"The results prove nourishing anyway."

During the earliest days of summer, a man's thoughts inexorably turn toward produce. The cherries are in, dark, firm, and glorious. Small rose-blushed apricots cannot be resisted without committing one of those sins of omission that at least one of the more vengeful gods will eventually get you for. The garlic's young, the parsley root, ancient, the celery so fresh that the root needs no peeling and the greens scent everything they touch. Though The Muse and I stroll through the Grand Market on the alien side of the Just Visiting line, I finally cannot resist. That little apartment we're staying in must have something like a stock pot, mustn't it? I could conceivably buy a small amount of braising beef, a slice of that extra fine-grained pork belly fat, and a turkey carcass with which to concoct a decent stock. It would't be very much like any of the many stocks I've seen described by fine chefs, but it might work just fine for some NuthinSpecial someone like me.

I groan our way home on the tram, my shoulders bowing beneath the accumulated weight of just a little of this and a little of that.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DisOrientation

disorientation
" … it's just sometimes sorely needed."

Eventually, even the better-behaved gods tire of omniscience, which can become quite pedestrian even if one takes care to avoid constantly lording the ability over everyone else. It's a tricky balance, because omniscience isn't one of those senses anyone can deliberately turn off. It comes unbidden, filling in any threatening cluelessness before it can sting. But this sort of cluing in carries a sting of its own, eventually accumulating to just beyond the Dull Throb level. Then, even the most cultured god needs a break. "How about a vacation?", the ever-helpful omniscience asks, further amplifying the need for the god to take a vacation by merely asking the question. "Where to?", the god quietly wonders. "Someplace where your omniscience can take a well-deserved rest," a beleaguered omniscience wheezes.

There, the language should violate every principle of written and spoken communication.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TravelingWithAHat

IMG_4172
" … at least in his own dazzled eyes, he looks absolutely marvelous."

Let's imagine that you're a gentleman of a certain age and that you're traveling. It's a common sight anywhere that tourists gather to see a gentlemen, even one wearing Oompa-Loompa cargo shorts, wearing a cap, a ball cap or a long-brimmed fisherman's cap featuring a Velcro® tightening strap around back. This casual headgear has become ubiquitous and hardly elevates a gentleman beyond the status of gardener, not that gardening's an ungentlemanly occupation. But when strolling the promenades of, let's say, Paris, what gentleman aspires to exude the presence of a rose trimmer or, excuse the expression, a Weedeater® operator? Few, I deign. A gentleman properly wishes at these times of promenade, to appear every bit the gentleman he probably wishes he actually was but knows himself to not be. These times demand a proper chapeau, perhaps a finely-woven palm Panama fedora, and finely-woven Panama fedoras are by nature fragile things.

When I bought mine, I asked the clerk if it was one of those Panamas I'd seen advertised as capable of being rolled up and stuffed in odd corners. He paled at my mention.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Leifing

Leif
"One never brings the refrigerator along on a camping trip."

I'm thinking that I probably won't get away with packing light for our two week swat around Europe. The intentions start predictably pure. I targeted the smallest bag in the place and declared that one as mine this trip. You see, I'm a proud veteran of several campaigns, each of which was punctuated with logistical challenges. Schlepping oversized and overstuffed roller bags up three sweaty flights of unforgiving concrete out to street level in Rome, where the roller bags first encountered cobblestone, then dragging them toward our lodgings like they were cranky children overdue for their naps. Wrestling workshop leftovers through three bus and two train transfers following a session in a rural corner of The Low Countries to save a hundred euros cab fare. Failing to successfully stuff too much baggage into a car barely larger than the typical box store shopping cart. I've had my bruises and strained back muscles brought on by the idea that I somehow needed to take a tad too much of home along when traveling. I thought I might choose differently this time. Fat chance!

Cheap flights mean excessive bag fees, which means everyone tries to carry their doghouse onboard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CustomerCaring

shoeshine
"These so-called systems all seem jury-rigged to me."

The Muse ordered some makeup online … This declaration does not sound like the opening sentence of a gripping NYTimes bestselling potboiler. It hardly seems noteworthy. Everyone orders stuff online. Some people hardly exist outside of their Amazon Prime® account. I rarely order anything online because the hostile user interfaces scare me off. Every provider uses essentially the same sequence of screens to capture an order, and I reliably lose my way about halfway through these series. I understand that the underlying design must have been rigorously tested for utility, but they do not work for me. I always have to interrupt the process. I probably forgot my Pastword. I enter my credit card information incorrectly and cannot figure out how to correct the error. I inadvertently ordered multiples thanks to a hyperactive Buy button. Whatever the reason, if I don't just abandon the effort, I have to call the Customer Care line and speak to someone in Bangalore about correcting the mistake.

The Muse, however, quickly consummated her transaction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LivingBackwards

LivingBackwards
"Damn the dichotomies, full speed ahead …"

The old saw insists that we live life exclusively forward. Next builds upon next, no U-turns allowed. Meaning, though, seems to emerge in reflection, in LivingBackwards for a while. Reflection serves as a welcome eddy within life's relentless forward flow, where a weary fish might casually snack on a caddis fly or two. Sure, the river flows on as ever, but the fish slips out of the current to contemplate rather than endlessly compete. I believe that us fish need some reflection time to make and maintain sense of our place, a peek back upstream to appreciate what's passed and an occasional side glance to catch what we almost passed without really noticing. I seem to live my life in fits and starts as well as backward and forward flows.

Three months ago I chose FindingHome as the 'theme' of my upcoming quarter's writing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FutureTensile

tensile
"I'm still sprouting my tail feathers."

I felt old at twenty-five. I'd just started university, surrounded by freshmen seven or eight years my junior. I was older than my grad student TAs. My high school experience felt stale and distant. I'd probably never really studied anything in my life up to that time and though I felt old, I also felt as though I'd enrolled in a daunting game of Catch-Up. I felt dedicated, though, focused upon some future state. I wanted to have graduated more than I wanted to learn. I'd catch an early bus to make my eight o'clock, attend classes until around noon, then grab a quick lunch before reporting to my job, where I'd stay until just before my evening classes began, usually arriving home around nine-thirty, then to start my studying for the next day's classes. I went out for beers with classmates about twice during my university years, for that time felt like an extended exercise in social isolation, a solitary period where my bus rides were my primary study period. It was hard on my marriage.

I hardly noticed at the time, but my life's social fabric stretched in ways that wouldn't allow it to return to its former shape.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Begginnings

Begginings
"I will be further from home than I've ever been …"

I can see the impending ending much more clearly than the new beginning, though neither have arrived. The impending ending casts a more believable story, as if the current plot line could not possible be broken between here and there. The following new beginning seems barely notional from here, and could turn out to be a simple extension of what I already know or could manifest as a sharp break, or even as something somewhere in between. I don't know. I do know that an opportunity for a sharp break lies just around the next corner. I'm not quite ready to let go of the current status quo, which has grown to serve me very well. I'm likewise uncertain of my ability to grasp onto a fresh thread, but then I never am.

I some days ache for change but only rarely ever try to treat those symptoms.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fatherhood

fatherhood

Today's FindingHome story focuses upon Fatherhood, perhaps the most misunderstood role anyone ever plays. I have wrestled with its implications since my first Father's Day, forty years ago today. I am growing to acknowledge that the meaning of Fatherhood might be found in how one actually performs in the role, not in how well one echos their prepared lines or finds his markings on the stage, but in how he engages. The expectations almost guarantee a belly flop or few, and most fathers more than fulfill this crucial part of their role.

That tie, hung in homage around the patriarch's neck this day, might easily imply that he should by all rights be hung high for his many complicities. He might not so easily absolve himself of all he did and all he failed to do. Dad's are duffuses, and absent this deep and appreciative acknowledgement, I believe that any Father's Day celebration falls well short of its potential, perhaps of its obligation. Fatherhood: no one could live or fully justify all those years of therapy without it. Happy, anyway...

"I was and will continue to be one duffus of a dad."

I think of Fatherhood as a second chance at childhood. Not a time of privilege, but of sacred obligation raised to the level of delight. The boogiemen seem bigger, the responsibilities more daunting, but it represents the next-to-last opportunity to experience innocence again. To see the world through naive eyes. To experience so much for the very first time. To break purposeful cadence and move at a much less than leisurely pace. To accept grace. To stare life directly into a face without blinking … much. (Made you blink! Made you blink!)

It brings a time of focus far away from self, an opportunity to fade into the far background in favor of those who really matter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Method-ology

ology
"Nobody very vehemently celebrates completing any checklist."

There's a science of that and an -ologist methodically practicing in that field. Our universe has been successfully subdivided into such specialties, the few remaining general practitioners relegated to working mere margins. The specialists take center stage now as if we're all quietly working our way toward a golden referral, validated by our need to consult with a real expert in some field we hardly knew existed before that dreaded diagnosis. How comforting to learn that someone dedicated their professional life exclusively to this narrow deep-dive deliberation. Have a difficulty? See an -ologist for resolution.

I've been searching for my home these last couple of months. Perhaps I should have consulted with a home-ologist, one more expert at finding what I seek.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constraints

Constraints
Pity the poor little rich boy,
raised with no constraints.
He could've been anything he wanted to be
except for what he ain't.


I am the product of my constraints, for I do what I can and never what I cannot. I curse these curious benefactors as if they were preventing me from becoming what I really, truly want to become, while they tirelessly hold the edge between here and oblivion. Every damned one of them serves as a limiting factor to frustrate my desires. Every blessed one of them seem damned determined to help me realize just who I might actually become. My clandestine constraints trip me when I rush to collect the product of my dreams, reminding me that I never was and was never bound to become the center of any universe, not even, especially even, my own.

My constraints help keep me humble.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Vacations

notvacation
"I still have no freaking clue what to do with myself when I'm not working, preferably from home."

While planning for our upcoming trip to Europe, I received an email from a colleague in Vienna reminding us that people there are generally out of the office and on vacation in July and August. I flashed back to the many postponed and foregone vacations during my professional life. I had a knack for becoming a key person on a time-critical project whenever scheduled vacation time or a major holiday arrived, and being the good employee that I was, I would magnanimously volunteer to stay behind and work. One year, The Insurance Company sent my first wife and I, along with our two kids, to Disneyland to repay us for the planned vacation I'd sacrificed in favor of overseeing a crucial implementation which didn't end up happening on schedule, anyway. I remember what a miserable time we had there, discovering that Disneyland roughly equated to one of the inner circles of Hell. That vacation started when we returned home.

Europeans treat vacation with a seemingly imperative reverence, like the devout consider church attendance. Americans treat them the way secular Europeans treat church attendance, as one of those practices grandma might have observed but which moderns mostly do not.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SenseOfPlace

senseofplace
"Home's not where I live, but where I'm of."

The more one wanders, the less home seems like a physical place. Repeated leavings, when combined with lengthy separations, leave no more than an increasingly vague SenseOfPlace in its place. I admit that this transformation makes little sense, for if a place is a place is a place, the physical space should at least seem to remain somewhat static in my absence, but it just doesn't. Instead, reflections, which manage to get everything but vague gists backward, come to dominate what remains of my sense of home. I might therefore catch glimpses of home wherever I find myself with only one prominent omission. I understand, even in my more entranced moments, that I project that image I so readily and warmly recognize. It's not so much out-there as disconcertingly close to in-here instead. I nonetheless feel the heartfelt satisfaction as if lighting up a long-favored and rarely savored cigar. I secretly hope The Muse won't catch me sneaking a smoke.

Still, people ask me where I'm from, which always gives me uncomfortable pause.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SweetWeek


SweetWeek
"Shouldn't satisfaction come in such thin slices?"

Last week seemed too cold. Next week might turn unseasonably warm. One blessed week during the unresolved season, the world finally comes into focus, probably for no more than that week. The week arrives without notice, a veritable thief in the night, for no amount of anticipation or heart-felt wishing could have brought it around. It comes as a surprise, a form of grace, seemingly unbidden. I might spend a day or two before I come to realize just where I happen to find myself, then a sluggish recognition kicks in. The early morning air somehow lost her bite. The lengthening evenings hesitate before passing into night. I could leave the window open 24/7 if The Muse didn't complain of the chill only she can feel. I lose the socks.

The garden's satisfied, roots exploring through freshly-turned soil, another few handfuls of rocks tossed toward the rough yard edge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InfoWatcher

TMI
"I need much less of what everyone seems determined to provide ever more of."

The Muse received a FitBit® in the mail last week as part of a wellness program she joined at work. Now she wears a bracelet that counts her steps, identifies incoming emails and calls, and I don't know what-all else. She's wired. She suggested that perhaps I'd like one, too, but I declined the invitation. She photographs every supper to send to some wellness program consultant who critiques her suppers, for cripes sake, providing the sort of feedback nobody really has any use for. By the time she receives the information, she's already swallowed her supper and can only respond with remorse or a small celebration, though she might learn something for next time if she can find a place to store each fresh piece of information.

Me? I'm on a new program I'm calling InfoWatchers, an ongoing attempt to somehow limit the information assaulting me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Letters

Letters
" … genuine attention seems to necessarily take the slow boat between us."

Over the past two weeks, I've found three opportunities to write letters. My correspondents were in hospital, cut off from electronic communications, so I sent actual letters. Not e-mails. Not Tweets or quick Facebook commentary, but genuine actual personal letters. I first had to dredge up my faint memory of just how to format a letter, for these babies demand a specific formal: date and location at the top, etc. I next had to rethink what one includes in a proper letter, for a proper letter seems confidential. It will never go viral, or even aspire to, for it wants to be an outpouring, a heart to heart with one heart imagined and the other far-too used to hiding. Letters allow a rare sort of conversation, one-sided and many-faceted. The purpose seems to be an out-pouring, a lightening, a confiding unknown to every other medium. A letter lives on the stark edge between private and public, with a public of precisely one.

Much of history seems represented in letters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Vis-Ability

TheInvisibleMan
"Even The Invisible Man has his moments, or those moments have him."

Contrary to the number of FaceBook posts I make every day, I consider myself to be an intensely private man. I stopped using my Twitter account about the same time Our President started over-using his. I forgot my LInkedIn password and feel no great compulsion to remember it since its curious user interface required me to relearn how to use it every time I logged in and I admit that I never understood what it was intended to be there for, other than to broadcast the superficial specifications favored by curricula vitae, the most superficial sort of personal characterizations. Instagram couldn't capture my interest. I've lately created a private FaceBook Group where I post the bulk of my stuff to people I've specifically invited to receive it. I'm nobody's self-promoter in a culture which seems absolutely obsessed with self-promotion.

I've always preferred bounded solitude, comforted by the certain knowledge that others were nearby but not in my face.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Viscosity

Viscosity-Chart-2-1
"Whether I move fast or slow probably has more to do with fluid dynamics …"

My first rule of project management insists that one must first find the natural rhythm of the effort, then do whatever possible to match that rhythm. I might have just as easily proposed matching the viscosity rather than the rhythm, if only because viscosity seems somehow easier to determine. The gist says that one should avoid expecting honey to flow like water. Well-understood principles govern the fluid dynamics of substances, but these principles become meaningless if one mischaracterizes the substance they're working with. Few projects in my experience ever flowed like water. It seemed that most of the executives funding the efforts presumed they would and could, an easy mistake if you've never been up to your armpits in window putty that was touted as likely to flow like water.

Different times, a project as well as a life, might well exhibit different Viscosities.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Extraordinary

extraordinary
"The Extraordinary emerges from a meeting of my mind with the rest of my world …"

I started two years ago this month writing what would grow to become a series of seven and still counting books predicated upon the simple-seeming proposition that each day carries some Extraordinary enough experience to warrant writing about. I admit my audacity as well as the inescapable contradiction in my founding injunction, which dared me to go forth and notice the Extraordinary every damned day. Everyday experiences distinguish themselves from Extraordinary ones by the inherent infrequency of their appearance, so Everyday Extraordinary seems to violate some principle or other, but what do I know of principle? I know almost exclusively by my own personal experience, with even others' reports filtered through my, apparently unique, cognition. I proposed my predicate more as a challenge for me to disprove than for me to fully validate, though disproving it might deeply disappoint my aspiration. I wanted to believe that such an obvious contradiction might, just might, prove true, and so, it seems, it has so far. I cannot say with any great certainty what tomorrow might bring, but almost every day over the past two years has brought with it something Extraordinary hookie-bobbing along on its rear bumper. I've noticed.

My experimental quest might prove nothing more than the existence of self-fulfilling expectations, for I admit that I primed myself to become especially watchful so as to notice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SpringMorning

SpringMorning
"Our deck garden refuge serves as the center of this home from June into early October"

A Spring Morning shows up swollen with possibility, aching to be seized. Anything could happen. The eastern horizon starts glowing long before the sun's scheduled arrival. I check the clock, thinking I must have overslept, but I have not. The day leans ahead of herself, craning her neck across the starting gate, seemingly anxious to just get going. I can barely sit still. This will not be a day for reflection.

The Muse mentions that she misses her yard as we wander around the plant nursery.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Songwritings

songwriting
" … inviting me to begin all over again again."

The Muse is forever after me to pick up my guitar. Last night with an honored guest over for supper, she quietly asked as we finished eating if I felt like playing my guitar. I nodded in the negative and she dropped her usual insistence with only the barest hint of a whimper. Over the past couple of years, I've found myself persistently not really in the mood to pick up my guitar. It's sat in a closed case down in my basement studio which I only very rarely even enter anymore. I consider this hesitance to be an affliction, though I remain uncertain of the underlying pathology, if, indeed, an underlying pathology even exists. I certainly don't have a ready name or syndrome to assign to this curious separation, one equivalent to finding myself separated from my self, since my guitar has been as integral a part of me as my heart since about fourth grade.

I write songs. Not to make a living, though I once imagined that I might, but to live.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Routines

routines
"I expect the rest of me to catch up sometime over the next fitful week."

Traveling disrupts routines. Returning does, too. The disruption can feel exhilarating, liberating. Returning can feel more disorienting than reassuring. The old routines don't seem queued up for me to simply step into them and I cannot catch that once preconscious rhythm. I sit and stare at the place I so recently simply stared through, so common and so ordinary were my daily patterns of movement here. I almost remember where everything goes, but what starts out as an enthusiastic unpacking soon slows into ever tightening indecisive circles. I finally surrender to the feeling and adjourn to bed before supper, falling into a deep sleep while shivering under the covers with my clothes still on.

I'd neglected to turn on the furnace after that true Spring day before we left and yes, it had snowed four days during our absence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThirdWorld

ThirdWorld
" … [I] might well find myself forced to call such places home again."

When I travel, I try to imagine what it might be like to live in the places we pass through. What sort of houses do the locals seem to favor? Where do they shop? How do they transport themselves? I'm unfortunate because, having grown up in a Walt Disney movie set, few places pass even perfunctory scrutiny as halfway decent places to live. Many seem too barren of the fundamental necessities of what I believe constitutes a decent life, unfortunate waysides where life as I know and expect it seems simply impossible to live. My first visit to New York City left me, as I believe it leaves most people, wondering how anyone could possibly eek out a living there. Later visits found me discovering tiny pockets of possible homesites, but even those seemed surrounded by hostile territory.

Subsequent visits often blunt my initial impression, which tends toward the scathing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DriveBy

driveby
" … hoping to make some real progress today."

Much of The Great American Road Trip involves driving by places. Stopping slows progress and progress might be the most important product of any American road trip. Distances seem vast but only because they are genuinely vast. A day's driving might barely get one through a region. Crossing some states require more than a day of concerted progress. The roads have become increasingly anonymous. With Interstate freeways, one can travel from coast to coast without once leaving the numbing pattern of essentially identical lanes, exits, and signs, with guard rails carefully positioned to block any view of any unique or unusual sight. Yet we insist that we've visited a place when we've probably only driven by it.

Driving up and out of New Orleans, the interstate travels along a causeway over an enormous spillway pushing an alarming current of muddy brown Mississippi water into a huge basin, a line dividing sparkling blue and murky brown. No Stopping, signs insist.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProDuckTivity

ProDuckTivity
"Allow some self-satisfaction to wash up and over."

Yesterday turned out to be one of those once-in-a-hundred-or-two-hundred days where everything just went my way. I finished stuff. My usual queue seems clogged with various undertakings likely to do me in before I ever finish them. I could justify feeling discouraged, even despondent, at the continuing prospect of never, ever completing anything had I not long ago grown more or less accustomed to the unfinished queue's essentially permanent presence. Over time, I suppose I've tempered my objectives a little — or a LOT. Incompleteness brings no sense of anxiety anymore, but more often leaves me feeling complacent, as if completion might have always been a rare but not entirely special thing, a Red Herring. I wouldn't engage listlessly so much as with a certain sangfroid. I tend to pick away at things.

But then once every quarter or so, I experience a truly productive day, one where I not only complete something, I complete something huge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FiveTwoFiveOhTwo

HawthorneBlossoms
"May we both continue to prosper."

On this date, the Hawthorne tree reliably blooms, scenting the street with apple blossom air. The yard seems simply glorious, a secret garden of subtle delights. So The Muse and I chose this day to marry. Family and friends gathered to meet and celebrate and everyone invited got assigned some small chore, for this was a do it ourselves affair, only possible with the contributions of everyone there. The Muse's aged aunt weeded out the fern bed, bending beside her walker to get her fingers dirty on the afternoon before the formal ceremony. We'd traded a friend for his services as the chef d'jour, grilling whole Copper River Sockeye salmon fillets and fresh cut asparagus. My niece played bartender. The Muse's son and brother wired up the party lights and everybody seemed to schlepp tables and chairs. I made a late afternoon run to a nearby nursery to snatch a load of bark chips to dress up the pond surround. The Muse's sisters helped prep in the kitchen, saving our butts when the vegetarian contingent wondered what on the menu they might consume. Instant magical Pad Thai appeared!

The Muse and I wrote our own ceremony, of course, overseen by the able hand of a man we'd met in one of our workshops, an imposing biker dude with genuine attitude and a disarmingly gentle hand.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HüskerDü

HuskerDu
"It's just a matter of me continuing the search until I delight myself …"

Life seems like an extended game of HüskerDü. I seek matches for my wants. Yesterday morning, I noticed our bathroom was out of toilet paper, so I ran out to the supermarket, proudly proclaiming when I returned that I'd restocked only to hear The Muse patiently explain to me that there were additional rolls cleverly hidden in a place I could not find. This sort of action happens less often at home, where I'm usually considered to be the font of such knowledge. I believe that humans feel the need to travel whenever they've memorized the local HüskerDü board at home and ache for a little more mystery in their lives, even if that mystery might be where to find the danged toilet paper.

This temporary kitchen kept me entertained for the best part of an afternoon after I'd unknowingly volunteered to cook supper for everyone in the house.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Settler

settler
" … recognizing ourselves as we'd not ever experienced ourselves before."

Three days into these temporary digs and I notice myself settling in. That first day, I felt like a blind man, complacently following those who already knew the way. The second day, I allowed myself limited excursions, finding the grocery twice and returning without the navigation system keeping watch over me. The third day, I flew solo, relying upon my budding sense of direction to guide me without disappointing myself. I broadened my horizons, even guiding The Muse through a neighborhood I realized that I suddenly and surprisingly knew better than she did. I even took advantage of the public transportation, a great and pleasing gift to any visitor uninterested in actually driving around strange country.

I expect that my pioneer forebears followed a similar pattern when assimilating into their new digs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fierce

fierce
"A place can have its charms even if it's Fierce for most of every day."

I first encountered humidity in my early twenties, when I finally travelled East of Idaho. Around about North Platte, Nebraska I noticed an unease crawling down my back and wondered out loud what I was experiencing. My partner named it, prompting me to ask why anyone would ever tolerate this stuff. I came to realize that more than half of this country sweltered through half of each year, that The Founding Fathers fought for ownership of a country that smelled like the inside of an old leather suitcase. Our frock-coated forebears' stiff collars wicked sweat and so did the dainty petticoats of their whalebone corseted spouses. Over the following two years, I came to know humidity more intimately than I really cared to. I learned how it can magnify a sultry sun's rays to produce what the locals referred to as Sun Poisoning, a skin blistering not even ice baths soothe.

Our years in DC left me with a deep respect for wet blanket weather.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeAway

homeaway3
" We move from home to home to home, never to ever come back around again."

On the fifth day, we pulled into the short driveway adjacent to the double shotgun rental. Two of our housemates had arrived an hour earlier, but they'd generously decided to defer choosing their bedroom until The Muse and I showed up. We surveyed the premises: huge and well-appointed kitchen/living room/dining room/library (with library ladder) dominated the front half of the first floor. A massive master bedroom and attached bath with both a soaking tub and an eight spigot full body walk-in shower took the back left and back end of the place, a smaller den bedroom and laundry room, the other. Upstairs, another master bedroom with attached sitting room and bath dominated by a clawfoot tub, comprised the whole second floor. I feigned indifference about which bedroom to choose, choosing to let the others choose, and The Muse and I ended up just where I wanted us to be, in the back downstairs bedroom. The door to the outside patio served me well when I woke rested and disoriented at three o'clock the following morning.

This place would never have been the result of either The Muse or my deliberate design, but it feels home enough after traveling halfway across the country.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Charicatures

charicature
"Travel occurs between these two diametrically opposing perspectives."

Fan palms, a massive magnolia, ancient oaks, and a raft of fauna for which I have no label surround me this morning. I imagine myself sitting beside a tranquil bayou but I know I'm sitting on the backside of a rusty-silled tourist motel beside a shimmering cement pond. I possess an iconic rather than an eidetic memory, which means I hold patterns rather than specific images, matching presumed similarities rather than actual characteristics. My world view carries caricatures in lieu of actual examples. My memory bank seems more cartoon store than authenticator. I hold my prejudices more prominently than I suspect, imagining my neighbors as I have been entrained to imagine them based upon studiously superficial examination. I hardly know myself well enough to posit a credible theory of my own existence yet blithely presuppose that I understand my surroundings well enough to interpret them.

The atmosphere this morning feels like a warm damp blankey draped over my shoulders.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

After ...

after2
"The Muse and I were fortunately not victims of anything …"

My sister hid in her bedroom closet with her dog while my brother-in-law stood before the television. The Muse and I had simultaneously received a tornado warning on our iPhones and we were relying upon the locals to tell us what to do. The Muse grew up in tornado country. I had not. The announcer displayed rain-splattered images and map overlays, failing to catch any discernible rotation in the scudding cloud cover. He explained that this one was cloaked, surrounded by a wall of water, and could not be visually verified, but the instruments clearly indicated some budding rotation within those clouds. The weather outside seemed placid until it didn't anymore. Whatever it was, a twister or an announcer shouting, seemed about a mile away from our location and moving away to the East. We'd just been talking about where the hidey hole was in the house a short time before the warning came through.

Nothing came of that warning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FarAway

FarAway1
"If I slow down a little, I might recognize myself zooting through."

I didn't notice until later that afternoon. The Muse and I had somehow crossed over into the genuinely FarAway. No roadsigns defined the border. No real sense of distance overcame me until after we'd arrived. It wasn't exactly that the place smelled different, though it did, or looked all that different, but that we'd passed over some familiar horizon into space with genuinely undefined boundaries. North? South? East? West? The Muse, being a born Mid-Westerner, carries an innate sense of direction. She easily determines West from East even if no handy mountain range delineates the difference; something about direction and angle of the sun … or something. Those of us who were reared in a western valley missed acquiring that nth directional sense and have always cheated, or never really cared to make this distinction. Out on the vaster ocean of land, navigation depends upon nth senses I do not possess and I feel FarAway.

I find myself lost and disoriented for the first hour of the drive, sensing (wrongly) that we must be headed in the opposite of our intended direction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Prayrie

prayier
" … leaving behind only heartfelt prayers for this Prayrie and its familiar people."

The transition from high plateau to low plain passes with hardly a cue. The Muse and I disagree on the primary feature of the passing terrain. I say it's horizonless while she insists that it's all horizon out here, nothing but! I say that the sandy prairie eventually turns to dust before finally finding groundwater near enough the surface to do anyone any good, Prayrie. Too flat to have once been Dust Bowl country, though it might have made a decent run at a Dust Plate or Dust Platter designation. The wind here does everything but blow. It sucks. It howls. It draws. It nags The Schooner's nose as we edge our way Due East. No need to nudge off onto the finer compass points. Due East'll do just fine.

This is the Heartland of America, the great flyover zone, the region we love to denigrate for its degenerately conservative politics and rube lifestyles, where one encounters more wide-assed pickups and piece-of-shit Elantras than Teslas on the road, that's for sure.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gone-ing

gone-ing
"I cannot wait to be finished with this incessant Gone-ing and simply become a goner again."

The twenty four hours before leaving must be the most productive period in our lives. We're not leaving for good, not forever or anything, but the bustle of putting our affairs in order fills the place. The refrigerator receives the scrutiny it's been aching for and a supper of leftovers emerges. A few forgotten remainders go down the disposal and the dishwasher fills up with skanky Tupperware. A last load of laundry starts grinding away. I'd trimmed and mowed the yard, finally finished raking up the overwinter moss growth and carting it to the compost heap cleverly hidden behind the prickly spruce tree. I even remembered to fill The Schooner's window washing fluid reservoir in anticipation of Prairie bug swarms. I finally set the seeping drip line to hydrate the gooseberry garden and sprinkled a few wildflower seeds to fill in between the larger plants. I even dressed the bed with moist and sterilized soil. My work's almost done here.

The Muse announced that she had a raft of picky finishing work to complete before tomorrow, so she disappeared into her basement lair where the BIG laptop monitor lives.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MetaFor

wolfsheep
"Some prove more useful than others."

I blame metaphor misuse for most of the worst difficulties humans face. Metaphors provide a means for describing the specifically indescribable, but to mistake a metaphor for its tangible-seeming referent makes people crazy. There never was an Invisible Hand. Adam Smith employed metaphor, even including the tip off 'as if,' when describing how markets seem to work. Seem to work, not how they actually work. Some became true believers in what Smith never intended to serve as truth but as speculative observation. He intended people to think, not to blindly follow. His was never intended to become a faith-based initiative. At least ten thousand alternative 'as if' metaphors might exist to help envision how markets work, none necessarily valid, but each potentially interesting or helpful.

Firm belief in the physical actuality of any metaphorical entity breeds trouble.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FedBack

fedback
"I'm FedUp with FedBack."

I feel so surrounded by feedback that I sometimes cannot seem to experience the performance for the proliferation of reviews: positive feedback egging me on and negative feedback slowing me down. The past few months, at my nurse practitioner's insistence, I've been twice daily logging my blood pressure readings then sharing them via GoogleSheets®. I preface each report with my analysis of the data, which so far always concludes that the data seems too noisy and varied to support any definitive conclusion. Any budding trend seems quickly cancelled by contradictory data. Even average seems to materially misrepresent the obvious variability. Mornings seem neither consistently higher nor lower than target. Same story with each day's second reading. Overall, the advice seems the same: continue monitoring and we'll discuss at my next in-person visit.

The exercise has matured into a grudging obligation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReasonablyComfortable

reasonablycomfortable
"A few deliberately imbedded ounces of inconvenience provide the spice of any well-lived life."

A home should be ReasonablyComfortable, a place where one need not nervously glance over one's shoulder, a kick-back space. I've found reasonable comfort in a wide variety of circumstances: an unheated sleeping porch through a damp Seattle winter, a Victorian bedroom with buzzing flies in the walls, a squat one bedroom apartment overlooking a busy arterial, a thick-walled main floor with parquet floors and a genuine Dutch door, on top of a hill, and down in a shadowy draw. The first few nights found me nervously glancing over my shoulder, but a few days' conditioning and I'd find myself ReasonablyComfortable all over again. I hesitate to leave ReasonableComfortable digs, as if I believe that I've somehow lost my ability to ever discover fresh ReasonablyComfortable places, as if leaving my present one would curse me to wander in an inescapably uncomfortable world. I exhibit little faith in the future's ability to properly provision me, or, indeed, in my own inventiveness.

I have always insisted upon a modicum of discomfort in my homes, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Clatterglories

categories
"I wonder if it might be possible to categorize books by their ability to cast that spell."

Have you noticed how category-oriented we've become? I wonder if we were always this way. The corner store down the street from where I grew up seemed a jumble. Other than the butcher's shop in the back, the place seemed to have avoided departmentalization, and could seem chaotic to the inexperienced shopper. Over time, everything just seemed to be where it belonged, which perfectly correlated with where it had always been. A typical pantry isn't organized anything like a modern supermarket, with package shape perhaps more strongly influencing where an item gets shelved than any proximate similarity of content. I enter a BIG box store and spend most of my visit trying to figure out the central organizing principle, often coming up empty-handed and fleeing rather than asking for help. Asking an employee at The Home Despot where to find a particular item might or might not improve your chances of locating that item, for their classification schema seems a mystery to everyone, shoppers and clerks alike.

I shouldn't have been that surprised when my wise advisor confided that the first step of publishing a book involves properly classifying it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeginningAgain

BeginningAgain
"When BeginningAgain, the unlikeliest rule."

I once believed in The Syphon Theory of Life, that I might struggle to get myself established, but once successful, my "skills" would thereafter defy gravity to produce a relatively effortless inflow. I admit to experiencing short stints of this sort of existence, but those periods were in every case separated by fresh struggles, not all of which resulted in relatively effortless inflow. Several of these separations seemed to completely strip me of any of my hard-earned sense of mastery. In some, my earlier successes seemed suddenly irrelevant. In others, my precious community seemed to evaporate, though it was more likely that I disappeared. In most, I felt much worse off for my past accomplishments, as if their sole purpose had been to distract me from some necessary reinvention ahead. I eventually and quite begrudgingly abandoned my faith in The Syphon Theory of Life in favor of a budding belief in reinvention.

Reinvention lacks the alluring promise The Syphon Theory offered.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Sanctuary

sanctuary
"I feel sublimely suspended in soothing sanctuary. I must be home."

On a foggy Spring morning, our home takes on the silent solitude of an abandoned medieval chapel. The so-called cathedral ceilings in the front room arch toward the heavens empty of all but severely muted light. I can hear nothing but a background buzzing in my ears. The world lays still and silent. My mind seems to take this isolation as a good enough excuse to wander around. All seems possible then, though nothing seems all that likely. I flit from chair to table then try upstairs on for size. I feel as isolated and secure as I could ever hope to feel, and satisfied with pretty much everything.

The Muse hardly ever experiences our home in this state.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pestilences

pestilences
" … the bitter savory back-taste of the otherwise Home Sweet Home."

Homes tend to attract pestilences; not necessarily the full-blown Old Testament kind, but pestilences nonetheless. They might share a common root cause, though: staying in one place. The Hunter-Gatherer could pick up and leave their latest pestilence behind by just moving on to another place, but homes stay put. Staying put means that FindingHome entails accepting the minor and occasionally major visitations wrought upon the place. I'm currently, for instance, wrestling with the annual Springtime appearance of moss invading what passes for my back lawn. If I were a Hunter-Gatherer, I could shrug disinterestedly and just move on, but having found my home here, I feel compelled to pull out the heavy old garden rake and scrape up and dispose of the stuff, then spray on this iron-based treatment which is supposed to kill any remaining moss and prevent further intrusion, but doesn't. I'll be back at it again a year from now.

Over time, a backlog of pestilence grows.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReDiscoveringHome

DiscoveringHome
"I rarely underlook, if there's even such a word.
If there were such a word,
I'd define it as meaning a search undertaken directly beneath one's own nose …"

Even the finest home eventually comes to seem shabby and familiar. The Muse spotted a Home For Sale sign on our walk yesterday. Using her iPhone to access more information on the web, she learned that the owner was asking $4.5 Million. The nearly ten thousand square foot place included Eiger marble countertops, hand-scraped hickory floors, and state of the art electronic controls throughout. Even that place seems destined to seem shabby and familiar to anyone living there because living anywhere produces a personal footprint which eventually comes to seem shabby and familiar. Little habits and routines, even those rambling around nearly ten thousand square feet of space, tend to kind of tear up a place. Shortly after the Architectural Digest photographer leaves, the same old shabbiness returns.

The presence of visitors can spiff up a place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Home-opathy

Home-opathy
"May this streak of good fortune continue until it doesn't anymore."

After twenty years, I have a physician again. During my score's absence from the healthcare scene, I admit to crawling into an emergency room once after an unfortunate moment of inattention when chopping vegetables. Other than that incident, I remained largely as healthy as the proverbial horse with no physical complaints other than the occasional head cold or strained muscle. Not that my family history illustrates infinite invulnerability. My forebears eventually croaked like everyone else's have, many from what might be characterized as self-inflicted causes: smoking, horseback riding, and the inadvertent ingestion of milkweed toxin via cow's milk. Life seems an unavoidable minefield whichever era one inhabits. I probably drink too much beer and engage in excessive depressing self-reflection, but I have no complaints worth speaking of. Or, I might more accurately proclaim that I had no complaints until I reengaged with our fine healthcare system.

I admit that I've been uncommonly fortunate.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SteppingBack

steppingback
"I can warmly anticipate what I have been cooly disdaining."

I usually step closer to gain better perspective, but sometimes, just sometimes, SteppingBack from an object does the trick. Anyone can get so close to anyplace that they lose the ability to really see what's there. Familiarity eventually starts breading that old reliable contempt, but insert even the threat of some away time, and the old place starts to sparkle again. The numbing routines start throwing off pre-nostalgia vibes. The better-worn paths start seeming well-suited rather than simply scuffed. The surest way for me to break a bout of early Spring cabin fever entails planning some getaway.

The Muse has a meeting in New Orleans and had planned to just fly there and back, but we'd been pining after a road trip, so I suggested that perhaps—just perhaps—we could drive there instead.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomingIn

voicesinmyhead
"These voices have not proven themselves to be infallible."

The voices in my head aren't really voices and aren't actually in my head. They might be more like a Nth felt sense with no physical location, no actual language, no sound. They might be more like long wave electromagnet radiation, far beyond the other five senses' ability to register or interpret and yet still subtly influencing me. I sense when it kicks in as a faint presence, like a hardly audible whisper, as if I intuit its presence. I figure it works like a Homing beacon, radiating signals intending to inform me without my actually knowing how, or even exactly what it's saying. Walking into that hobbit hut-like coffee house in Prague, I immediately "felt" at home. How could that be? Perhaps it was inherited DNA resonating familiarity, like the sensation I received when The Muse and I entered my father's family's ancestral village.

I swear that I'm not clinically schizophrenic, voices in my head notwithstanding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HardReboot

500px-Reset_button.svg


"Maybe a complete interrupt might restore the both of us back to some functional state again."

My blog software failed again last week. Hardly a story worth repeating (again), since it fails about annually with great regularity, each time utterly abandoning me. I can never remember how to snap photos of the offending screen and must relearn the jargon tech support insists upon when receiving a fresh problem report. I decided to post the issue to the User Forum, reasoning that other users must have encountered this same paradox, but after a few days without a response, I gussied up an email directly to tech support, which resides in Brighton in the UK, which guarantees an extra day's delay before I receive a response. My routine had already been disrupted for four full days by then. I hoped to receive something before the weekend.

Late Friday afternoon, I picked up tech support's response, which suggested I might quickly install their latest build, a Beta version not yet deemed ready for general distribution.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReFinishing

impossibly small brush
“I failed to astound myself again.”

It seems as if I’ve never completed any job. I’ve batted each around like a cat tiring a terrified mouse until the mouse or I finally conceded and suspended play. Perhaps another day would come where play might resume, destined to become another inconclusive contest abandoned short of complete. Between bouts, an unsteady truce reigns. Additional fiddling might become necessary. A bit of touch up paint, a previously overlooked imperfection, each evidence of an eternally asymptotic relationship with done. Most observers might never suspect that I’m a quitter, one who inevitably leaves each job undone, though I never shake awareness of this fact.

I have yet to experience the exhilaration of crossing a finish line.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WhatWritersDo

whatwritersdo
“We must create trances without abusing our gift.”

Writers write, a tautological declaration hardly worth making. Some transcribe, or firmly believe that they do. Others exposit, delving into and fleshing out what might otherwise serve as little more than fleeting thoughts. Some say that they write non-fiction, a questionable assertion, since by filtering their thoughts through their fingers, they leave their own fingerprints all over the resulting pages. Others stick to fiction or fantasy, both genres capable of sometimes eliciting more authentic representations than any encyclopedia. But I speak of genres here, which attempt to classify writing into types, when writing seems more fundamental than whatever the Dewey Decimal System suggests.

All writing serves as a form of trance induction, in much the same way as all experience induces trances.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homer

220px-Homer_British_Museum
"I lived in the present then without understanding that I was also living timelessly."

Every homeowner seems part Homer Simpson and part Homer the ancient Greek poet. We live as everyman and exist as part of a mythic and heroic drama. We seem stuck in a role where we must repeatedly demonstrate our innate ineptness while also inhabiting an extended allegory. We catch ourselves demonstrating just how utterly clueless we are while simultaneously inspiring following generations. We mostly engage in utterly mundane activities which, viewed from broader perspectives, somehow embody an entire era, an archetype we would not recognized if we noticed it peering back out of the mirror before us. We are not either pattern we so convincingly embody.

The popularity of aluminum siding clearly demonstrates how gullible homeowners can be.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AntiHome

antihome
" … a home still unsupplemented by an additional professional abode."

Many people maintain two homes, the one where they vacuum the floors and the one where they report to work. I know, work ain't home, but it carries a home-like familiarity. At work, one has "their" desk, a workspace reserved for personal professional use. If you're not reporting to a desk job five days every week, the absence of that auxiliary work home might prominently loom over the other home. One needs a significant other home, I think, in order to properly frame the real home, someplace meaningfully calling one out into the world. This seems to add purpose to existence. Nobody ever rebuts an insistence that one simply must "get to work" or "they'll be late." Out they go, no questions asked.

Where do the rest of us go to find that sort of work home?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DiggingIn

diggingin
"Call it vanity, I don't care. It feels like sanity to me."

By mid-April, my backyard snowbank's finally less than two feet deep and the surrounding yard saturated as it will not again be soaked until this time next year. The underlying hardpan becomes friable for a few terribly short weeks, and I kneel in humble appreciation. The house has by this time of the year shrunken to the size of a toolshed, more jail cell than home. I flee the wintertime boundaries which kept me incarcerated since October, aching for fresh grass stains on my knees and a newly aching shoulder joint. I deadhead the buff beige leftovers from last year's yarrow blossoms and rake up the worst of the pine needles culled down by the insistent winter westerlies. Blade breaks earth and the garden seems to sigh in relief and forgiveness. The snow preserved everything beneath its benevolent blanket, protecting it from fifty harsh nights and a hundred heartless days. The soil seems to breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally Spring.

DiggingIn's an annual ritual. No tilling ever extends its influence over a winter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomesAwayFromHome

homeaway
" … One of the thousands of HomesAwayFromHome we've stumbled into and back out of …"

In Europe, I've heard it said that vacationers seek places really different from home. In The United States, we hope to recreate home when we travel. Tourist traps tout Home Cookin', Homemade Salt Water Taffy (though nobody ever makes taffy at home), and Home Style Hotel Rooms. Often these places deliver better or worse than home style, actual home style having evolved into something more familiar than tout-able. Still, I settle into a definite familiarity when traveling, a sort of dance choreographed by dozens of repetitions, each somewhat unique and each also absolutely the same. The easy monotony of a Marriott hotel room, the furniture absolutely unfunctional yet entirely familiar, I long ago figured out how to jury-rig the couch so I could sit up straight there. The mildly disappointing menu choices at the diner promising home-style cooking reminds me most of how my grandmother was supposed to have cooked and never did.

I take little of any of this very seriously.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Shamelessness&Spin

spin
"I'll find home without the shameless spinning or accede to eternal homelessness, thank you."

An important part of FindingHome involves mustering as clear an image as possible of what home might look like, to strip away the more prominent myths and produce a crisper portrait of the place. The mind might conjure gothic columns behind a white picket fence which reality could never deliver. Owning a home remains the most prominent indicator of success, whether that home be a one story rambler on a slab, a palatial estate, or a rusting double wide adjacent to a commercial refueling tank farm. Simply owning real estate smacks of some sort of success, indicative, according to the home ownership myth, of hard work, thrift, and responsibility fully assumed.

This presumption begs the questions, then, of what success really looks like now, how does it seem to be achieved, and what key indicators lead to its emergence?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeAchers

ache
"The aches will soon evaporate but the satisfaction will linger on."

Home ownership begets aches and pains, for dedicated homeowners just cannot help themselves. They tend to overdo. When Spring finally comes, the pruning begins. The narrowest of windows appear within which the homeowner accepts the necessity of completing a week's worth of work over an all-too short weekend, and so does. By Sunday night, a satisfying sort of crippling sets in. The homeowner will drag that last tarp load of trimmings to the by-then ungainly pile, lovingly fold the tarp and set it onto its shelf, then limp to the back steps, slip off the boots, then pop open the most satisfying beer ever enjoyed by anyone anywhere; the first of several. A close to nirvana state reigns over the yard as the sun sanguinely sets just beyond the gate. The homeowner might measure a couple of inches shorter than on Friday, but he feels ten feet tall.

The aches aren't only the result of over-doing, but also caused by simply doing things not every day required.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FeelsLike

feellike
" … no Home yet in the history of this world so far ever felt a damned thing."

Almost nobody will complain if I resort to proclaiming that something "feels like home," even though homes can't feel. Most will seamlessly parse the phrase without noticing that they've supplied one hundred percent of the meaning they experience, for phrases like 'feels like' act as trance inducers. If nobody raises an eyebrow in confusion, the induction worked. Congratulate me, I'm a hypnotist, except nobody noticed. If nobody noticed, is it still a trance? Perhaps it's the very best trance of all.

When I think of home, a thousand contradictory feelings bubble up, for home has hosted pretty much every sort of feeling I've experienced from my greatest sadnesses to my greatest joys, though the home itself seemed rather impassive, merely the medium within which those feelings emerged.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeWork

homework
"Nowhere, you explain."

Imagine a swimming teacher assigning homework. Nobody has a swimming pool at home, so what does a dedicated student do? Practice the Australian Crawl on their bedroom floor? Homework felt like this to me. My first question was, "Just where at home might I fulfill this assignment?" My bedroom, which I shared with my older brother, offered semi-privacy but no writing surface. I could lounge on my bed there and read, but math proved almost impossible to do while sprawled on my belly balancing a book more dedicated to closing itself than staying open to the page, while the worksheet kept sliding off the back of my precariously-balanced notebook. My pencil would break, necessitating a trip to the kitchen to sharpen it, a gauntlet of distractions along the way. Or, I could work at the dining room table, Grand Central Station situated between the living room and the kitchen, the least private spot, bookended with distractions. I might cower in the basement, working bent over on an old coffee table until my lower back gave out. Or at the Kitchen table while carrying on a half dozen side conversations. I might end up with ten minutes of focused attention before suppertime.

Context matters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homogeneity

Western-Balkans-map
" …who really knows what love is?"

We speak of homes as if the inhabitants comprised a homogeneous whole, when quite the opposite seems more likely. Sure, we might call ourselves a family, but nearly twenty percent of those families satisfy the definition of blended, step-siblings cohabiting or nearly steps, the adults not formally related yet, if ever. Even within directly related family units, significant differences exist. The extroverts drive the introverts crazy and vice versa. The smart kids dominate the dumber ones. The older kids lord over their younger siblings. Parents get gamed into paradoxical proclamations. Within each family unit, a tacit cultural map very similar to The Balkans persists, contradicting the apparent surface homogeneity of the group.

I was my family's 'sport,' a rose gardening term referring to the odd sprout which does not mirror a plant's other characteristics.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeBody

HomeBody
"Where do I go when I disappear there?"

I'd prefer to stay home. Given the opportunity to travel the world, I'd still prefer to stay home. I'm a notorious HomeBody, into my routine, comfortable in my surroundings as long as I'm home. Good introvert that I am, I consider myself to be my own best company. Strangers exhaust me. Even too much family tends to quickly tucker me out. I live most of my life inside my head. The rest of the world and all its supposed charms seem about 98% distraction. I kick and scream at the mere prospect of leaving my lair. The Muse has to grab me by my hair and throw me out into the world. She insists that interesting things happen when I get out in the world, and I cannot disagree. Still, I'd rather stay home.

When I consent to go out, I drive with one foot in the ditch, wary and watching for calamity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homies

wahipage
"We have each other now."

By the time I graduated from high school, I'd pretty much had it with my classmates. What seventeen year old doesn't imagine him self different from his cohorts? I did not attend the graduation gala, choosing to gather with a few close friends to conspire about whatever might come next. Most of the graduating class immediately dispersed, disappearing from that town, never to return. Some to college, others to war, a few to marriage, many into that foggy foreground that surrounds every great life transition. I stayed around town for a while working the balance of my adolescence off in familiar territory. I eventually moved on and out into a world where, for the first time in my life, I knew nobody and nobody knew my history, either.

Life continued like that for the following twenty years or so.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homesteadying

old-montana-homestead-sharon-foster
"Were it not for Homesteadying, my family's history would seem narrow and thin."

My family history features centuries of homesteading. Many of my father's ancestors were near-royalty, later sons and daughters of prefects, kings, and various mucky mucks, high born but eventually laid low by the passage of time. Their more recent descendants scraped out their livings, some too poor or unskilled to even homestead. One became a circuit rider. I know that means respectably homeless, honorably homestead-less. My mom's side of the family was involved in every homesteading scheme since 1600. Puritans, Revolutionary War soldiers, indentured slaves, on-the-lam protesters against British rule, dislocated sons, predestinationists, pro-slavery and against, a Civil War veteran, a sixteen year old bride, all relocated to hinterland with the intention of settling it.

They each arrived in some prior century, finding rock and hardpan greeting them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeWrecker

homewrecker
"This world will end with neither fire nor ice, but more likely with a whimper …"

The classic image of some blond bombshell as HomeWrecker overlooks a more present threat, the humble homeowner. More homes seem to have been wrecked by the well-intended improvements undertaken by homeowners than families have been laid low by scheming femme fatales or conniving gigolos. Something about owning a home seems to convince a homeowner that he possesses skills he never once demonstrated and never will manifest. He's likely at some point during his possession to become possessed by the painting jinn or worse, the wallpaper demon. Neither he nor his spouse exhibit any true talent for interior design, but the DIY videos proliferating The Home Despot's site materially underplay the difficulties of even the most daunting improvement. A dreary browsing Sunday seems to be enough to spark that dark urge which seems to spring eternal from the breast of even the most otherwise rational homeowner.

A gallon of paint nestled in the corner of the sale bin might be enough to start a long and painful descent into the netherworld of home wrecking.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeMade

DIY-Chicken-Plucker jpg
"We're HomeMade snobs now."

Home is where many of us take refuge from industrialized society to 'make it ourselves.' HomeMade, to my mind, means better if a little weird. HomeMade stuff lacks the uniformity we've all grown to expect and have been taught to use in lieu of judgement to determine quality. A lopsided cake might well taste better and even prove healthier than any store-bought alternative, but it still looks not quite right. The HomeMade chicken plucker pictured above probably works every bit as well as an expensive stainless steel job built in some factory, but it looks just a little bit (or, maybe a lot bit) cheap. The subtle and insistent indoctrination accompanying advertising might be the most insidious factor of living in a mass-production culture. Taken to ridiculous extremes, we might find ourselves trying to reproduce mass produced products at home, creating truly terrible HomeMade Snickers® bars or horrible handcrafted potato chips. Home can serve as a refuge from this absurdity, though HomeMade sometimes looks simply absurd.

The Muse and I keep our efforts focused upon more traditional items.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homemaker

vintage housewife
"Such is the life of any Homemaker, and we're all homemakers now."

I admit that I was poisoned in early childhood from living in a normal family where the dad went to work each morning and the mom stayed home to "homemake," an occupation that seemed destined to drive the incumbent crazy. It worked as well as it worked for as long as it worked. My mom, who had always sort of leaned in the direction of crazy anyway, eventually instigated a coup and took a job outside the home, a financial necessity and a real challenge for my father to accept. By then, the kids were fully capable of picking up some of the homemaking duties, and we somehow survived. Since then, I've lived exclusively in homes where the homemaking duties were shared, though never without some tension. We each thought of ourselves as somewhat equal contributors, though in practice, one person tended to have more than their fair share foisted upon them, often due to their own sensibilities. Often, individuals overestimated what they personally contributed, thereby under-contributing, fomenting some strife. Typically, the expectation falls on the wife, however otherwise occupied she might become.

I try to do my fair share of homemaking, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeBound

housebound
Heraclitus would have smugly said, "I told you so."

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was a busy man. He rarely simply sat around philosophizing, but was actively employed failing to remain similar enough long enough to step into the same river twice. He was constantly changing. He later reported that even the same old thing, perceived from some perspective as seemingly insignificant as a slightly different angle, would appear different. He might have been the first proponent of the notion that life flows rather than simply sitting there being. He noted that the world and all its inhabitants and the universe surrounding it and us exist not as beings, but as becomings. He is remembered as the weeping philosopher, one prone to overwhelming bouts of melancholia, as perhaps befits anyone endlessly pursuing without ever actually achieving. His travels never really started and could not be completed, but continued asymptoticly, an exhausting proposition. His spirit probably continues his necessarily endless pursuits.

I'm attracted to Heraclitus' perspective, though his lack of payoff might feel disappointing for anyone aiming to accomplish something conclusive from their efforts.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homeland

homeland
"Live freer of delusion or ultimately destroy yourself …"

Until November 2002, I'd never thought that the United States comprised a homeland. I understood that right wing forces had pulled the concept of Fatherland out of someone's butt following Germany's WWI defeat and that Russians had always spoken fondly of their Motherland, but I'd thought that the US would never come to a point of unallied desperation that would drive us to flee into the arms of an imaginary parent. I opposed the idea of mustering a Homeland Security operation, recognizing the historical dangers accompanying a national -land designation. Americans were by design less homogenous and more independent, favoring homesteads over homelands. Each subgroup thought of someplace else as their -land, and this place as a melting pot of ex-landers. After all, our founders had engineered a messy separation from our Mother Country, and not, I thought and still believe, to become what we'd once reviled.

It came to pass anyway.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homing

aspire
"Though I understand I hold nothing more than a believable fiction, it sustains me."

Home seems more of an attraction than a place, a magnetic pull more verb than noun. As such, I suspect that it never resolves into a particle, but must eternally exist as a wave form, tugging and pulling without ever ultimately manifesting into any thing. Move into a new home and you'll find reason to amend it. Maybe the yard needs some work or that back bathroom wants replacing. The eye might well never find satisfaction, not even a negotiated settlement. The list of next projects will only grow longer with incumbency.

It might be proper to speak of homing rather than of home.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheBillionaire'sCreed

monopoloy_guy
"One might feel tempted to refer to it as The Billionaire's Greed …"

I'm no billionaire myself, so I speak here as an observer of billionaire behavior rather than as an actual player. I often wonder what sort of moral or ethical compass guides billionaire behavior. I'm certain their's differs from mine and also from what any of the rest of us might recognize as normal or regular, but I'm not saying that they lack morals or ethics, just that their's differ from yours and mine. I feel the same revulsion you probably feel when watching some of their antics, for they always seem to be up to some surreptitious something, and while most of them seem to sneak around as if embarrassing themselves, they're often found out and exposed, so we generally know or strongly suspect what they're up to. Of course they deny even the obvious. I figure that response might be part of a creed, The Billionaire's Creed.

A creed informs an incumbent of both their intentions and their responsibilities, such as they are.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeSweetLoan

homesweetloan
"Home still seems sweet even though we know we're more indentured to it than own it."

Almost nobody owns their home in this country. Here, we assume thin mantles of ownership by agreeing to carry outrageous debt loads in lieu of owning a home we might actually afford. The more outrageous the debt load, the more prestigious the address. Credit-worthiness stands in for perhaps more responsible forms of citizenship. Those who have not found a bank willing to indenture them are considered second-class citizens, renters. Homeowners, or, more properly, "home-loaners" tend to stay in one place for a while, lending stability to an otherwise potentially footloose populous. Each homeowner engages in speculation, plotting for the place to be worth more than they paid for it by the time they decide to move. Almost nobody ever pays off their mortgage since that would erase the leverage loanership affords them, the opportunity to enjoy any increase in total value of a property they own only a small portion of.

Leverage is the name of this game, though it works both ways.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RunningHome

homebase
"We're all always trying to make it back home."

Today was the opening day of major league baseball season, New Year's Day, the end of the long fallow season of no broadcast sports, unless one considers football, hockey, basketball, or soccer sports. I do not. Baseball qualifies as a sport because it's not what it appears to be, but an extended metaphor. Those other pastimes might pretend to be sports, but they lack the fundamentally metaphorical foundation of baseball. Home base pretty much says it all. Each game seems a hero's journey seeking home. Each play, a part of a building story, sometimes destined to become legend. Each player, a potential savior.

I don't know how many people understand this metaphorical aspect of baseball.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HomeSick

homesick
"I'm always here whether here or there."

I spent much of last month connecting to my hometown's Main Street webcam. The adjacent browser tab continuously updated their latest weather report, which I'd dutifully report to a largely disinterested Muse. I could see the shadows of that usual gang gathering at the Starbucks to loudly recount the prior day's sports events, a distraction I despise when I'm tucked in the corner writing there, but those shadows seemed warmly attractive from so very far away. Each subsequent snowfall would leave the sidewalk snowbanks a little taller and Main Street a little slipperier. That webcam became my primary window on the world, more informative than a long gaze out of my own window. HomeSick works like this.

Most sicknesses involve an excess presence, but HomeSick arises from the opposite of that, an excess absence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecretPassages

secretpassage3
" … because it's a SecretPassage if we go this way."

Home lies at one end of a SecretPassage, a route only the homeowner ever knows exists. Long proximity to the place eventually revealed this route which always existed, awaiting discovery by someone dedicated to finding it. Once discovered, only its discoverer knows its there and no one else ever suspects its presence. Everyone else sticks to the arterials, figuring that herd wisdom will serve them well enough. The consequent traffic jams seem simply the price of inhabiting the place. The homeowner snickers while slipping around.

I have long reveled in my SecretPassage knowledge, perhaps the one element distinguishing me from the madding crowd.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ReEntering

ReEntering
"Home is wherever you say."

Home is where your stuff is. A heart can sing anywhere, away as well as home. The heart might long to perform on the most familiar stage, but it might better serve a wandering-in-the-wilderness soul, where it's the only familiar presence around. The Muse and I said our heartfelt goodbyes and pointed ourselves in the direction of where our stuff resides. Hardly a wilderness trip and stripped of the warm anticipation of our arrival Back Home, we satisfied our sacred responsibility and left. We'd see more family along the way, connecting in public places, and inhabit one more anonymous hotel room for one last foreshortened night. I might get up at two so I will be up to awaken The Muse at three so that we can head toward the airport around four. Once we relinquish the rental car, a machine takes over.

I travel heavier than I'd like to travel, my tool belt, work gloves, and old boots packed into the bottom of my bag.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NegativeSpaces

elephant_and_snake_negative_space
"Each search seems irrelevant in the face of finally finding."

The menu seems comprised of vast NegativeSpaces delineating choices I would never seriously consider. The few positive choices, items which I might ultimately select, shrink the options to a spare two or three. From thirty thousand feet, alternatives seem nigh-on infinite. Closer to the ground I've found the usual handful of hardly noteworthy alternatives. The tyranny of choice reliably presents many more unacceptables than attractives. The larger the store, the more chaff I must sift through to find what I would have more easily found in a mom and pop shop. I might know precisely what I'm looking for without holding any real authority to locate it within the overwhelming faux abundance looming around me.

My first wife and I traveled all around the East Coast looking for a place equivalent to the town I grew up in. Certain that we could not forge a living there, we exiled ourselves and began the search.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FretEquity

man-clasping-hands-over-face-350
"… we've been unable to shift to a renter's mindset …"

I fuss over our home like a new mother fusses over her newborn. The Villa Vatta Schmaltz seems dependent upon me, even while we're renting it out to The Muse's son and his partner, people who have demonstrated their ability to take care of the place. Home ownership seems a symbiotic sort of relationship, with me needing the big hairy responsibility every bit as much as the place needs my caring. I dream of returning to repaint the front of the place, fussing over scaffolding placement and finishing techniques, finding great reassurance there. I fuss about whether my prepping and painting skills will prove adequate for the job. I will wrestle every moment with haunting negative self-talk determined to convince me out of even engaging. Home is the burden I relish bearing.

I realize that I will never find a time when my home will become a source of leisure and pride.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConsideringReconsidering

consideringReconsidering
"My present wealth stands atop almost endless reconsidering."

You makes yer choice and takes yer chances. Beginning, one never knows where their journey might end. The best of intentions (as if anyone could discern 'best' from any preliminary set of choices) won't guarantee much more than a temporary cessation of stasis, if that. One moves toward a presumption of forward, hoping that purpose might somehow emerge from the cloud of initiation. "Here we go again," I subvocalize, though I know this start won't qualify as a do-over or even a genuine new beginning. This tension seems familiar, though, and a certain reassurance accompanies it. I've grown increasingly familiar with the unfamiliar, and even the completely novel carries some patterns I recognize, or imagine I recognize, from some time before.

I proposed Reconsidering as the underlying theme of my considering this quarter. I was at the time teetering on the forward edge of Christmas, beginning my annual poem cycle, uncertain of my capacity to complete the blessed damned thing, as usual.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homeostasis

balancingrocks
"The new homeostasis seems simply homeless."

I live embedded within mutually compensating systems, largely notional, which seem to strive to hold each other in balance. I shiver and sweat not as ends unto themselves, but to rebalance when my temperature falls out of whack. These actions seem to exist within a terribly narrow range and find success only when rather quickly succeeding. Continual sweating suggests an imbalance, not an added feature. Shivering seems exclusively a short-term solution, not an alternate lifestyle choice. Homeostasis might stand as a strived-for hypothetical, a state eternally in a state of becoming without ever actually achieving itself.

The older I become, the creakier my aging homeostasis balancing seems to become. My blood pressure's been out of whack, or, more properly, recognized as having been out of wh

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Flyring

flyring
"I believe that the human soul moves at about the speed of a walking horse."

Airplanes seem the most brutish invention of man, engineering raised to the level of degradation. Just the thought of leaving the familial bonds of earth to "float" (flout, more like it) into the clouds, smacks of a most grievous violation of the human contract. It veers us out of our lane, into the space intended for the birds. Jousting with the wind. Collective pretending that we are not miles above the ground, blindly zooming through unpredictable turbulence and worse, proceeding into turbulence we know damned well lurks there. I try to distract myself through the worse of it, that being the brief period between wheels up and wheels back down again, but the chop renders my book unreadable. I try to swallow my complicit arrogance, and fail again, for I am inescapably a part of the problem.

I know, modern society could not survive without cheap air travel, which might just be the strongest argument against buying into the plot.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trans-planting

annual-flower-transplants
"We can still prune and stretch and scratch a fresh surface into our encrusted topsoil."

I become root bound by the end of Winter, just as if I had been in the same pot too long. Born bi-pedal, if I hang in one place too long, I become bi-polar, faunching in my cage. The days grow longer, ably assisted by daylight savings' quick hand. I understand that the changes amount to sleight-of-hand. They still catch my eye and convince me that I must have been standing here too long, staring into the middle space just beyond the window glass, seeing almost nothing anymore. I have transformed into a genuine bore.

The Muse must drag me out of my cave.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SnowSense

snowshoving
"This snowfall seems every bit as false as the Pseudo-Springtime sunshine felt yesterday."

By this late in the season, I recover my full fluency in the art of conversation with snow cover. The wet Spring snow completes the cycle, which started with piddling pretenders to snowfall and persisted through weeks of fine powder varying from light dustings to significant dumpers. The mid-March snow weighs tens of times more than the earlier fine powder. Each snow variety requires a unique strategy, though I only rarely ever shovel any of it. Shoveling powder snow's like shoveling air. It's easy enough but tends to blow everywhere, rearranging it more than moving it out of anyone's way. Wet Ides' snow like this can only be shoved. It's too heavy to shovel and just clogs a snow blower. It aches to be nudged aside.

March snow needs early and frequent attention.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LeftBehind

leftbehind
" … there's no escaping."

A decade ago, I sold our second car to a grand nephew for a quarter and The Muse and I embarked on a great adventure we're still engaged in today. We became a one car family. At the beginning, we relocated into a neighborhood where five bus lines passed within two blocks. For a six week period while there, we even went completely carless. No big deal. The Muse, in the seven years we lived there, drove the car to work exactly twice. I'd usually drop and fetch her at the mile away Metro station and other than those excursions, the car mostly sat unless I was restocking the larder. Now we live in a neighborhood that fancies itself a village. Bus service almost doesn't exist, so we maintain a fresh tension in our little one car family.

I still usually drive The Muse to work, a quick seven mile sprint down tight S turns, the alternative being that I'm stranded for the day.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

KnotNo-ing

knotnoing
"I think of the experience as like starting an avalanche …"

Once my son learned the word 'maybe,' I never again received a definite answer out of him. Every response came filled with potential but no resolution. Jerry Weinberg came up with a dandy definition of who's in charge. "Whoever can say No! and make it stick." The one who brings maybe to a conversation might not be in charge, but they carry almost as much control as the sticky neigh sayers.Yes, on the other hand, sometimes requires some formal authority or a treasury to back it up. Worst of all might be those who agree to anything but waffle on delivery.

No-one can accuse me of being impulsive.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ashes

doingwithout
" … we might just might be pretty much plenty just as we are …"

I fancy myself as having been raised right. Not that I experienced a care-free upbringing, more that I was blessed with parents who steadfastly refused to care very much about how I felt. My mom especially seemed to take a certain delight when denying my wishes. Like yours, my folks were just kids when I was small, still learning their way into their role, so we experienced a certain equality within our inexperience. Some kids could pout and get their way. Pouting around our place could be grounds for an even more gleeful denial than usual. I hail from a Like It Or Lump It family. I learned early to do without.

These skills have served me extremely well.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WriteWright

Wheelwright
" … one should never attempt to engineer accidents."

Nearly a hundred and ten years after the publication of Frederick Winslow Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management, we're witnessing a resurgence of artisanal craft. Taylor's book deeply influenced the way people thought about work, encouraging mass-produced uniformity, the underpinnings of our modern economy. Now, we hardly think in other terms. He argued that tightly regulating the means of production would result in the holy grail of any industrial-scaled economy: cheap but good. His Scientific Management concepts were even adopted by housewives and ministers. One would be hard-pressed to find any segment of the industrializing world uninfluenced by his rational perspective. Industrialized food production injected itself between the farmer and the table. Centralized production facilities vaporized smaller-scale local producers. Much in the same way that Amazon has undercut local retailers, Scientific Management insisted that big was necessarily cheaper and so somehow better.

Carried to illogical extremes, to ultimate scale, industrial production seems to produce more to an ever-shrinking market.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FallowTime

fallowtime2
"I have not quite yet turned into dust."

The Muse bought a seed catalogue, a certain harbinger of Spring. I've been dreaming of hop vines shading the south side of The Villa this summer, wondering how I might protect them from the hungry, hungry deer. I spotted the remnants of last year's garden peeking up through its snow blanket. I wondered what might volunteer from under there to seed itself this year. It's still FallowTime, but our minds are projecting forward a few weeks. I shoved the final inch of overnight snowfall off the driveway, figuring that might hasten the melting recovery from the weekend's snow. By noon, that pavement might be bare and dry again. The season will scrape back to reflect the metrological season before another rebutting snow falls five days from now. We're imbedded in the tussle season now, no longer winter yet not quite Spring.

In FallowTime, I find little to amuse myself.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThreatOfSnow

threatofsnow
"A perfect place to remember and anticipate."

The rumor started two full days ago. Snow overnight Friday. We'd heard this story before. Sometimes it came about, sometimes not. With a two day window, nobody flinched. The day before, most remained sanguine. By the day of, I started taking the warnings seriously, but the prediction proved false. Two cold fronts, meant to meet and party over us, had slowed. The northern contingent decided to hover over the Wyoming/Colorado border overnight, the southern one still hounded Las Vegas, and had a lot of territory to traverse before bothering us. We headed out the morning after, keeping a weather eye on every horizon, for this storm would approach from at least two directions at once.

We managed to successfully restock the larder before anything but freezing fog fell.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Overwintering

overwintering-red-poinsettia
"Fresh food seems just as scarce as it is this morning."

This late into the season, its damage has already been done. Those plants unable to adapt to living inside have already died. We've either given up on the stragglers or simply let them go, setting them out into the snow figuring that the cold would at least rid their carcasses of the dreaded white flies which seem to thrive inside in spite of the gooey traps we set. A skeletal poinsettia or two, leftover from Christmas before last, still hang onto existence in the shadowy, cool daylight basement, sucking in the meager northern light that suffocated the nasty little lime tree we nurtured from the brink last summer. It's a genuine gonner now, just waiting for us to snip off the carcass and recycle the soil.

The humidifier is such a complicated machine, hanging onto the side of the forced air gas furnace, that I cannot determine whether it's working or not.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constulting5 - Don'tKnow

dontknow
"It will either work or not …"

I eventually came to describe myself as an expert at not being an expert. This label resulted from my serial inability to become a genuine expert in something, anything. I'd read and study and practice and seek out acknowledged experts, only to find myself (and the sought-out experts) still somewhat short of full expertise. I could have turned cynical then, but chose to re-frame instead. If I could not master any alternative expertise, I might, perhaps, have a shot at mastering not being a master; after all, few ever achieve full mastery. I should not let my experience discourage me in what I seem to do best, which is falling somewhat short. Becoming an expert at not being an expert reeks of paradox, perhaps the unacknowledged natural state of pretty much everything.

Who needs a master, anyway?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constulting4 - Reframing

reframing1
"It's the client's choice and The Consultant's responsibility to remind and Re-frame."

Never once in the history of the world so far has any aspiration been born well-formed. Each tends to begin rather light in the head, altogether too attractive and relatively vacuous. Not that they don't also inspire, for there's the rub. Inspiring vacuity has been the primary cause for the downfall of generations of dreamers, schemers, builders, and feints. Attracting a supportive mob turns out to be the easiest part of any undertaking, for people seem naturally keyed to follow any fluttering flag. Satisfying that mob seems infinitely more difficult, especially when one reflects on the fact that even if the original fuzzy promise were delivered as the promiser intended, it wouldn't very closely resemble what most of the followers envisioned as the deliverable. I call the first iteration of any effort's vision The Bright Idea, and Bright Ideas might be the most dangerous substance known to man.

President Trump's confident promise of a wall attracted xenophobes left and right.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constulting3 - ParodyPathology

ParodyPathologies
"Perhaps the parody of a parody lies closest to some fundamental truth"

I started becoming a Constultant after utterly failing as a consultant, primarily due to my apparent inability to properly promote, diagnose, and prescribe for the popular pathologies and their presumed cures. When I first became a 'consultant', or first carried the title, my mom asked me to describe what I did for a living now that I'd joined a consulting firm, and I chose an unfortunate metaphor. In the last fifteen years of her life, my mom grew to love being diagnosed. Actually, she loved visiting a doctor, though she also sincerely enjoyed having hunky EMTs come to put her back into bed at night after she'd tumble out onto the floor. The doctor would in the process of the customary (and pleasurable) laying on of his hands, invariably find something remiss and prescribe something. She'd return from her visits beaming at the fresh prospect. I chose to explain that I had become a sort of doctor for organizations. They'd invite me in, I'd poke around a bit, lay on my hands, then prescribe a curative regime.

This was a lousy metaphor, not because it misleadingly describes how consulting works but because it so poorly described how I worked.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constulting2

Constulting2
"The frequent flier program knows me better than almost anyone in my private life."

People who work for others seem to pine after the freedom working for themselves might bring. They imagine self-determination elevated to full liberation: no time card, no mindless meetings, no clueless supervisor, no stomach-turning Tuesday special in the company cafeteria. The other side of that equation struggles to equal its counterpoint. Liberty's not always all it's cracked up to be. In practice, independent contracting not quite like what it seemed to promise. The cost of that liberty comes out of the shallower pockets, those you hardly noticed when still laboring under that much-maligned thumb. Most prominent, the isolation mocking the once-aspired for freedom. One learns to accept the freedom to arrive long after a Sunday sunset, to find the rental car agency unaided, to navigate the dark, damp freeway to another anonymous exit, to gratefully accept the 'free' upgrade to a swankier room, to decide that supper won't seem worth stepping out into the dankness again. The 'free' breakfast following the pre-dawn stint in the 'executive' workout 'club' might garner a couple of almost heart-felt "good mornings" from a fellow guest or an over-enthusiastic staff member. Time left to knot the necktie, grab the knapsack, and try to remember what rental car you parked in that lot last night and where you parked it.

You join the commute, identical to every other commute you ever made except you have little idea where you are. Is this Cleveland or Omaha?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Constulting1

constulting
"Clients do not like to be told what to do, no more than any sentient adult does …"

I left The Best Of All Possible Mutual Insurance Companies In The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area (Bar None) after fifteen years of dedicated service to their policy owners, to join a small boutique consulting firm in Silicon Valley. I was unqualified for the position, but didn't know that yet. In that first year, I learned that my new consulting firm sported a phony Sanskrit name which we'd translated as "crossing the great water with balance." Since Silicon Valley was then and probably still is pre-literate, clients there were very attracted to magical-sounding names. We took full advantage of that. A native Sanskrit speaker workshop attendee informed me of the deception during a break. I swallowed hard and carried on. Much of the consulting company's material was of questionable heritage. It started as a genuine survey by qualified questioners, but the distributed materials, I learned during that first year, had been crash-developed over a weekend by a very skilled HR professional who had never actually practiced the profession the material purported to teach. I do not imply that the material was worthless, for it seemed to induce a shift in the manner in which participants thought about project work, which was a subtle, perhaps even unintended consequence, but a nonetheless valuable one.

By the end of that first year, I was the only consultant in the firm that brought in more revenue than I cost the firm in salary and expenses, this no doubt due to the fact that I had negotiated a starting salary about twenty thousand dollars less than I would have made had I stayed at the insurance company.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

IncompetencePoint

IncompetencePoint
"I have nothing to show and almost everything left to discover."

Having sat through just as many PowerPoint® presentations as the next guy, I took the news to heart when I saw Edward Tufte report that they tended to "lower the ceiling." I swore to myself to move that technology to the Avoid Learning side of the ledger. Who wants to lower any ceiling? The Muse works in a world where PowerPoint proficiency stands well up on the hiring criteria chart. Her slide presentation served as a significant part of her initial interview. She could not have been hired without demonstrating her skill as a graphic artist, a field of study not listed on the position description and one she never pursued. Even the PhDs hired there must demonstrate this odd ability, regardless of how many advanced degrees they hold. I still think Tufte was right, the mere presence of that fateful projection screen sets a context where one might reasonably expect that nothing very surprising will happen.

These sessions sometimes seem like competitions to see who cam cram the most unreadable words onto a single slide.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Insecurity

insecurity
"Who else was I supposed to be?"

The older I get, the less secure I feel. I realize that this statement hardly qualifies as profound or even identifies me as in any way special, but if I followed the cultural tropes, my surprise might prove excusable. Some significant part of the media machine seems determined to enlist me in a few of the endless streams of self-improvement schemes: exercise, diet, investment, lifestyle, each promising to leave me better off than before, except the nagging insecurity seems to stand to one side, leaning against some darkened doorway, chuckling to himself, mouthing, "There's no such thing as security here."

Rather than live in endless pursuit of an unlikely security, perhaps my time's better spent learning how to better cope with insecurity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

8- NotSupposedTo

NotSupposedToTalkAbout
"If I won't say it, who will?"

As a part of our initial client interviews when consulting, The Muse and I would eventually get around to asking what we could not talk about. Recognizing that we were aliens in each client's organization, and as aliens, we were likely to violate at least one invisible rule, we asked. Most hiring executives would quickly respond that anyone could talk about absolutely anything in THEIR organization, but even the client knew that was bullshit. Often, the hiring executive had no clue what couldn't be talked about. The smokers on the loading dock know only too well, for they carry more experience talking big, at least as long as the executives aren't in earshot.

My Eighth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work, one I include at The Muse's emphatic insistence, reminds me that I have to Talk About What I'm Not Supposed To Talk About.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

7- MakeInformedChoices

Informed-Choice
"Make The Best of the curious choices life brings you."

My Seventh Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work insists upon my Making Informed Choices. This one might require a bit more explaining than any of the other Responsibilities because it's subtle and tricky. Enjoining anyone to make only informed choices seems like a double binding insistence because how could anyone possibly determine that they were properly informed at any choice point? Choices, like so much in 'project' work, seem to come at inconvenient and inconveniencing times, insisting upon a snappy response, the kind that generally obviates the ability to fully consider alternatives. Only scant information seems available and a decision needs to be taken. What kind of informed choice could that situation produce? The answer is: the usual kind.

Almost nothing decided in the course of any 'project' benefits from full discovery. Partial pictures produce fragmented understandings which unavoidably generate crappy options from which to choose.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

6- SitWithTheMess

sittingwiththemess
"It's still a wrestling match with myself most every time …"

'Projects' tend to spawn messes. What might have been envisioned as a straight-forward, even trivial effort manages to somehow find its share of complications. The easier it seems to be at first, the more complicated it's likely to become, if only because the expectations we set couldn't help but leave everyone wide open for some big surprises. Almost any hill looks less steep from the foot of it, also less tall. It's not until one gets about halfway up that any truer nature of the effort comes into focus. Mentioning these likely complications at the beginning will usually earn one the label of Chicken Little. Nobody will fondly remember your earlier cautions later, either.

Some new mess seems to be delivered to your door with each fresh dawn, each pleading for a speedy response. Few deserve a quick, reactive intervention, though, and not just because these tend to complicate messy situations.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

5- Work The System

workthesystem
"Had I expected the system to work without me working it a bit?"

No system ever devised worked as intended. Each embodied some flaw or feature producing different than intended responses. We adapt around these shortcomings until we become largely unaware of their presence. Encountering any new system inevitably becomes an at least somewhat frustrating series of learnings which we experience as mistakes until we figure out the fiddles and somehow seamlessly incorporate them into our repertoire. Some systems seem especially blessed with a seemingly intransigent nature. These, we never completely learn and so we struggle with them. Math was like that for me. So is the thermostat with the inhuman human interface. Each encounter with these systems involves essentially starting tabula rasa all over again.

We develop shortcuts and co-opts over time. We come to more deeply understand a system's tolerances, those points where a corner might be successfully shaved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

4-GenerousInterpretations

generousinterpretation
" … never ascribe to evil intent what simple incompetence might explain."

My fourth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work encourages me to at least consider Making The Most Generous Possible Interpretation. My natural interpreter tends to lean toward the more scathing, if only because scathing interpretations generate more entertainment value. Scathing interpretations rarely well serve any relationship. Unless you're surrounded by limping battalions of demonstrated sociopaths (see 3-ExtendingTrust), scathing interpretations seem imprudent. Was that component delivered late because of incompetence or a bit of bad luck? You decide, but you must decide with inadequate evidence. Will your collective effort be better served by a scathing or a more generous interpretation?

The rub, of course, seems to be that most of a 'project's' conclusions must be drawn with less than sufficient evidence. If there's no such thing as a 'project', there's also, usually, no such thing as a real root cause.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

3-ExtendingTrust

extendingtrust
"I might better serve myself and our collective effort
by sharing the benefit of my initial uncertainty …"

Lore holds that people must prove themselves trustworthy before one should extend them trust. This notion can easily complicate any 'project' assignment as everyone eyes each other suspiciously at first. I never could figure out what might constitute the appearance of trustworthiness, though. If a team member pulls off some selfless public rescue, I suppose that I might find it easy to trust them, but most team members keep their heads down and I'm unlikely to glimpse them demonstrating heroic behavior, so how might they prove themselves trustworthy in my eyes if I'm uncertain what trustworthy even looks like? Besides, the mere absence of evident behavior says little about anything.

I believe that the lore mistakes a sort of naive hopefulness for trustworthiness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

2-PurposefulPursuit

purposefulpursuit
"I need not become an obsessed true believer …"

I find it extremely difficult writing about PurposefulPursuit without resorting to hackneyed synonyms. The term dredges up determined, recalls resolute and resolved, and sings of steadfastness and single-mindedness. Sticking no more than a toe in that water seems to infect me with a full-blown case of OCD, and I want to avoid that end. Of course 'projects' would operate more smoothly if everyone involved in the effort would become obsessed with achieving the objective. They will not. Contrary to popular conviction, one cannot drive any 'project' to a successful conclusion. Driven behaviors, whether exhibited by the 'project' leader or a particularly compulsive individual contributor seem more akin to bullying, a form of public self abuse.

When I speak of PurposefulPursuit as the second of my Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, I am most decidedly not merely trying to egg myself on by whispering a motivational mantra.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

1-ConsciousBlindness

consciousblindness
"I feel better informed when I presume that I'm less than fully informed."

This posting represents the first of seven (or maybe eight) pieces reconsidering my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work.

In the beginning, I understand that there was nothing but The Word, which could not have even been a thing since words have no existence without several sorts of context like paper, screen, speaker, listener, alphabet, and history to hold meaning. Though there were apparently no observers present, save The One, certainly no journalists or diarists, the story stuck. Later, light emerged, attributed to an early act of God, back when he was still building his vitae. He, the Creator, proclaimed light good, though later reviews were mixed. All this occurred before God even married the first time. God's second wife, certainly significantly younger than he and probably uncomfortably closely related, was beautiful, but they lacked a shared experiential history. They struggled with metaphors, he continually referencing outside her cultural experience, she insisting upon quoting younger notables that he considered mere wannabes. That marriage, too, was fated to fail.

God's third wife came along just as he began to come into his Almighty phase, having by then fathered a son by his second ex-, Mary.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectPhD

ProjectPhD
"I suspect that most ethical lapses emerge as sins of omission …"

Whenever I ask a 'project' worker about their philosophy of 'project' work, I almost always receive a long stare in reply. A few, like me, might fumble for our little laminated card which holds our intentions in the odd chance that they might be of some practical use, but most, if they've even thought about their personal philosophy of 'project' work will offer no crisp response. Some might offer a variant on The Golden or the Platinum Rules, do unto others as you'd like to be done unto or do unto others as they wish to be done unto, but little practical light will shine from beneath their bushel baskets.

I'll quick draw my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, an explication I developed with considerable effort.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectManagement101.4-TheInvisibleWhole

bmate
"The object might not be to know better but to get better at not knowing."

Nobody ever sees (or really understands) the operation of the 'project' as a whole. Some mug as if they did understand. The most dangerous of these firmly believe themselves meta to the effort, occupying the objective observer role while also contributing to the cause. Most identify with some aspects without concerning themselves about others. Asking after the purpose of the 'project' can spark theological skirmishes since everyone inescapably perceives their 'project' quite differently than anyone else. This situation qualifies as a case of the normals without an ounce of pathology, with the possible exception of the perception held by those characterizing themselves as objectively meta to the effort.

'Projects' might be best described by employing metaphors.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectManagement101.3-Someone Elses Dream

someoneelsesdream
"Remember the caterpillar who somehow managed to choreograph his footsteps until some observer asked him how he managed to do that."

When The Muse asks me, as she has many, many times over the years, about my purpose, I respond with a heap of silence. I understand that almost every self-helpless manual insists that one must get in touch with their purpose, and even dress up that knowledge with a brief but compelling introductory elevator speech, the question reliably renders me speechless. It might be that my purpose is so subtle and compelling that it transcends language itself, but it's more likely that I hold so many competing compelling purposes that I simply cannot quickly choose from among them at a moment's prompt, though I doubt it. I manage to get out of bed every morning, but I do not very often rise with a full head of steam to charge off toward some alluring horizon.

The subject of motivation has already filled more essays than I'll ever read, or care to read.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectManagement101.2-Unavoidable Misunderstandings


"The difficulty with communication might be the illusion that it occurred."

Was it Churchill who claimed that Brits and Yanks are one people separated by a common language? The observation could apply to any two people, too. My daughter Heidi, who owns a small business providing translation services, can testify that no Rosetta Stone exists, for no one-to-one correspondence has ever been found between any words in any two languages. Nuance bridges the gaps. Interpretation, patience, and MISunderstanding seems to be required for any communication to ever occur.

Even in mature, routinely replicating manufacturing processes, miscommunication intrudes.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectManagement 101.1-TheEarliestResponsibleMoment


"
all promises are implicitly contingent."
ProjectManagement101

'Projects' exist as networks of explicit commitments, promises to produce something within some time frame. These promises might be represented as tasks on a timeline schedule, but often exist as no more than verbal agreements. Even when a promise is responsibly made, by which I mean uncoerced, it represents no guarantee, but rather a statement of good intentions. Good intentions might not even qualify as necessary but certainly can't be sufficient to assure expected delivery, and everyone should properly acknowledge this inescapable fact. By agreeing to fulfill the assignment, an individual commits to two apparent contradictions: 1) They confirm that they believe themselves capable of delivering as expected and 2) They agree to renege upon that promise at The Earliest Responsible Moment, which means just as soon as they realize that they probably cannot make the expected delivery.

The Earliest Responsible Moment will not come after weeks of painstakingly pretending that they have not blown the opportunity to deliver as expected.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ProjectManagement101


"It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful ... and a little lonely."

Project Management is a fundamentally fraudulent profession in that it purports to deliver something that cannot be delivered: the on-time, on-budget, and on-spec performance of a temporary, one-time enterprise. Because of this, it traditionally attracted more than its fair share of touts and bullies, those with little compunction, much self-confidence, and small appreciation for conventional definitions of what constitutes fact as well as fiction, trading almost exclusively in 'believable fiction' and arguable fact, routinely over-selling and under-delivering to the fading enthusiasm of their clients, so-called sponsors, the money-givers. Projects, too, represent as a popularly believable fiction, an enterprise lacking most of the attributes of any more conventional form of organization. I've long held that there's no such thing as a project because projects aren't things.

Their context seems as perfect for misconceptions as a steaming swamp might be for encouraging bacterial growth, though not all 'projects' are the same.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Closured


"I might just as well consider the illusion complete."

As I explained in my Pipeline post, I recently started focusing upon clearing out my backlog of nearly finished pieces. I consequently posted nothing new yesterday because I was inhabiting last winter instead, sorting through the nearly one hundred small chapters, performing my final edit. I read almost as slowly as I write, and I seem to find myself easily distracted when editing, perhaps because it doesn't feel like real work to me. I'm neither creating nor recreating then, but cleaning up. I should dress in a janitor's coveralls and wear rubber gloves. The work feels just that glamorous. It requires genuine dedication to get to the end of it. It requires real dedication just to get started, so when I discovered that printing it off erased some psychological barrier, I jumped right in.

I finished the scrubbing today. A little picky piece work remains around the edges, but it feels done enough to supply a shot of closure.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ThePipeline


"I feel as though I'm unclogging ThePipeline for a change."

The phrase 'It's a process' has always annoyed me. Back when I helped develop software systems, the phrase was employed as an intended subtle scold by those Systems Thinkers who always not-so secretly consider themselves possessed of superior perspective. They could put in its place most any bit of otherwise good advice by reminding the suggester that "It's a process," at least in the Systems Thinker's mind. The phrase still seems vacuous to me, either blindingly banal or wholly presumptive, for if it's really all process, it's really nothing at all. Some of the supposed flow must stick somewhere, if only to qualify as a thing. Granted that much of what passes for systems hardly pass any thingness test. Still, evoking the process claim seemed to predictably premise some hollow process improvement suggestion.

The process mavens rarely seemed masters of any actual skill.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfPromotion


" … my SelfPromotion gland still quakes at the thought."

The thought of SelfPromotion turns me into a quivering ninny, so I engage in it surreptitiously, hoping nobody will notice. I post unrequested pieces on Facebook, quietly hoping nobody will see, let alone comment, on them. I feel that I need to keep up appearances but pray that I won't appear too awfully forward as a result. The Muse insists that I sometimes expose too much, which might be a counter phobic reaction to my sincere hope that I won't expose too much. At the same time, I'm convinced that the most personal turns out to be the most universal, so I figure I broaden my audience by focusing upon my personal experience. I live a fundamentally paradoxical existence.

I have not yet learned how to tell what a reader might want, much less what any market desires. I struggle to read my own mind without expending much energy trying to read anyone else's.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

IrishTwins


"I figure that my statistical innumeracy produces the bulk of my good fortune."

My father and my nephew were born on the same date, January 15. A favorite musician's wife and father were born on the same date, too, a fact that seemed downright synchronicitous to the wooing couple. My family always thought it a form of a miracle that my nephew and father were born on the same date, a terribly special blessing, though the probability of that occurring hovers at 365 to one, hardly long odds. Genetic family patterns might have significantly shortened those odds. Many families produce what are sometimes referred to as IrishTwins, and I suspect that each feel the warm hand of a reassuring fate caressing them when that happens, too.

I'm rather blind to probabilities. I do not naturally carry a sense of them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Sifting


"Their home seems more like a castle somehow."

Once every fifty million years or two, some cataclysm besets this world. In between times, change seems to occur exclusively via insignificant increment. A snowfall starts as a sifting whisper, like wrens' pin feathers floating by outside, barely noticeable through the window. By the next morning, a foot of accumulated insignificance blocks my drive. Then, all my attention focuses upon digging out from under the insult. Before, it's eminently ignorable. Were any of us more activated by whispers than hollers, we might manage to keep up with the blooming significance and never face the back-breaking digging out, but we usually don't. We feel dumped upon instead.

As a species, we seem attracted to BIG things, as if true significance came only in volume and mass.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Morningtown


"It's a fleeting place"

I'm down to two, perhaps three days each week. Some mornings, I feel no real need to get out. Others, I wrestle with accepting the necessity of it, unable to justify the drive. Guys like me, in the isolating profession, rarely go out simply to get out. Even then, I tend to end up at the same destination, the library, where I don't know anyone, anyway. It's a simple matter of being alone by myself or surrounded by strangers, each more similar than really different. I sometimes shop, thereby justifying my presence out of the hermitage neighborhood.

On rare mornings, then, I enter Morningtown, a small American city waking up.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NaiveUse


"I think the universe remarkably forgiving."

Any first use constitutes a naive use, but then so does the second use, and the third. At what point does experience erase the naive underpinnings? I propose never as a reasonable response, for each subsequent use occurs in different circumstances, the subtlety of which probably distill into undetectable, yielding an unsuspectedly different situation. After over fifty years of shaving, I still manage to nick myself sometimes. You'd think I would have learned how to avoid those nicks by now.

Heraclitus had something right when he declared that nobody ever crosses the same river twice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Anticipating


"I remain much better at Anticipating the past
than I'll ever be at accurately Anticipating what's next."

Checking the weather report, I learn that a mighty windstorm is predicted for the foothills West of Denver. Expected to arrive around midnight, our flight's scheduled to land a scant half hour before its arrival. I've seen this movie before. So has everyone who's flown into DIA. The airport's located in a notoriously windy weed patch of a place, more Kansas than Colorado. The Rockies' Front Range regularly funnels slight breezes into full blown gales. Every flight locks down forty-five minutes before landing, the pilot apologizing in laconic tones for the impending inconvenience before the plane commences to terrifying rolling and yawing, inevitably catching one careless passenger on the way to the facility. That passenger receives a stern chewing out from a strapped in flight attendant while the rest of the passengers white knuckle their way past this latest portal into eternity. Landing always feels like salvation.

A veteran of an indecent number of Denver-inbound flights, I start anticipating early, before the plane even leaves Seattle. I once again convince myself of the absolute insanity of air travel as the plane taxis through heavy rain toward the darkest end of the departure runway.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Homelessness


" …our heart understands that it just needs to keep playing along."

If home is where my heart is, I've been homeless for the last decade because my heart has been living far away from where it "is." Long story, often repeated, best left unsaid, we left our home for a lengthy exile which felt like an ancient form of punishment for having successfully made our dream come true. We lived in a house of our choosing, one endlessly challenging us with needed paint and repairs and a yard and garden always trending toward chaos had we not been there. We loved our lives there but found them unsustainable, so we went in search of some sort of grail, I guess, believing with all of our hearts that one day we might regain the ability to again inhabit where our heart lives. We figure that a few more years might do it, but we really, truly do not know for sure.

The tenuous space between anything and a heart's desire contains mostly Homelessness, however otherwise well-appointed it might seem.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ex-


"What was once done was never really finished with me."

The language of my culture allows permanent separation from my past, just as if an act, any act, might be undone by merely invoking a linguistic scalpel. A wife might become an 'ex-'. Ditto for a business partner, an employer, or a friend. Some infraction, a defection from the originating covenant, and the perpetrator might become an 'ex-'. Exes often carry a strongly negative, often derisive connotation, perhaps for the primary purpose of preserving the other party's self image. The ex- becomes the permanently losing party in the affair. They fell short or fouled out. The ex-er somehow holds himself blameless, at least stiff-arming culpability. Ex-s seem to become ditzes.

But no act can be undone. Each success and failure permanently echoes throughout time, recoveries sometimes more reaffirming than any success.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Mapsing


" … a fate no Muse could ever sanguinely agree to accepting."

The Muse insists upon holding a paper map when we travel. Even so, we often leave The Villa having forgotten the requisite charts, which starts the explanation of why we have so many maps in that box in the garage. Before we're very far down the road, she'll notice the absence and commence a small fussing. My job if I'm driving will then become to find some place for her to purchase a map of the territory we're fixing to traverse. Gas stations, once reliable sources of high quality roadmaps, have become iffy outlets. Variety stores, drug stores, even supermarkets will likely disappoint. The essence of any search seems to lie in the unlikelihood of ever successfully concluding it. We search anyway.

The supermarket clerk expresses its regrets while I wait at the Starbucks counter where they're "pouring over" our choices for the day.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Passing

passage
" … one of those ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services (for me)."

The Muse and I have been traveling the last three days, reaching our destination yesterday and readying to head back to The Villa early this morning. We've passed scores of small towns and former stage stops, most hardly warranting a glance, let alone any deeper inquiry. We found ourselves fortunate to on the way overnight in a formerly unknown little town, one originally founded with the unlikely name of Hole In The Ground, though the founders later upgraded it to something more conventional. Today, it's a proud little place mostly off any well-beaten path, the sort of town that time might have not completely forgotten, but one where its name comes begrudgingly to even time's lips. It's not entirely anonymous, but might as well be for most passages and travelers.

We passed through Las Vegas, overnighting there with one of The Muse's gracious nephews and his family. Vegas, as it's generally referred to, seemed the perfect peek into an apparently not so distant dystopian future.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DrivingCrazy


"Maybe we were both crazy beforehand."

The Muse and I drive each other crazier every time we drive. I'm amazed that we still consent to enter the car together and head out onto the road. Around town toodles never rile us much. It takes a freeway for our true insanity to emerge. You see, we do not now nor have we ever shared what she calls a threshold. This threshold delineates the speed one considers prudent. To her, I always drive like an old Italian woman, lacking only a few pounds and a black dress from fully embodying the look. To me, she drives like Mr. Toad on his famous Wild Ride, apparently distracted while madly passing everything in sight. I never, ever, even in my wildest dreams exceed the speed limit. She considers it perfectly prudent to exceed it by five or more miles per hour. She spends her passenger seat time distracting herself so she won't notice that we're making a whole lot less headway than she'd projected. I spend my passenger seat time frantically hanging on with both hands while pleading with her to slow the you-know-what down.

By the end of the day, we're exasperated with each other. I've developed a charley horse in my thighs from hours of fruitless bracing for impacts that wondrously never came. She notes that I seem all shocky.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EmptyNesting


"I suspect that those magpies will miss that cat every bit as much as I will."

The Muse and I escorted Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat out of this shop-worn world. Rose, skittish to the end, peed all over The Muse's lap on the drive over to the vet's. I'd pleaded for just wrapping the cat in a towel to save her the indignity of riding in a cage, and The Muse assented. Her's was a tearful parting for us, huddled as we were like refugees over her silken body. We returned to an EmptyNest, a house demonstrably less home than the home it had been a short time before. The Muse was working from home. She returned to her laptop and I retreated to the master bedroom to read or pretend to read. My reading companion, my lap robe, was no longer there, a catnip mouse in the middle of the floor evidence of her recent tenancy.

She'd imprinted on a calling cue. I'd tap twice on my lap and she'd show up, yawning and tousle-haired from some semi-secret lair, and mount my lap, there to survey the surrounding territory as I read or fitfully reflected trying to connect with another elusive idea.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Christmas'Eve


"Christmas will be here by then and a fat goose will be sputtering toward its eventual demise."

Christmas' Eves seem to meld into a single contiguous memory, overall indistinct. The traditions overlapping, sometimes contradictory, because everyone's in a blended family now, in-laws, out-laws, jurists, and priests. More a convergence than a celebration, another attempt to fit orthogonal expectations into a single place and time. I earlier spoke with my brother and he was expecting twenty. The Muse and I expect the usual two. We've hosted a few slightly larger gatherings since we left the hometown, so-called exile Christmases, but we usually settle on the same old two. I'm distracted writing my Christmas poems, so she takes the lead cooking something special. She decorates the tree which typically won't have any presents beneath it. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, under the weather this year, usually pokes around the edges, imprinting on one or more of the lower-hanging ornaments. The Nakamichi will knock out very traditional Christmas tunes, Rosemary Clooney and Barbra Streisand. A fire will warm the place.

This year, I finished writing my Christmas poems early, so I can take the evening off. I've spent so many Christmas Eves locked in mortal combat with the written word that I feel like an alien in my own home this evening.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

RealMagic


"When she finally accepts that you genuinely want to help, RealMagic occurs."

RealMagic seems so subtle I might miss it. It never pops up out of a spot-lit top hat or suddenly surprises anyone like that! It slips in almost always unaware to utterly change everything after there. It's like that first glimpse of Vienna through jet-lag amplified fog, a quiet mental jog, an irreversible changing of tracks. One never goes back after RealMagic visits, nor wants to. There's never any saying, "No," because it's hardly a choice. Even should some selection get involved, every alternative appears as a relative slog when compared. Usually, though, it just slips through and utterly changes you.

RealMagic seems to exist most intensely in language.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Soytenty


"I remain almost certainly uncertain."

I've grown to deeply suspect certainty of any stripe. My skepticism about even death and taxes sort of drives me forward or at least seems to sustain me. I use the word 'seems' more than any other, for I sense a lurking uncertainty behind my every observation, my every utterance. I dread the day that I might be called to tell 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' because I deeply doubt my or anyone's ability to satisfy that injunction. I might at best prove capable of telling the story as I believe at that moment I witnessed it, but I should remain uncertain if I saw what happened or some mix of projections of what I expected to happen and what never really happened at all. On the face of this confession might lie a tragic disconnect or a godsend of an appreciation. I can't be certain which or even if either might be the case. I suppose that this means I get to choose.

Earlier in my existence, I thought that certainty lay near the purpose of my existence. I might accumulate knowledge such that most of my experience would be wrapped in some form of sure bet. I'd have learned where to walk and where to avoid, what to eat and what to decline, who to associate with and who to shun, but this operation has never actually run that way. The examples I employed to guide me always seemed sufficiently unique as to leave a rather glaring gap between what I knew and what I wanted or needed to know. This apparent feature confused me for the longest time. I vacillated between believing myself rather stupid or terribly insightful, again uncertain which pole to properly classify my confusion. Only the absence of certainty seemed defining, and if certainty served as the success metric, I could only properly classify myself as a serial failure.

The Muse can testify to the number of situations I shrink from.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CastlesOfCards

castleofcards
"I seek not to undo my past, a genuine fool's mission,
but to better understand and more deeply appreciate it as well as my present."

By the time anyone lives to my advancing age, they live in a CastleOfCards. Construction started long before the builder could comprehend that they were building anything, let alone the philosophical, moral, ethical, and logical foundation of their later life, their later lives. Key stones laid with little appreciation of the global ramifications of their local choices, the place ultimately gives a bad name to the term 'hacked.' Even the more thoughtfully-designed pieces stand atop elements never intended to support more than an odd adolescent notion. Habits replicated across decades pulled large portions of the construction out of true. When I abandoned one or another habit in favor of one better suited to then present circumstance, walls supporting the new focus clearly never foresaw that shift. As one ages, whole wings might simply crumble into useless piles. The laird hardly abandons his castle simply because it's started crumbling out from beneath him and his court. Nobody ever starts over again, demolishing what was built in utter ignorance of future needs. Everyone lives in a hacked CastleOfCards.

It's not until older age that most will consent to a general reconsideration of the place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Begendings


"I believe I'll next focus my attention upon my beliefs …"

Had I intended to arrive somewhere by now, I should properly feel disappointed, but I intended no forward progress. I set out to slide sideways for a season and I seem to have accomplished that modest objective. I did not start with the ending in mind, but with an enquiring mind. I wondered what might happen if rather than plot my moves, I expected that my moves might coalesce into some semblance of a plot. I expected to sometimes veer off topic, temporarily stumped over my next move. I hoped that I might stumble into some interesting territory, that I might gain insight rather than more complete understanding. I might have ended up more clueless than I began, but what could I have to hide? I believed that I'd lost some appreciation for the fundamentally circular nature of life. Altogether too forward-looking and therefore less tolerant of the potentially enlivening lateral slide. I'd likewise split sideways into notional sides, too, left and right, right and wrong, the ups and downs of an orthogonal plane. Maybe direction need not matter.

I intended to investigate space, to stumble upon something or even nothing at all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HollyDave's


" … each celebrating a holiday called Good Old What's It's Name."

Think of a holiday, any holiday, and a set of standard images might come to mind: candles for Chanukah, witches and black cats wearing witch hats for Halloween, a turkey wearing a Pilgrim hat for Thanksgiving, Santa sipping a Coke® next to a decorated tree for Christmas. We all know the memes. Interestingly, though, none of us ever experience any holiday as portrayed. We identify with the iconography even though our family does things a little differently. Maybe we're a ham instead of a turkey family, or we celebrate Christmas without Santa's haunting presence, not even exchanging presents, certainly not boughten stuff. Each family detours from the advertised standard such that each collective holiday becomes a set of extremely personal experiences. Some open presents on Christmas Eve, others on Christmas Morning, and still others on Epiphany. I dare say that the majority of Yuletide celebrants would never self-identify as Christian, which seems fine since Christians kind of swiped a pre-existing pagan celebration for their own, anyway. Each unique form of celebration might well elicit a single common spirit, though, and maybe that's what we each celebrate, whatever the form.

Me? I observe HollyDave's, a uniquely personal end of the year holiday. It's sort of Christmasy and kind of Chanukahey, a little bit pagan yet hosting ample silent, solemn stillness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TakingStock/MakingStock

" … at least try out trying to do without before freaking out about the absence."

An impending end of a season, like an approaching yearend, brings out the auditor in me. I feel moved to engage in inventorying. What had I acquired? What expended? What remains after the passage of this latest period of existence? How might I value that flow of goods and services, and the not-so-goods and trespasses? Much of what came to pass simply passed back into the ether from whence it appeared, no longer here and unverifiable anywhere now. There were fusses and feathers, though little remains of their presence. What does remain hardly represents the hopefulness or dread by which experiences and stuff originally appeared. A few scant shards remain like the frozen vegetable peelings clogging my freezer's shelves, souvenirs from a hundred suppers otherwise forgotten now. I purge that inventory, roasting it off into an enormous batch of stock, the water of life, leftovers reduced back into essence.

I learned this year to roast my stock.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Male-ing


" … an annual renewal of my relationship with my father, who taught me much worth fondly remembering."

I love visiting my US Post Office. Strictly speaking, it's really our post office, but I feel a deeply personal attachment to the place. My father was a postal clerk for over thirty-five years, and my mom used to bundle us kids up to go fetch him after his shift. We'd enter the back after crossing the loading dock, an entrance reserved for postal employees, or so the sign said, and while I knew we weren't strictly authorized to enter, we were family, so nobody called us out. Quite the opposite, everyone called us in with cat calls (my mom was somewhat of a "babe"). In those days, postal clerks smoked while sorting mail, so the place smelled of oiled wood floor, paper, and sweet cigarette smoke, with maybe a hint of machine oil wafting in the background. The sorting floor was a warren of sorting racks and stacks of boxes. Sometimes, a few crates of baby chicks peeped plaintively in the corner, attracting us kids to poke our fingers in through the air holes because that's what kids are supposed to do. Otherwise, who could call them cute?

My dad always claimed that the USPS was far superior to any other delivery service. "Only USPS employees take an oath," he said, and he took his oath seriously.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Schleep


" … while The Muse snoozed placidly beside me."

Sleep has never been much of a friend for me. A tough state to enter and a tougher one to remain engaged in, I find it more of a schlep than a sweet embrace: a Schleep, if I dare coin a term. I dutifully set my alarm before retiring, but almost always wake a half hour before it gets around to reminding me to get up again. I maintain a routine my doctor frowns over, insisting that my brain could not possibly adequately reinvigorate in the scant time I allocate for that purpose. I don't know anything about adequacies. I simply take what I seem to tolerate without over-worrying about how deficient my habit might leave me. I subscribe to a notion that everyone carries a unique rhythm into this life. Those fortunate enough to find that rhythm and manage to somehow match it seem especially fortunate. Those who scour the self-help shelves looking for outside advice so as to conform to somebody's sense of normalcy might never properly settle in.

When some event disrupts my curious rhythm, I become dysfunctional. Illness or exhaustion might encourage me to wrestle with my dozy adversary more than might prove beneficial to me. More sleep generally leaves me feeling more depleted; less, more enlivened.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BidingTimelessness


"I'll hardly notice either time or mind."

Healing happens within a timeless state. It occurs at scales beyond or before sensory experience, absolutely invisibly. Nor can anyone hear healing happen, or smell it, or taste it, or watch it happening. One can notice that it happened but never witness it in action. Time seems to work like this, too, that second hand measuring off what happened rather than anything happening. Watching it seems the one certain way to distract from actually experiencing it, as if anyone could experience time at all. Time accumulates into infinitesimals, my many years of life now distilled into flashes and glimpses of indeterminate duration, meaningless both in dimension and duration now. Timelessness might be the same sensation as meaninglessness, the same as each one of the lessnesses, for their very label assigns them to negative space, territory with no finite reciprocal opposite. The lessnesses come as close as we ever come to experiencing nothing at all.

The doctor passed me a passel of don't as I left the surgical center. My optometrist handed me a few more the next morning. Though I feel every bit myself, I'm enjoined to monitor myself as if I was not yet quite fully myself. They probably put the wrong guy in charge.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PointsOfLight


"The key to living the good life lies in being easily impressed."

Living up here near eight thousand feet brings one clear benefit. The night sky rises much higher above at altitude. The mist and dust largely dispersed, nights remain clear enough to see many more PointsOfLight. Even satellites visit us up here, easily visible floating across from horizon to horizon a hundred and more miles above us. During the day, several jet planes remain visible at all times, most heading due West towards California, but a few always heading to seemingly every compass point. Heavies heading toward Hawaii. Prop jobs bound for Aspen. Who knows where they're going? Winds up there tend to remain fierce even when no weather moves through. We live below severe turbulence even when our trees aren't whipping in the wind.

My optometrist Dr. Joe says the procedure to reposition the displaced lens implanted in my first cataract surgery appears to have been successful, though another week's wait will better confirm.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

smallDay


"Sights hardly recognized. Vision still impaired."

The day after TheBIGDay dawns tiny. Maybe the shadow of the recent BIG event still blocks most of the dawning sun. Maybe my eyes have been blinded to anything scaled larger than a finger hold. I might not care about big things anymore, not right now. I'm back into the world, my recently repaired right eye staring as though through a wad of wool, my forehead sticky with remnants of the gooey tape the nurse used to hold that creepy eye protector in place. I moved like a lame zombie before sleeping like a soggy dirt clod, waking around 2AM to wonder if I could see any better than I ever could before. In the darkness, with that eye protector still in place, I listed heavily to starboard as I stumbled into my bathroom to survey the damage in the mirror. I removed the plastic barrier but could tell without peeking that my vision remained impaired.

No news, not yet. A few days might clear the cloudy covering to reveal a world improved. I read the morning news with my one remaining working eye, sighing with pend-up impatience. More time waiting for some sign of improvement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheBIGDay


" … mechanics trade not in forgiveness and grace but in grimaces and unintended mistakes."

Today's THE day. Anticipation's finally over. The over-long wait, the thrumming great uncertainty, the fussing and worry fall away today. The planning's moot now, the preparation phase completed. The coordination of all the picky pieces won't ever matter again. I won't even remember the adaptations which had become my new normal, not after today. Tomorrow that dream will have come true or a nightmare will have ensued. Whichever comes to pass, aspiration will have slipped past. A breach in the wall separating past from future opens before me now, promising only future ever after. The past will be gone by the end of this day, this BIGDay.

This seems to be the way we parse our time, into preparation and passage, pre- and post event times, with a narrow, one-way bridging alleyway between.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NotCollegeMaterial


"I consequently never learned the fine arts of football or basketball appreciation, binge drinking, or proper socializing."

Visiting with a high school guidance counsellor when I was about halfway through high school, I received one of those life-defining bits of advice. Reviewing my transcript in progress, the counsellor remarked that I was NotCollegeMaterial. Not that I'd been aching for a college career. That counsellor was correct in that I had never seen myself as college material, but to have even a minor authority confirm my self-assessment seemed a mixed blessing. Before, it had been a choice. After, it felt like an edict, as if no matter what I might accomplish, the 'powers that be' had identified me as uniquely unqualified. This was a bit of a blow. I'd known that I was nobody's mathematician or linguist. In those days, college admission required at least two years of successful foreign language study, and I'd failed to assimilate French and German, so I was cornered. I was then more interested in my guitar, anyway, and figured that I might one day become a star once I was discovered. Not a mainstream celebrity, for sure, but one of those narrowly-appreciated underground types never heard on top forty radio.

I figure that I got more of an education not being college material than I ever could have acquired had I passed that second year of German and stopped calculating on my fingers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheMissingIngredient


" … the blessings rain down anyway."

Each holiday, one item becomes prominent by its absence, like an exiled newborn king. Some years it's a spice, others a vegetable or a fruit. Each year this whatever-it-is encapsulates the purpose of the celebration, the search for some seasonal satisfaction. Buddha Hand Citron filled this role for several years, and still threatens each year to reprise its performance, so The Muse and I start seeking sources for this curious fruit by November first. The Muse bakes for the holidays, and holiday baking demands candied citrus peel, the most exotic of these being citron, a fruit that has no pulp, just peel, the exemplar of candying potential. In the early days, we'd start asking after citron in the early fall, expecting to eventually find it displayed pre-processed in small plastic containers in some supermarket's produce section alongside iridescently dyed lime, orange, and lemon peel; little chunks of irradiated glop. But some places don't do citron, have never heard of it, which for us prompted one of those searches seemingly without end, initiating a true seasonal tradition.

We become magi without a guiding star, increasingly frantically seeking some treasure nobody else seems able to relate to.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HouseCleaning


"If anyone tells you married life is bliss, slap 'em with a wet broom."

The Muse and I don't share everything. We don't, for instance, share a HouseCleaning ethic. What's clean for one of us doesn't quite pass muster for the other, so HouseCleaning days turn stressful for both of us. I try to stay out from underfoot, choosing an opposite side of the place to focus my efforts, hoping she'll get occupied somewhere else until I can finish, but the plot rarely unfolds that way. I'll be elbow deep in some special gift of a job, like dusting "her" plant shelves, and she'll show up to find the work somehow shoddy, or at least not quite the way she'd envisioned it being done. Yes, I moved every plant. Yes, I removed the shelves to clean both top and underside, but she'd wanted to move the shelves, too, so though I'd finished every shelf and returned the plants to the same places they'd inhabited before, she removes them again so she can move the shelves and vacuum beneath them. I go aargh!

A few iterations of this and I escape to the kitchen, figuring can clean the stovetop in peace. Three minutes later, she's occupied the sink to water the plants there while I stand aside, holding a dripping washrag waiting for access to the sink again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Vulnerability


" …my Vulnerability tucked in tight around me."

To the extent that I acknowledge and accept them, I concede that my vulnerabilities might be my superpowers. They mark boundaries which I only rarely cross, so they seem to keep me safe. I also acknowledge that some of those vulnerabilities represent otherwise meaningless limitations I impose upon myself, like my steadfast refusal to drive on I-25. I can be certain that I will never die on I-25 if I steer clear of it. I can't imagine not feeling vulnerable around that road. The Muse knows that I'm afraid of many situations and that avoidance remains my go-to strategy for coping with these. I've survived so far, but not without a shrinking feeling that my world has been steadily shriveling around me.

I chalk my default strategy up to a studied humility.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LagTime


" … just another unrealistic expectation encountering reality again."

Project people are forever trying to calculate how much time their project will take to complete. It's a non-trivial calculation utterly dependent upon unknowns, so assumptions rule the effort. In the best of all possible worlds, a task that should take no more than two days might easily consume a week or more, and not because those assigned to it slack off. I used to guide my workshop participants through an exercise intended to help them calculate more realistic flow times. How much time does an individual scheduled for forty hours of work in a week actually have at their disposal to apply to work during that week? It was always a shocker when the average answer came out to be around sixteen hours. The balance of the work week would be spent on absolutely necessary, non-value add activities which could not properly be catalogued as being 'on task.' The actual available time would prove to actually be available for assigned work, but little more. The number varied little between industries and over time. This might represent something of a universal principle in action.

A colleague explained to me what it's like to work in a startup. He said it was as if everything required the invention of a pencil.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConfirmationBias


"Just me and my many shadows wrestling toward another resolution."

I knew I wasn't an objective observer, though I could have hardly suspected the depth of my biases. As both the observer and the observed, I could hardly hold myself to any benign standard of objectivity, for I have a self-image to uphold. Like any complex system, self-preservation is job one for me, and so I'll likely discount any incoming information threatening my conception of myself. I'll most likely perceive each disconfirming bit of data as a Black Swan, present but meaningless, even if it shows up in a majority of my glimpses. I fancy that I know myself, too, though I sort of understand that the me I believe I know so well changes constantly and invisibly to anyone watching as closely as I watch myself. A long-span series of infrequent observations might more likely highlight changes obscured by continual vigilance. I most often see not who I am but instead project instead who I once believed myself to be.

I avoid mirrors. They lie unashamedly.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GivingAGoodGoddamn


"Count your blessings, mind your 'q's, it might not much matter what else you do …"

Stumped over what to give this season? Give AGoodGoddamn. The cynically resigned will not give AGoodGoddamn, and will proclaim their resignation from the highest steeples, steeples which were originally erected by those who seemed to care at least AGoodGoddamn, maybe several of them. Fools for their faith, however foolish that might have seemed and still might seem today, they built their ridiculous steeples anyway, then commenced to ring big brass bells from the tops of them, attracting attention as well as lowly curses. How audacious! How goddamned foolhardy! How holy! The commandment insists that we not take the Lord's name in vain, but AGoodGoddamn does precisely the opposite. The stifled GoodGoddamns denigrate the holy spirit, exchanging it for an indifferent, cheap, highfalutin, nowhere knock-off. Just try to be here now and give at least one GoodGoddamn on your way through!

Imagine that everyone really is your sibling, that nobody qualifies as an even half-assed them. Give AGoodGoddamn.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StollenSunday


" … a warm and festive season blooming here inside."

The westerlies wrestled with a cold front heading South, promising but not yet delivering some sifting snow. It sure felt cold enough, though, as the first concerted cold settled in around the place. The fireplace burned all day long. The ovens contributed their part, too, for this sunny freezing Sunday marked the start of the season. The prior weekend, The Muse peeled oranges, lemons, and limes, candying the result along with eerie Buddha Hand citron fingers chopped small. The countertops had been stacked with baking trays overflowing with waves of drying peel, disrupting our regular routine through the week. I finally found some space for them atop the larder fridge in the garage so I could concoct my suppers in some semblance of peace, just in time for The Muse to turn the kitchen into a Stollen factory.

She made fruitcakes first, a cool dozen little loaves reeking of brandy and rich spice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Literature


" … hardly the high-brow notable kind."

I feel reasonably confident that I am not a literary snob, though I do maintain certain rather uncertain standards. I have not read many of the classics, and those I have perused, I found dated and stiff. Not that I could't appreciate the skill it must have taken to create them, more that the skill had not seemed to have aged that well. Shakespeare could certainly jot down the decent sonnet, but his iams seem labored and lost on me, the rhythm often obscuring the purpose. I've never really cared for riddles and confounding word play. I appreciate flowery speech but tire of the unending garden. I despise writing that leaves me feeling ignorant and uninformed, which might leave me snob enough, unwilling to bend over to meet an uncompromising author halfway.

I grew up in a home with plenty of reading material.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheNinnyGene


Smirking in response.

Everyone carries 'triggers' capable of reducing them into a ninny at times. TheNinnyGene expresses at what eventually become predictable times. Though most manage to keep the presence of this response secret (often even to themselves), those who come to know a person come to clearly see through whatever denying smokescreen their loved one might deploy. I feel reasonably confident that even Chuck Yeager carries TheNinnyGene. Given the right (by which I mean the wrong) conditions, he'd crap the cockpit of a P-38. I'm no different. Set me in the prep area of a surgical center, and my heart rate will attempt to set a new world land speed record while my blood pressure convinces the SurgTech that I'm preparing to stroke out on her watch. I feel perfectly placid during these events, with no sensation of horror movie hysterics. It's just my NinnyGene expressing itself.

My GP seems interested in identifying the source of my situational ninnyness, an exercise which I comment seems way too Freudian for me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Immersion


"I sometimes wonder if they even know what they've done."

I yesterday caught myself immersed in a book. I'd started the book more out of obligation than attraction. I'd spotted it in the library and found a strange attraction to it, though it came as an English translation from its original French. Then I kept it unread for nearly three weeks before sensing an impending past due notice. Opening it then, I learned that the manuscript had been delivered to the publisher by a retired attorney who had twenty-some years earlier agreed to deliver it following the death of the author's mother. The author, himself, had thrown himself in front of a train shortly after delivering the manuscript to his lawyer. This was the author's second novel, the first having finalled for a Man Booker Prize. Upon receiving the package, a junior publishing house clerk deposited it into the dreck pile where it remained unacknowledged for several months until a more senior partner found it. A flurry of authentication activity commenced, finally resulting in publication. I didn't suspect then that this set-up was part of the fiction. The book was actually written by the well-respected Scottish novelist Graeme Macrae Burnnet.

An Accident on the A35 is set outside of Strasbourg, France, and follows a rather bumbling small city chief of police as he investigates a fatal automobile accident, but all this plot serves as a nothing more than medium for something quite otherworldly.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WeeSmall


"I chose to engage in some WeeSmall choosing instead."

"from dusk till dawn,
As the clock ticks on,
Something happens to you."

from Wee Small Hours by Bob Hilliard 1955

My most productive hours come in a WeeSmall size. The hours after dawn opens up, eventually spread between horizons, but the predawn time compresses into concentrated capsules. Like dog years, WeeSmall hours contain more time, in spite of their misleadingly tiny appearance. Distractions avoid WeeSmall hours, needing more space to frantically wave around their arms. Bright shiny objects seem relegated to modest sizes situated in outer space, hardly capable of disturbing concentration. The WeeSmall hours bring contemplation, the human facility capable of sorting through life's many and varied contradictions. Without my WeeSmall contemplative time, I might simply take this world and all its charms at face value and never suspect the many and varied interpretations I might make. In this way, the WeeSmall hours fuel better-informed choosing. In the dark and the cold, I feel safe to try on a variety of alternatives. By the time the sun starts thinking about rising, I'm almost present to my day, having made some initiating decisions which will reverberate in action thereafter. I can set aside my trial balloons and set about moving somewhat more deliberately.

I will probably have figured out nothing, but I will have sorted through the nature of the confusion.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ColoradoSprings


" … salvation always on the wing."

I dreaded the coming of Autumn and the demise of our languid summer. I imagined, as I always imagine each end of September, that the snows would shortly start flying and The Muse and I would be sequestered beneath a snowbank until Spring, but the seasons don't work like that here. Forgive me for forgetting, but in Colorado, Autumn and Winter features more Spring-like weather than bitter cold. Sure, the weather here can turn on much less than a dime. Temperatures comfortably drop forty of fifty degrees in an hour or two, but not every day, not even every week. The weather turns both downward and upward, some dreary days melting into warm sunshine and the sound of moisture moving into the earth. Warm enough to paint outside. Warm enough to forget even a jacket as I step outside. Some plants dry to desiccated stalks but others seem nearly impervious to frost and seem to revitalize each time the warm sun reappears, and it seems to reappear a lot here.

These Autumn and Winter Springs seem capricious, and nobody gets their hopes up for a solid week of reprieve, but a day or two, sprinkled here and there throughout the dismal seasons seem adequate to recoup flagging spirits.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Fizzle


"Soaring lasts longer than any crash."

Some plans gang agley, they go wrong. It's not really the plan that goes wrong, though, but the expectation of satisfaction the plan set up. The plan was fine, but the expectation proved faulty. The expectation, too, was just fine until it wasn't, perhaps even motivating hopeful pursuit, which is the very best kind, so the expectation wasn't really wrong either, not as long as it remained an expectation. At some hand-off point, the perfectly fine expectation fizzled out, as all expectations must eventually do. Perhaps it was whatever took over the expectation space's fault. I believe that we humans might be hardwired to expect good things to happen. Consistently expecting the worst gets classified as a mental disorder while hopefulness is seen as the cure. In that moment when hopefulness turns into cold despair, anyone might reasonably begin misattributing the cause back to the plan or the expectation, both of which were fine until encountering some Fizzle.

These discouragements sometimes prove fatal, but not usually.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dreadline


"I wonder what will keep me awake then."

I have a deadline looming. How is it that once a deadline's set, it does tend to loom, to threateningly hover over? I once took to calling these time marks 'stay awake dates' to try to ward off the associated sense of impending doom. The purpose of a deadline should probably not be to suck all the motive force out of the effort to meet that date, but they do seem to do exactly that, so I tried to associate those dates with a more positive moniker. Still, the inherent inevitability seemed to cloud my mind no matter how I tried to counter its influence. This particular Stay Awake Date seems more like a drop dead date, anyway. I'm really not trying to stay awake, but more interested in letting the time fly by so this date will fall behind me. This one represents a surgical procedure scheduled for tomorrow morning. I've been watching the countdown clock trudge away all day. It trudges exceedingly slowly.

I'm unlikely to drop dead once this drop dead date appears.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GrowingUp


"I am about as strategic as a strand of overcooked spaghetti …"

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever grow up. I've been growing for a very long time without really feeling as if I'm anywhere close to up. I'm still a kid at heart and not yet really much of a part of the grown up world, which continues to mostly mystify me. I prefer the company of small children, those still mastering the language but not yet outgrowing absurdity. I like to puzzle through the world with those who presume that I might know better, then demonstrate that I probably don't, and that they probably do. I tend to appear a fool around them, which suits me fine. I think I might hold the responsibility to never overshadow kids, to let them run the world we share. I don't really have much faith in grown-ups.

I know, kids grow up fast, though I didn't.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dentity


"Holding that question seemed worthy of me, but finding the answer, deadly."

Who am I? ranks near the top of the list of Fundamentally Unanswerable Questions (FUQs for the acronymic among us). Since FUQs remain presumed unanswerable, they pose a particular challenge. FUQs never prove to be Fundamentally Unaskable Questions, though, and we tend to ask with the same spirit that governs the old Seek And Ye Shall Find conundrum. Seeking without finding remains a common experience regardless of what the homilarians (people who promote the indiscriminate application of homilies) might insist. It simply does not follow that an answer exists simply because I can ask the prompting question. Part of maturity might include the growing ability to distinguish between FUQs and the fundamentally answerable ones.

Declaring a question fundamentally unanswerable does not render it unconsiderable, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

A Brush With The Transcendent


"… after I'd lost track of myself."

I reluctantly engage, as if facing some impossibility. I know how to paint, but never seem to trust my instincts or understandings beforehand. I make a deliberate ritual out of gathering materials, the thin rubber gloves, the defiled paint can, the handy hand-held paint cup, my spattered havelock, my special spotted shoes and smock, my ragged jeans. I try to preplan the job, imagining that my perception could extend into the near future, though I know for certain that I will never know anything until I show up and lose myself, immersed in the job. Too much depends upon altogether too much for me to foresee very much of anything. I intend to do some painting.

Painting occurs on some different plane where present remains as permanence. Imagine if a breath became a sculpture, an instantaneous addition to the permanent collection.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GoingBackToGoBackToGo


"Iterating 'more perfect' never produces perfection, thank heavens."

The General Electric Corporation's advertisements, back when it was the largest corporation in the world, used to tout that "Progress Is Our Most Important Product." What then? I assumed that by injecting progress at every step, the company plugged into a positively recursive progression, where progress built upon progress to create ever more sublime expressions of progress until reaching some sort of engineering nirvana. Then people started asking what they meant by progress. GE started focusing upon financing more than engineering, and as companies tend to do, they dabbled, then grew to dominate, a rather shady side of the street, credit default swaps and other "junk" instruments. How does one inject progressive quality into the junk financing market? GE managed it by swallowing many bad investments, essentially swallowing themselves like James Whitcomb Riley's infamous Squimum-Squeegy "what swallered his self." GE was recently delisted. Now it seems to be GoingBackToGoBackToGo on the great Monopoly® board of industry.

GE serves as just another more recent example of companies following Ozymandias' lead. The mighty fall. The great ultimately achieve greater humility.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InSlight


" … a land filled with freaks and the home of true knaves?"

The story dries up sometimes. It dries up and blows away, carried by outrage turned inward. Beyond some point, I can no longer smugly refuse to take the endless insult personally. The daily news no longer seems new. It becomes a recursive same old thing, irrational inventions intended to keep everyone feeling off balance. The only defense becomes another offense. Symbolic fences become indefensible walls. Calls for civility sound like cat-calls, chiding, deriding. The whole world seems populated with grudgy eight year olds, perpetually offended, somehow short-changed. This world then seems fundamentally unfair, bounty-hunting the good guys, posting gloating photos of her latest kill. Everybody becomes somebody's shill and everybody knows it, bracing in the crash position for the following unavoidable collision. Pick a fight, lose, then pretend it didn't hurt. Stand tall on pseudo hind legs, proclaiming another victory. A victim's victory, righteousness reinforced by the persistent absence of any discernible success.

The moral of the story seems inside-out. Good guys never win. Charity becomes evidence of great personal weakness. Humility, a symbol of absent grit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GivingThanks


" … that trailer park experience never leaves her."

No Thanksgiving season passes without The Muse recalling the holidays she spent living in a trailer park outside Fayetteville, Arkansas. However fine her sensibilities today, she's known times when three for a buck box dinners satisfied her hunger, and times when three for a buck seemed too dear to always hope for. The beneficiary of charitable giving, she revels in her present of role as benefactor. So when the local realtor came by the place this week to drop off an empty grocery bag, The Muse's eyes lit up. The note promised that she'd be back after nine thirty the following Saturday, so the deadline was preset. Saturday morning, The Muse was up by five, asking when the supermarket opened. We were out of the house by six, a winter storm gratefully delayed for a promising few hours.

The supermarket aisles were littered with packing boxes as a cadre of clerks restocked shelves for the weekend before Thanksgiving rush.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ForcingChoices


"More choices rarely produce better results …"

Sixty years ago, when this time of year arrived, my siblings and I would begin our annual attempt to hog the new seasonal Sears Wishbook catalogue, where we'd imagine alternative universes in preparation for Christmas. I'd eyeball almost everything, mentally trying on that sweater and playing electronic football, making lists, chucking them many more times than twice, overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of so many choices. Knowing that I'd ultimately pare down my list to a bare handful only made making my choices more exasperating. The greater the number of choices, the more difficult the choosing because any choice excluded dozens of alternatives. I welcomed the early days, just after the Wishbook arrived, but after five or six weeks of concerted study, I was ready to settle for anything, or even nothing, just to conclude the ordeal of choosing.

This season, no Wishbook arrived. The local Sears sports a huge Going Out Of Business sign.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnderFoot


"That's ninety percent of any boss's job, anyway."

I spent my day trying to stay out from underfoot. It's a skill I learned from my earliest days. In my time (spoke the geezer), children were either underfoot or not underfoot. Underfoot was a bad state, a situation that would inevitably result in some form of chastisement. A child then should have been seen but not heard or, better yet, not seen, either. I was raised in a world almost exclusively inhabited by adults and children hiding out, lest we be seen, or worse, heard. No Black Hawk Helicopter Parents then, we were born sort of independent, or independent enough to know that we could not rely upon our elders to stroke the odd ego or attend to emotional needs. These days, and, indeed, in my own children's childhood, the kids are buddies and their parents their co-conspirators. Then, we were flotsam in public, best left to our own designs. If we made trouble, we prayed that the news wouldn't make it back to the mothership. We were largely on our own, and grateful for the space.

I spent this day trying to stay out from underfoot because I had workers on the place.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blue-er


"I settle for accepting this tiny overwhelming one."

The sky 'turns' blue after the snowstorm passes. During the storm, the sky disappears, moving so close to the ground that it essentially leaves. Ground and what used to be sky turn into one indistinguishable entity. Up falls down and down slowly moves up as snow accumulates. Outside loses a dimension. Even sideways takes a hit as horizon shrinks to barely across the street. I stand imbedded in a snow globe where the dimensions of the globe, of the entire world, shrink to barely arm's length. Inside, the rooms seem smaller, too. The house suddenly more homey, I feel warmly contained. The world seems almost understandable then, complexity reduced to the near absolute simplicity of accumulation. I ask myself, "How deep is it now?" Depth easily and unambiguously determined, I hold no further questions. I shovel off the latest layer completely satisfied, knowing full well that I'll need to shovel off subsequent layers before the storm passes. I seem reduced to mere observer, appreciative of the narrowing obligations. I'm out of toothpaste and try to drive out, but turn around in a preponderance of caution, relieved to return unharmed. I find my travel stash and conclude that I moved on false fears, and that maybe I could accept that my responsibilities lie right here and nowhere else for now.

Acceptance seems a terrible burden. Even grace, that most under-appreciated gift, wants nothing more complicated than acknowledgement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CityLegs


" … feeling about half the man I fondly remembered that I used to be."

In cities, people live on sidewalks. In suburbs, cars. When not on sidewalks, city people might hop a bus or the subway, sometimes even grab an Uber between neighborhoods, exiting onto yet another sidewalk again. In suburbs, it's cars all the way down. When the suburban visits the city, they drive their car, which they are shackled to for the duration of the trip. Should the suburban find themselves fortunate enough to find a place to park their car, they also find good reason to grumble about the price for parking, then still find themselves shackled to wherever they parked the damned thing, carefully monitoring how far they've wandered lest they find themselves cut off from their hasty escape. City people develop CityLegs, ones accustomed to a twelve block stroll. Suburbanites might notice blisters forming on their feet after four or five blocks. And the blocks seem so big, littered with distractions, shops for every faction living there; with curious customs. The proprietor might want to chat. What should a puzzled suburbanite think of that?

The urban/rural divide isn't a simple six of one versus a half dozen of another. It's long division, requiring some heavy lifting to carry remainders across columns separated by wholly different dimensions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Armistice


"Let us bless each other, then, for nobody else could ever be qualified to."

I wasn't there, a hundred years ago today. Neither was my maternal grandfather, though he was in uniform sitting on a troopship in New York Harbor, halfway there from home. Amy's grand uncle wasn't there, either, for he had become a casualty of that last big push along the Marne, mired in mud and insanity like this world had never before imagined, and can hardly remember after. Twenty million, probably many more, had been disqualified from attending, too, having become casualties before hostilities could cease. A few millions more, who might have attended but didn't, and a few who did show up, would fall prey to the Spanish Flu within the following year or so. It was a time when on any day, someone might simply go away as if they'd never even been here. They sang that they were over there though none knew where over there was or would be.

Last year, The Muse and I were honored to visit the cemetery where her great uncle lies, a stunningly beautiful park.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DazeOff


"Forced into mindfulness, we muddle around hoping to stumble back into our familiar habituals again."

Years ago, The Insurance Company where I worked distributed Covey's Seven Habits to all management, strongly encouraging each recipient to carefully read the book, for it described how the company would henceforth operate. This title remains the only book I've ever felt moved to burn after reading. It helped accelerate my timetable for leaving the company and not only because it described a manner of living utterly alien and repulsive to me. One may not prescribe any habit without bumping one's head on a low-hanging Be Spontaneous! Paradox. Habits remain the antithesis of mindfulness, more indicative of obsession or compulsion than choice. The author described what seemed to me like a two dimensional solution for an n-dimensional difficulty, a superficial strategy for inducing some sort of pseudo-significant effect, affects too-desperately seeking causes. I felt crazy reading it, so I figured the very best service I could provide to the world would be to eliminate any possibility that my copy might infect anyone else, so I built a fine fire and threw that sucker in there.

Books don't burn all that easily. It seems as though they resist actually burning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

VoeTing

"What we choose to do with the result determines its meaning as well as its significance."

In his Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, whenever author Douglas Adams' protagonist Arthur Dent found himself in serious peril, an impossibility generator would shift the plot into something completely different, if not always any less threatening. I think of voting as just such an invocation. Some mistake it as a referendum on knowledge or intelligence, and understandably so, but improbability generators hardly ever produce logical or rational (knowledgeable) results, but usually unlikely ones. Before the election, pollsters and pundits carefully take the electorate's pulse, just as if an electorate possessed such a thing, then project results with appropriate-seeming ranges of probability. Sometimes these predictions turn out to be true, though nobody ever investigates the root cause of their seeming accuracy when they are right. Folks seem altogether too busy failing to explain instead why they were wrong when they turn out to be wrong, the correct answer finally becoming beside anyone's point. This practice only seems smart, and might actually be smart, but how smart is smart in practice?

My point about voting might be that it is almost but not completely unlike
(to borrow another Adams phrase) an exam. It was never intended to survey for correct responses, though each voter might well hold convictions about right and wrong for themselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wealth


"I am a serial offender against the Law of Attraction."

As I neared graduation from my undergraduate studies, envoys from the Business School started asking me to coffee. Some of these had served as my instructors through my three years of university study. They described the turbo boost that a Master's would add to my upcoming career, and the B-school would finance it all if I agreed to teach classes while I studied. The two year commitment would guarantee me sixty or more hour weeks. By then, I was holding down a full time job and a little more than a full load of classes, burning myself out trying to rid myself of the damnable anvil of schoolwork. I had a family by then, a newborn son and a wife with clear and undeflectable intentions of of bearing a second child shortly thereafter. We'd just been displaced from our rental by a landlord who chose to raise the rent monthly to keep up with the fifteen plus percent annual inflation rate. We'd borrowed from family to buy our first house, a place that we didn't know would quickly lose twenty percent of its value, in the hopes of at least stabilizing housing costs. My job paid for my books and tuition as an employee benefit, but I had to work full time to collect the benefit. My life already seemed plenty turbo-charged at that moment.

I declined the opportunity to pursue my MBA, reasoning that my time spent with my newborns would not be deferrable until any later date. I simply didn't want an MBA enough to sacrifice what I was already barely holding onto.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DaylightEnslavementTime


"I'll probably recover."

Once there was a time before time, before we managed to finely measure it. Then, all time was approximate, never exact, or never more exact than a cast shadow. When the sun stood directly overhead, one could say, "It's noon," without receiving a bunch of guff in return. A mile down the road, noon arrived at a different time than it did here; a constant difference, but nonetheless a difference. When mankind still moved at the speed of a walking horse, these differences didn't matter to anyone. The telegraph and steam-powered transportation changed everything. Once train passengers needed to make connections with steam ships, it became a lot more difficult to determine the time. The mighty Union Pacific operated on Omaha time, two hours ahead of Oakland time. A steamship might maintain its schedule according to its headquarter's time, meaning that Omaha time and Cherbourg time collided there. Modernists finally managed to negotiate an international treaty which calibrated standard times relative to Greenwich Mean Time, an act that infuriated farmers and fundamentalists worldwide.

During WWI, various national governments took exception to their earlier agreements, instituting a more thoroughly modern Daylight Savings Time, reportedly to provide more daylight to aid in the manufacture of war materiel.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LarderFridge


"Certain ethics govern the acquisition of a LarderFridge."

Three and a half years have passed since we last owned a LarderFridge, a ramshackle second refrigerator intended to hold overflows. leftovers, and beer. It's been a genuine ordeal. In Winter, of course, we enjoyed the walk-out refrigeration services the weather delivers directly to our deck. Last week, the pot of leftover pozole and a nearly full gallon of sweet cider sat knee deep in fresh snow, though by Friday that snow had melted and I had to direct the refrigerator's contents to scrunch up so those babies would fit inside. Late in the week, The Ever-Vigilant Muse noticed another refrigerator give-away on the local listserv and she immediately contacted the owner. We'd been trolling for a free fridge for three and a half years, narrowly missing more than a few. This time, the owner replied that she'd already found a taker, though she'd leave us in the queue. Friday, she contacted us again, saying that the first taker had declined the offer. We readily and unconditionally accepted, sight unseen. We were that desperate for an "extra" fridge.

Certain ethics govern the acquisition of a LarderFridge. One may not, for instance, just go buy one, for that would demonstrate both a lack of faith in providence and a demeaning over-eagerness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MisterCommunication


"Maybe we could muster a week-long workshop on interpersonal miscommunication."

I think of myself as a solid journeyman communicator, certainly not a master. I've studiously avoided delving too awfully deeply into any of the many linguistic theories and practices. Neuro-Linguistic Programming gives me the creeps. Noam Chomsky reliably puts me to sleep. Formal grammar simply seems beyond me. I navigate language employing a mostly-reliable felt sense. I generally manage to make myself understood. I'm quick with words, skilled as producing the encapsulating phrase, and, though a lousy speller, a half-way decent writer. I still surprise myself, though, when rediscovering the first principle of communication, that it's often the illusion that it's occurred. I'm perfectly capable of flowing along convinced that I'm on the same page before shockingly catching on that I'm not even in the same library as my counterpart. I'm growing toward accepting these disconnects as imperfectly normal, though they still shock me every time.

I learned last night that The Muse will be heading out to attend a week-long workshop in New Orleans on Monday morning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FallowTime


"Nothing like that looms until planning season comes."

Long planned, I quickly executed the work in four days spread over three weeks, owing to the weather and my personal preference for procrastination. Too much sun or two much wind and I figured I was better off waiting for some better moment. The final push, two frenzied days, occurred as they always seem to, in a blur. Once I allowed myself permission to finish, goosed by the clear threat of an impending snow squall, I left my senses behind, immersing myself into the job at hand. Those final few sandings, several squirts of supplemental caulking, some final perfunctory smoothings of unredeemably rough surfaces, and I started opening paint cans. Oil based primer for the bare spots, a thick acrylic to smooth over gouges and caulkings. The acrylic dried to the mottled patina of Elmer's® glue. This first frenzy left me with nothing to do until the next day.

The next day, I debated whether the final day had actually, finally, arrived. By mid-morning, having finished my writing for the day and feeling terribly ill-at-ease, I finally surrendered to the inevitable.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Complicity


"Life amounts to endless lessons in humility."

In his book Seeing Systems, Author Barry Oshrey describes what he calls The Blindnesses. I am unavoidably blind because I'm here, not there, like you are inescapably blind because you are there and not here. We're also mostly blind to the fact that we are blind. In my Seven Ethical Responsibilities, I name Conscious Blindness as an ethical matter. I believe that I hold the ethical responsibility to not space out the fact that I cannot see everything around me, and to remember that nobody else can see everything surrounding them, either. This reminder encourages a certain generosity of spirit. I cannot credibly hold anyone responsible to be fully clued in, including myself, not to make whiny excuses, but to better understand and appreciate.

All that said, I'm coming to a renewed recognition that to live is to be complicit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DiffsGiftering


"The difference finally starts feeling like a gift rather than a curse …"

Those of us born with few natural gifts might understand better than those born with an abundance of them. We learned to hide them lest they expose us as different, for as we all learned in Junior High, different is bad, sameness, much better. Some of us struggled to fit in without noticing that we worked much harder to cloak our differences than we would have ever had to work to embrace them. School, which might be best understood as a systematic process for instilling self-consciousness, reinforced the notion that different was at best a difficulty. So much easier and more efficient if everyone could just color within prescribed lines. At the end of the year, if I'd successfully respected the edges, my teachers declared that I'd passed, which meant that they hadn't found me out; a victory … of sorts.

Junior High provided an exquisite introduction into the fine art of passing, an invaluable ability as one sought to enter ever higher levels of self-consciousness: university and the working world beyond.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchKnowDay


" …to those affecting the flat American dialect, … I'm forever Smaltz and The Muse, Swab …"

The rumor starts a few days before. By the time it becomes a genuine forecast signified by the red triangle with the exclamation point inside, it's already arrived. Our behavior changes long before the first snow falls, though. I'm up and out, driving in pre-dawn darkness to the closest supermarket to restock the larder lest we get snowed in and starve. Neither The Muse nor I have been in any real danger of starvation since Reagan was President, but one never knows. I suspect that vestigial memories linger from that terrible Autumn of 1804 when our ancestors barely survived to carry forward our DNA. We know how to prepare for snow.

I try to talk The Muse out of going into the lab today, thinking myself just acting prudently.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Jigs


'They've figured out our shortcut and know how handy we aren't.'

The jig serves as the craftsperson's secret weapon. The sculptor, the painter, the quilter, the woodworker each employ special-purpose tool-guiding tools which remain almost unknown to the casual hobbyist. The master's freehand work might not produce anything any finer than any rank amateur could muster, but on the master's way to mastering their craft, they first mastered crafting the lowly jig, which could more consistently guide their hands guiding their tools. The absence of jigs in my toolbox clearly demonstrates that I am not a master of very many crafts. My father's old carpenter's square helps me mark true perpendiculars. A scrap of tape on a drill bit helps me avoid drilling holes too deeply. The pilot holes I drill before setting long screws not only prevent splitting the stock but guides the screws better than could my naked eye and unassisted hand.

Writers employ a variety of jigs, too, most of these almost invisible in the finished work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PrepWork


"Are we there yet? Probably not."

Outside of industrial mass production, most work seems properly classified under the label PrepWork. Cooking supper mostly amounts to waiting for the oven to finish. Prepping whatever's cooking might have needed hours of concerted effort to process without producing anything more than supper's components, which the oven will finish without any active cook's intervention. Planting a garden's about 80% securing and schlepping supplies. Even mopping the kitchen floor involves much more moving chairs and Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's feeding station than actual mopping. Because of this feature, I understand that most chores have been mislabeled, and this leads folks to misinterpret what tasks entail. Painting's almost entirely PrepWork. Even laundry requires more sorting than washing, yet nobody declares that they're off to sort laundry, but to wash it. The machine does the washing. No machine knows how to properly sort laundry.

PrepWork seems the source of much of my frustration as I rediscover that the effort I anticipated hardly resembles the work I find I must do before I can do the work I expected to be doing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Debasedball


" … no further injections needed or wanted until Spring."

Post-season Major League Baseball offers a final opportunity to shed the seasonal obsession before the playing ends. Without it, a fan might face a cold turkey withdrawal from a dependency not yet overcome. After, a fog of distain remains, a gratitude for evenings returned, a deep appreciation for the absence of a long-lingering obligation. Fans seem superstitious folk, ones who firmly believe that the simple act of listening in to the proceedings assists the beloved home team. They can't hardly stand to miss a single outing, they hold their deluded responsibility so dear. By the end of the regular season, a definite parting begins. The home team hasn't made the playoffs again, in spite of the fan's unflagging long-distance support, and no team making the playoffs seems nearly as dear. The fan makes it clear to anyone within hearing distance that all joy has already left Mudville, though they'll consent to dabbling in a likely mediocre witnessing of the remainders, but only for old time tradition's sake.

The playoffs bring fresh underdogs needing someone to root for them, and the fan eventually complies, choosing a least likely but somehow most lovable from each league's roster.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SlowNewsDay


"Only the paint ever knows how to dry."

I hold the strong opinion that watching paint dry has been unfairly denigrated, for few experiences match the subtle satisfaction, after a few hours spent applying paint, of simply sitting back and watching it dry. During those times, the Earth seems solid, the sky blue, and the universe in good working order. The fresh paint scents the scene with cleanliness, even godliness. All's right with the world. A freshly mowed lawn comes in at a close second place, the activity having raised a slight glow of sweat which evaporates off with a soul-cleansing psychic sigh. The satisfying payoff might be the explicit permission to revel in doing nothing at all, watching paint dry being a dodge and not really a producing activity at all. Give the same guy placidly watching his freshly applied paint dry the opportunity to sit like some Zen monk in any other context and he'd likely fidget nervously in place, self-consciousness subsuming the opportunity for enlightenment. Focusing on that paint, though, the same man experiences true transcendence.

I open the paper, hoping for a SlowNewsDay.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LongDay


" … sleep decided to stay out all night carousing with unreputable friends."

The Hunter's Moon, the final full moon before we set about setting back time this season, introduces a sort of circadian arrhythmia. It's a relatively bright moon, given that night has already fallen by the time it shows up. The Autumn air seems thinner and shadows streak the neighborhood until just before dawn. The nightlight seems particularly bright and sleep grows disinterested in her usual engagement. I lie awake lying to myself, pretending to feel sleepy, closing my eyes without amping down my suddenly hyperactive brain even a tiny bit. I'm raring to go with nowhere to go, playing solitaire charades until I finally just abandon the ruse. Not yet two am, but I'm up and wandering the halls already.

I search for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, concerned that she might have slipped into some inescapable corner of the place. She hadn't shown up for last call.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HitHard


" I suppose that it's nobody's fault."

On August 24, 2018, Geoffrey Weglarz (alias Geoffrey Corbis) drove into New York City from his home in Connecticut to sell a camera tripod at a photography shop. They gave him a check for $275. He next went to his bank to cash that check. The bank had a policy of calling the source to confirm that the check was good, but the shop had closed for the day so the bank refused to cash the check. Geoffrey drove to the Lower East Side, parked his car, and drank a vial of poison he'd acquired on the dark web. He texted his sister in Florida saying that the stuff tasted every bit as terrible as he'd feared, then he died sitting in the driver's seat of his car. His family contacted the NYPD several times over the following week seeking their help in locating Geoffrey. The found him a week later, still sitting behind the wheel of his car.

Geoffrey started his adult life as a dinner theater actor, a passion he continued to pursue until shortly before he took his own life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GooDooding


" …I'm likely to just give her what I think she wants to receive in return,
and that without even asking her what answer she wants."

A quarter of a century or so ago, my dear friend Wayne Strider caught me inflicting help. He patiently explained to me that most help works better if one remembers to first ask the target if they want help. Simply seeming to need help doesn't mean that someone wants it. He'd caught me presuming. I think of myself as a helpful do-gooder type, delighted to assist, sometimes altogether too delighted to just jump in and assist without first asking for permission. Maybe that kind of help might be better classified as self-help, the sort of help one provides to feed their own need to feel helpful. It's one of the more popular ways to drive others crazy, a benevolent double-bind, like insisting that another put on their sweater because I'M cold.

Let's call this curious assistance GooDooding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SafeSpaces


"Places without SafeSpaces seem miserable places, indeed."

I've recently seen a lot of commentary complaining about SafeSpaces. The complainants seem to subscribe to the What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger school of social advancement, as if an absence of safety toughens people, encourages bravery, and yields straighter backbones. I'm of the opposite ilk. In my experience, the absence of safety brings out some of the worst in people. It might shut them down or set them off, neither state terribly conducive to full engagement. If I've got one eye employed to keep a watch out for someone sneaking up to get me from behind, I can't hardly keep both eyes peering ahead. For me, SafeSpaces seem fundamental to any endeavor.

Not that any of us should avoid at least preemptory preparations for the odd worst case scenario, but worst case scenarios so rarely occur that it seems pointless to over-prepare for them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AmNot


"I'd find the controversy laughable if it weren't so damned serious."

I am not a Capitalist, a Christian, or a Conservative. I accept that these nots alone render me a shadow in this culture. Add to these deficits the fact that I'm also not a chauvinist of any color and therefore decidedly not a patriot, and I essentially become an anathema of an American, though the original charter guarantees me the full freedom to embrace whatever beliefs I feel moved to hold. The freedom of speech does not guarantee anyone the right to scream Fire! in any crowded theater, and being no dummy, I remain mostly mute when it comes to my true beliefs. Culture, whatever that might be, always seems to retain a dominant perspective along with the will to squelch and smother those failing to subscribe to that outlook.

During the American Revolution, no more than a third of the population supported the uprising. A third firmly supported the king, while another third refused to take a side, viewing the resulting war as an unfortunate choice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Loaves&Flinches


"One startled flinch in preparation could have ruined the whole enterprise."

Back in Jesus' time, when the odd multitude showed up for supper, loaves and fishes were the popular response. Bordering The Sea of Galilee, fishes were common as pebbles then, and once you get started making pita loaves, you can't hardly stop, reliably producing dozens more than intended every time, so loaves were always in surplus, too. Another positive aspect of this menu was the Wow! factor, as one could plate it almost as if by magic. Everyone at table couldn't help but feel as though they'd been especially blessed and had witnessed a miracle of sorts. In those days before the invention of Miracle Whip®, a host, even the host of hosts, could not rely upon store bought to beatify any guest.

These days, mac and cheese fills the multitude menu slot. Macaroni drenched in a cheese sauce comes about as close to fully fungible as one can get without a handy Galilee and a neighborhood of over-achieving bakers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Errants


" … a whole five days will stretch to the horizon to promise fresh errants needing my attention."

The Muse and I live in a neighborhood from which we cannot walk to anywhere. Though we're plopped in the middle of a wildlife refuge, the only trails seem more suited to game and dog walkers than any through hikers. Even the village center lies a mile and a half away along a narrow-shouldered two-lane that feels equally dangerous to traverse by either foot or bike. Consequently, errands require driving, belying the rugged outdoors cache this conclave carries. The Muse was raised ten miles from anywhere on a South Dakota farmstead, so the commuting seems more wired into her system than into my own town-bred DNA. I'd much rather walk there and back again, but groceries wait ten miles away, uphill both ways, and I haven't figured out how to carry a couple of shopping bags there and back again. I'm married to the car.

I try to plan ahead, to limit the number of outings necessary to satisfy the list. I plot paths between the various purveyors as carefully as any knight Errant might, employing shortcuts and secret passages to reduce overall transit time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Illiberation


My hero: Henry L. Gantt

" … the utter subjugation of every individual contributor to the will of the machine."

Henry was a very smart bear working for a very powerful man. The powerful man was an authoritarian, convinced of his own genius, who strong-armed his way into giant corporations, gaining permission to implement tactics the owners lacked the hutzpah to introduce themselves. He called himself a scientist, though he was more Puritan than professor. He touted The One Best Way, and was so convinced of the righteousness of his cause that he infected others with his zealotry. He believed in First Class Men, those who exceeded his expectations. All others, he believed, lacked sufficient motivation to succeed and were therefore unworthy of receiving anything.

Henry worked as a sort of chief of staff to his patron.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Recovery


"A glass of beer's hardly worth the risk of a long night spent freezing in the backseat of some stranger's car or a crudely sliced artery leaking life."

Autumn along Colorado's Front Range feels volatile, like a slow-motion drunken bar fight. Nobody ever explains what sets off this country grown complacent from months of placidly sweet weather punctuated with no more than a few much-needed showers and the occasional thrilling hail storm, but by October, the situation turns deadly serious. The sharp edge of a Canadian cold front slips into the fray and everything instantaneously changes. A quiet threat's exchanged which almost nobody takes very seriously, the sun still shining warmly and a breeze hardly ruffles barely turning cottonwoods and aspens. When the slash comes, it takes me by surprise. I'd forgotten how savage that first swipe could be and my native generosity takes the first cut. I flee inside and start plotting my own demise, certain that I'll be sequestered there for the better part of the next half year.

The following day, the damnation seems permanent.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Figure/Ground


"Which it really was never really mattered."

I believe that I live in a holographic universe where what I see ain't exactly what's there. This belief could certainly drive me crazy if I took it too seriously; for instance, if I believed that something of genuine substance really should be there. I understand that my first pratfall should have persuaded me to take these holograms seriously, but sensation also seems rather holographic, transitory by nature, there then gone. This whole place seems like a figure/ground projection where whatever's attracting my attention amounts to the figure and everything else, backdrop ground, hardly perceived, so hardly there. Both the figure and the ground also seem continually present, only distinguished by where I'm focusing. How real is real? Not terribly, I say.

Physics seems to stack up on my side of this controversy, explaining as it does how everything's composed of stuff we cannot perceive in its native atomic state.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ShowFall


"I spent the longest time timeless there."

The snow day came on a Sunday, seventeen degrees and snowing like a Son of a Bitch outside. The weather reporter insisted that it had never been this cold here this early in the season, the previous record low only in the mid-thirties. We were headed for single digits overnight. The paper never came, though the roads remained bare, still holding heat leftover from yesterday's nearly seventy degree sunshine. The neighbor kids were out in it, screaming down the steep sidehill, scraping it bare before the snow could gain any real depth. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat huddled so close to the gas fireplace that she seemed to steam as she slept. I grabbed the latest John Sanford Freaking Flowers novel, a serendipitous find at the library the morning before, and retreated to the master bedroom to read and revel in the sublimely isolating weather. Neither The Muse nor I were gonna spoil that fifteen dollar car wash sloshing around through snow.

By the next morning, the roads would likely be bare and dry. At this altitude, nearly eight thousand feet, once the snow stops and the temperature drops, moisture evaporates off the asphalt so quickly the roads swirl with steam, ice never getting a chance to set.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheLastDayOfSpring


"I smile myself to sleep …"

The Muse and I celebrate, truly celebrate, two days each year: The First Day Of Summer and The Last Day Of Spring. The First Day of Summer arrives sometime in late May or early June on the first weekend following what seems likely to be the very last Winter frost, the day when we pull out all the pots and plant what will become our Summer garden on the deck, out of reach of the scavenging deer. The Last Day Of Spring comes the weekend before the first heavy snowfall of Winter, usually in early October, when we tear down our summer refuge. These days carry deep significance for us. The First Day Of Summer represents our active resistance to the degrading effects of seven or eight months of sequestration. The Last Day Of Spring represents our active acceptance of entering hibernation again. The First Day Of Summer lets come. The Last Day Of Spring lets go.

We exhibit great energy on these days, facing a body of physical labor greater than any we will enjoy on any other day of the year. I'll schlepp and scrub while The Muse plants or repots.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Copyediting


" … sit me down to copyedit and I seize up."

I drag both feet when it comes to copyediting what I've written. I write in three month batches, finishing each piece to a readable state, then collate the heap into a contiguous form before carefully re-reading to make final improvements. The whole parses differently than individual pieces and copyediting hardly encourages itself the way writing does. It's picky work, the sort requiring focused attention. I can't get too caught up in the content or I lose the necessary broader focus, but I dare not get so elevated within any broader focus that I cannot catch the tiniest necessary correction. I find this work to be endlessly boring, nap-inducing, and infinitely unsatisfying. I engage in it only in very small
sessions, twenty minutes or a half hour, before I find I simply must focus upon something, anything else. I exit feeling emptied.

Every time I exit feeling emptied, I feel less motivated to re-enter and finish this scut work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ZeroSum


" … a winner of sorts sitting there all alone."

The conservative worldview seems to embrace the notion that zero-sum rules govern this world. It perceives this world as distinctly divided into winners and losers. Those who win, win. Those who do not win, lose. Progressives seem to perceive the world differently, as if this were an abundant place where winners need not produce losers; where win/win outcomes remain possible if not always likely, where ingenuity and persistence have pretty reliably produced some semblance of better for all: abundance. The world itself seems indifferent to which perspective anyone takes. It seems to produce whatever any perspective insists upon. If you believe in a zero-sum world, the world will not disappoint your expectation. If you believe in an abundant one, it might well satisfy you, too. The outcome seems sealed by the tenacity with which one holds their particular belief. The world might be a self-fulfilling sort of place, a medium capable of delivering upon anyone's convictions about it.

Many of us aren't terribly experienced with abundance. We honed our economic chops playing Monopoly®, a zero-sum board game promising to reveal the secrets of the rich and famous.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheAverageOfOne


" … every single human being is also above average … "

In Garrison Keillor's mythical Midwestern town of Lake Woebegone, " … all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Of course, in any discrete population, not everyone can possibly end up above the average for anything. Call this The Law of Averages. In any population, whatever the purpose for sampling, some will fall below and others above the designated midpoint. A few might classify as spot-on average, but no group can possibly be comprised of entirely above averages. This small fact has yet to dissuade organizations from carefully recruiting only The Best and the Brightest, to attempt to violate The Law of Averages and produce a high performing Lake Woebegone sort of operation. This strategy hasn't worked yet. Yet.

I can, however, inhabit a real-life Lake Woebegone.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reasoning


" … survival of The People seems to find in favor of those few."

Like many in my generation, I first encountered logic in an algebra class. I didn't understand that I was encountering logic at the time, so I struggled to remember all the strange new rules. My teachers treated these curiosities as simple extensions of the trivial principles governing arithmetic, but they seemed much more complicated, so complicated that I never managed to fully sort out or assimilate them. I experienced endless Easter Eggs, imbedded practices not obvious upon initial scrutiny and apparently only discoverable when the instructor judged my answer wrong. The gists never popped for me, so I learned to fake it, to work backwards from the answers in the back of the book or demonstrate my faith in an invisible higher power when taking an exam. I faked well enough to eventually earn a university degree, though the logical reasoning underpinning at least the mathematical part of that certification still escapes me.

My second encounter with logic came when I sat down to take the SAT exam.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Silenced


Tomato plant succumbing to snowfall

"I have nothing left to say about anything."

The weather reporter insisted that it wouldn't snow until tomorrow, most probably over tomorrow night. I figured I'd have the whole day to watch the summer flowers bask in their last day gracing the back of the place. Yesterday, the fog hung low like on some backlot from an old Sherlock Holmes movie, humidity hovering in the nineties all day. I brought inside the huge three and a half year old geranium, and the half dozen basil plants so The Muse could make one last big batch of fresh pesto, along with the hibiscus, even though I know the hibiscus won't like it one bit in the house. It was still blooming, still late Spring in its head, and I felt it only decent to at least try to extend its life, even though I well understood the futility involved. The months of tender care, the casual evening fare grilled out there almost every night, are gone now. Silenced by the first Fall snow.

Autumn arrives abruptly here along the Front Range.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WorkSing


"If you ever meet me on a golf course, shoot me. You'll be doing us both a great favor."

I have a difficult time envisioning my great grandparents hanging out. I'm uncertain if hanging out had even been invented then. They busted their humps for their entire ninety year-and-then-some lifespans. Even in retirement, they hardly slowed, having mouths to feed and a small home to maintain. They just kept at it until they were no more. I suppose that the notion of leisure as a just reward for labor originated with people who had insufficient work to keep them entertained, potentates and such. Later, it was sold as a promise, perhaps to mollify those who labored at the more exhausting jobs. Keep your nose clean and you could be playing golf on Saturday. In the mean time, tote that damned bale, slave.

I think the smooth transfer of the desire for leisure failed for me. I understand that it has now become an imbedded part of the amended American Dream, but it seems a more nightmarish threat to me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Crapmanship


"I'd better find my satisfaction in accepting that I fooled at least those eyes."

Replacing three sun-rotted window frames, I couldn't avoid encountering evidence of Crapmanship in their original fabrication. This sort of discovery doesn't qualify as in any way unusual, for stuff has always featured mixes of Crapmanship and craftsmanship. Exteriors tend to look as though they were painstakingly put together, but beneath any surface, which might have been no more than expertly painted, some real crap work likely lurks. I'm still learning not to become all indignant about this apparently eternal feature of this world. I understand that internal workings might not really require fine-looking construction to serve an intended purpose. We all seem to cut corners that don't seem to matter much. We hack, therefore we are.

I've of course added my own unique brand of shoddy into my fixes. I'm not the finish carpenter my grandfather was, so I improvise.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Tolerence


"I wonder where our underlying Polity lies."

The Puritan Roger Williams founded his Rhode Island colony on the principle of tolerance. The Massachusetts Bay Colony had earlier drummed Williams out of their society, which they'd founded upon the principle of extreme intolerance, as though he had failed to demonstrate true Puritan values. He had. Williams welcomed all comers, Muslims, Jews, even agnostics, though he never actively supported any of their ideals. He explained that tolerance does not extend to supporting anyone's beliefs, but only as far as supporting the right to hold any belief. He thought Muslims and Jews damned, but he also considered their damnation to be their own damned business. Williams was fortunate that his principle of tolerance failed to attract many intolerant Puritans to Rhode Island, for even a minority, dedicated to promoting intolerance, can utterly destroy any tolerant society.

Karl Popper reflecting upon Germany's initial tolerance of the Nazi movement, coined the term The Paradox of Tolerance.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Manliness


"Manliness might qualify as the most misunderstood identity."


I always wondered how one becomes One Of The Guys or A Good Old Boy. Maybe my invitation got lost in the mail or perhaps I (gulp!) never qualified. I know that I never submitted an application, but I sort of expected someone to approach me with an invitation. After all, I am a guy, a good guy; aging, perhaps even old, though admittedly no longer a boy. Can I confess that I never fully identified with the gender stereotypes supposedly appropriate for a person of my gender and my age? I look ridiculous in a hard hat and feel simply silly behind the wheel of any truck. I fear all power tools. I don't hunt. I do drink beer, though. Doesn't that count?

I proved to be an unreliable breadwinner, but tried not to take that very personally. I've lived exclusively with strong-willed women, each of whom proved to be more than a counterbalance for any deficiency I contributed to the unions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Humility


Walt Whitman washing the feet of former slave; illustration by Lewis C. Daniel
"I learned almost by accident that my words inspired someone yesterday.
How humbling was that?"


What big, hairy, audacious things have I done in my life? I sincerely hope my answer will continue to be, "Nothing." Not that I've achieved nothing, just nothing that might be construed as big, hairy, or audacious. I've done my work, but hardly ever with the intention of cornering any market, making any kind of a killing, or achieving fame or fortune. I thought once that I might get discovered and gain wide popularity, just like every baby boomer did, for we were the first generation raised in the proximity of celebrity. Prior generations read about the rich and famous or heard them speak on the radio, but our generation invited them into our living rooms where they dazzled us with their mastery, brightening our otherwise drab existences. That these demonstrations were heavily produced and edited to ensure that only the best of the best ever showed, was not obvious to us casual observers. We thought pure talent poured out the ends of these performers' fingers. We marveled at their skill.

We learned that popularity might just be the purpose of life, that we should rightly strive for broad audiences.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trolling


"Maybe I'll eventually learn to give up these ghosts more quickly."

I do not get where they're coming from. They arrive like non-sequiturs into the conversation, off-topic, sometimes even off-color. I at first think I've tumbled into a simple misunderstanding. I might take almost forever to finally figure out that this was never a misunderstanding. It was sabotage, clear and simple. Well, not clear to me at first, but ultimately simple. They seem to take some strange kind of power from diverting the flow. Their superpower seems to be the curious ability to undermine any flow. I finally exhaust my ability to make anything like a Most Generous Interpretation because I finally figure out that generosity isn't part of any troll's vocabulary. They specialize in leaping into a Least Generous Interpretation. They parse an analogy literally, then head off to rebut a comment never actually made. They seem to love being maddening.

My earliest attempt at social media, a wiki called PureSchmaltz, was ultimately brought low by anonymous posters who sprinkled obscene photographs throughout the content.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CarSpooling


William G.R. Hind, oil painting, “Breaking a Road in Manitoba,”

" … there's really no place I need to be (or really want to be) except right here at home."

The Muse and I operate a one horse town, by which I mean we own a single car between us. Each of our neighbors own at least two, and one owns four that I know of, all more or less trucks. Each morning, we decide who will get the car that day. Usually, I insist that The Muse take it, that I don't have anyplace pressing to go. Some days I slip out for a few minutes to fetch a gallon of milk or some hardware for a project before she leaves, but most days, I'm left without transportation, save my ancient one speed bike and my two left feet. We live in a neighborhood which calls itself a village, and it might well qualify as a village because it sits in a rather remote location without supplemental public transportation. Without a car, I might just as well be in an isolated cabin, which suits me fine.

I might be the primary reason we have one car rather than two. I hold strong opinions about how many cars our family should own.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trans-It-Shuns


"I seem to know nothing of what lurks beyond."

On the morning of the last day of baseball season, I'm already grieving. Our team didn't play that well this year, hampered by early season injuries and tenaciously poor management, the opening day promise extended less than a month before fairly certain disaster loomed. It took me almost a month to figure out the new roster, one missing a couple of last year's favorites, and the last six weeks have seen so many upstarts elevated from the Minors that I've been unable to tell who's who, who's home team and who's visitor. By the last game of the regular season, I struggle to care about who wins any contest. Winning and losing doesn't matter very much. How each player engages with the game matters more.

The Muse and I will attend the last game of the season, a rare match between our home teams, the team that stole our hearts during early exile days and the one that has failed to attract our interest since moving here. We're visitors in both venues now,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnderSitting


"This is that unlikely place, I suspect."

I say that I understand, but I probably don't. Maybe I could understand, I might even be on my way toward understanding, but I've yet to sit down and deeply consider the situation. I seem to have something more like a strolling-by-ing. I haven't yet slowed down quite enough to stand with this perspective long enough to look it squarely in the eye. Even then, I'm still upright, still in mobile mode, not quite at my ease. I'm balancing on my heels, eyeing the surroundings, half distracted while failing to fully absorb. Understanding only gets me so far. A deeper comprehension requires me to sit a spell: Undersitting.

Undersitting seems a choice rarely proffered. I do drive-by comprehension, slowing just long enough to grasp some gist, but hardly long enough to recognize any whole concept or how it might fit together with other ideas.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Be-Leaves


"I believe in the inherent goodness of people without holding anybody but myself accountable for living up to that belief."

Humans seem the most remarkable beings. We believe, belief being a kind of conviction requiring no supporting factual evidence. The highest, most treasured beliefs, insist upon, even brag about, being utterly unsupported, and necessarily so. Two generations ago, Stafford Beer named Firm Belief as one of the four antagonisms encumbering a firm's success; as with the firm, so also with the individual therein (and thereout.) We easily victimize ourselves with our beliefs, fueling certainty with the equivalent of gold-plated air. I'm not knocking this curious ability, but rather noting just how curious it seems. My more reverent friends seem especially blessed with their firm beliefs, confidently striding through a world that seems mostly overwhelming to the rest of us. The more self-aware of these readily admit that their doxology contains hefty bits of pure fantasy, easily disproven by even the most ineptly skeptical observer, and they also recognize the evident power their belief brings them.

The rest of us seem to struggle along beneath leaky balloons imperfectly elevating us. We seem to lose more altitude than we ever gain and scrape ground with some regularity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnCertainTea


"If I want everyone to win, I might consider how I chose who loses."

I want everyone to win. Still, I seek resolution. I despise the unresolved. Encountering an 80/20, I'll give the eighty the benefit of little doubt and just disregard the dangling twenty as irrelevant. Encountering a 50/50, I'll switch to gut feel, discounting the whole concept of more quantitative evaluation. I will rarely leave any issue unresolved in my head. I develop a sort of spontaneous amnesia, quickly forgetting any controversy I could not very quickly resolve. I say all this while fully convinced that certainty seems to be the root cause of nearly every ill. Were I able to hold the exquisite tension between the thises and the thats, between the eithers and the ors, I might well leave myself better off in nearly every instance, but I seem unable to forestall the short-term simpler pseudo-resolutions attracting me. I create losers in this way while I say I want everyone to win.

I see them in fields of different-seeming us-es, missing the connecting structures. I sense almost exclusively superficially, quickly sorting to identify my tribe.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Passsst


"They mostly only ever show through sometimes."

Some of the past never fully passes. A bit of it turns into legend, some of it into infamy, and the tiniest bit becomes deep, dark secrets over time. Even the secret seems more present than it should. No matter how many decades accrete on top of the original experience, it stays kind of close to the surface. A small scratch might reincarnate it at any time no matter how far out of mind it slips in the intervening years. A scent, a sound, a whisper from a dark alleyway as I pass, and that particular past, a Passsst, spontaneously reincarnates. Whether sweet or savory, bitter or sour, I re-experience the original sensations regardless of what I was just in the middle of doing.

I might then feel transported into another place and time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ancienting


" … old treasure like me would never come up for auction, anyway."

The Antique Road Show appraisers speak of patina, and seem to worship it. The hapless owner's grandmother refinished the piece eighty years ago and stripped off at least ninety percent of the chair's value. In its present refurbished state, it might garner no more than a few hundred bucks. Had grandma been less of a go-getter, a few tens of thousands, maybe a hundred grand on a good day. What was once a treasure will now remain kitsch, authenticity forever compromised.

More than half of what some derisively refer to as The Aging Process involves retaining the deepening patina despite pressures to refurbish.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Progressing


" … progress can be beyond even the the most watchful beholder's eye."

Ten years ago on this date, The Muse and I declared personal and professional bankruptcy. Lehman Brothers beat us to it by two weeks, and we'd lost a whole lot less they they did when we finally admitted to ourselves and to the world that we'd lost everything. We had not speculated in junk derivative bonds. The economy dried up and our business evaporated. Two weeks before we filed, my father died after a long summer of declining health. Those final six weeks or so, I'd manned the overnight watch. Both The Muse and I were ragged by then, frantic, then accepting, then finally simply dazed. We thought we'd probably lose the house, though bankruptcy allowed us to retain ownership in that one asset if we could wrangle some way to retain it; but with no work, no income, no savings, and little hope, other than a hopeful candidate running to replace the disastrous president, we finally admitted that we'd gone bust.

This experience represented real progress, as unlikely as it seemed at the time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DifferentLies


"I was there all along …"

On the last day of summer, change does not seem like the universal positive anymore. This culture worships change. We each seem to fervently believe in it as the ultimate redeemer, which means that we subtly despise stasis. We think that if we're not growing, not continuously on some trajectory or another, that we're as good as dead, or, more, precisely, as bad as dead. Dead is the worst condition in our panoply of possible states. Forward, backward, sideways, we're a kinetic species, always supposed to be on the move somewhere, heading. We're quickly dissatisfied with any accomplishment, shortly bored by any status quo. About a quarter of the people who paid a minimum of forty bucks to attend the game will leave before the game ends, saying that they wish to avoid the heavy traffic on their way to somewhere else. We can't seem to find satisfaction standing still.

Still, for all of our movement, all of our building momentum, things don't often seem that much different. It's as if our collective motion somehow sums to little or to even no motion at all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Inter-gritty


"I can see you only through the indistinguishable blemishes in the mirror and on your face."

Nobody ever respects a braggart. Shameless self-promotion seems more an act of shameful self-degradation. The real authority speaks humbly rather than haughtily, seeming to acknowledge that not even she has ever been party to any ultimate truth, and she seems to still be sorting through the odd unreconciled bits. She acknowledges her own fallibility to demonstrate her personal reliability. She might efface herself and thereby amplify her presence. Anyone pounding upon any podium undermines their preaching. The more emphatic, the less truthfully it rings. People will think she insists altogether too dramatically. Big sticks might work as stage props without improving anyone's delivery.

'They' say that what one does when nobody's looking creates integrity. If this statement is true, and it might well be, how, then, could anyone not looking ever come to know another's integrity, not looking being the essential element enabling its emergence and all?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Allegations


"I admit to being clueless some of the time, but not yet incapable of learning."

I was rushing home via the shortcut when my accuser waylaid me. "You've been disrespecting my sister," he proclaimed.

"Huh? What??," I cleverly retorted, gobsmacked by his accusation.

He repeated his earlier insistence. I knew this guy's name but nothing more about him. I'd until then been unaware that he even
had a sister. I explained the facts as I understood them. (These might have seemed like a lame dismissal to him.) He escalated, insisting that he was honor-bound to fight me to regain his sister's honor. I'm thinking, "Really? What IS this, King Arthur and his Round Table?" He would not let me pass, finally throwing a frenzied punch which mostly missed me.

Still stunned with disbelief, I tried to just go around him, but he continued the assault. I finally deigned to engage, throwing my first punch in anger (more like in goaded frustration, really), which connected enough to yield a bloody nose for him and an early end to hostilities. He went home crying. I went home feeling guilty.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Liberty


" … it shades no one unless it intends to shade us all."

Liberty seems more a collective than individual property. Our forebears fought to secure the opportunity to govern themselves, not to ensure that any individual could just do whatever they want. There were innies and outies, of course, so some felt oppressed under the yoke of 'their' so-called freedoms. The conflict was not settled when the British retreated. It simmers, occasionally boiling over, even today, perhaps because of this one complication, that liberty never was and never could have been the property of any individual. It must belong to all.

Free speech, for instance, never was the same as loose talk. The guarantee to say whatever I want does not extend to yelling fire in any crowded theater or cursing at grandma's table.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Evil


The Banality of the Banality of Evil by Banksy


"We're better than that, even after we catch ourselves having been no better than that."

Seeing it probably won't enable you to know it, or even recognize its presence. Understanding lags considerably, and acceptance lags even further behind. Its presence will likely startle you. Its influence will already be draining your life force before you catch on that you're being had, or have already been had. Evil does not at first organize any occupation parade, no show of overwhelming force. It seems to first seep in, putrefying from the inside out, leaving the peach apparently pristine until you try to pick it up. It will seem banality incarnate, more banal even than that, imminently ignorable until it becomes nearly inexorable.

It will not be dismissed. You will need to forcefully escort it to the door, so it remains essential that you always remember where to locate the door and to remain mindful of the conditions necessitating removal.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HealthScare


"Maybe what doesn't kill me might make me stronger, or insolvent, one of those."

I'd find it difficult to converse with my tax accountant if she wore a face mask. Maybe an early exposure to Beagle Boys comics left me with an unnatural fear of anyone wearing a mask, but I find health care professionals inherently terrifying. I understand that they're trying to limit my exposure to their germs and their exposure to mine, but the affect leaves me more wary that wide open. Our exchanges, otherworldly. My defenses immediately stand up taller. I'm on-guard. I might suffer from White Coat Syndrome, a tension encouraging higher than normal blood pressure readings when I'm in the presence of anyone who might be able to reasonably interpret those readings. It's a double bind.

I have no clue how our health care system works. The Muse seems to have at least the patter down. She can spout 'out of network' and 'copay' as if she understands the theory and the practice. I fumble for the insurance card, clear that I understand nothing printed on the face of it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Impossibility



"A spare ounce of acceptance seems to achieve more than any metric ton of impossibility."

Writer Molly Backes recently tweeted about what she calls “The Impossible Task." The Impossible Task might appear perfectly pedestrian unless considered by someone suffering from depression. Under the influence of depression, pretty much any aspiration might appear impossible to achieve. The lofty desire to refill a prescription or the Utopian urge to mow the lawn today might qualify as functionally impossible to achieve. Theoretically and even practically, these objectives might appear perfectly possible, but functionally, they might lie far beyond my reach. The old self-helpless adage which insists that the impossible just takes a little longer seems silly for anyone feeling as though the touted 'a little longer' amounts to infinity.

I fully understand that in this culture, my culture, we presume a positive outlook. Any welcoming embrace of any standard impossibility seems to qualify as evidence of the presence of a positive outlook, even should the objective fully qualify as theoretically or functionally impossible. We do not normally consider anyone exhibiting symptoms of positive outlook delusional, but plucky.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rhythm


" … the poem comes out as if missing all the spaces between the words …"

When she was in high school, The Muse played drums in a garage band. She's always had a more sensitive rhythm sense than I. As my songwriting and performing matured, I grew to appreciate rhythm as the cohering force. A song properly backbeat can hardly go wrong, while one losing its thumps can hardly sound right, however otherwise precisely I might play the notes. The rhythm, almost always much less intricate than the melody, subtly rules the whole performance without anyone hardly noticing. The drummer and the base hold the foundation, wherever the primary and descant instruments might wander. They'd be utterly lost without them.

I believe that every activity holds a natural rhythm. Find it and, like the soaring piccolo, I'll remain at least in step, an essential congruence one mostly only notices when it's absent. Lose it and nothing I might try will seem to work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Becoming


"Becoming seems to be what we really are when we insist that we are anything at all."

Defining "done" was one enduring difficulty every project I ever worked on, lead, or consulted with experienced. Some adopted the curious First Customer Shipped metric, which insisted that the project was done when the first customer's order was free on board a truck. Others presumed that when they'd successfully tested fixes for and integrated all critical bug reports, the project had ended. In actual experience, though, the project team inevitably continued their efforts long after the designated completion date, for that first customer, upon receiving the first instance of final product would experience unanticipated difficulties that only the development team could resolve and additional critical bugs would emerge even after testing and integration were successfully completed. Eventually, the end product would be more or less integrated into the finished product maintenance stream, though members of the original development team might never completely divorce themselves from the product.

I learned that whatever the product developed, it never left a state of becoming.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MeaningsFul


"Not a problem for any of us, but a feature of us all instead."

The truly clueless seem stuck on literal meanings, as if any word could be delivered without nuance or subtext, when every utterance comes cloaked in some sort of ambiguity. It's a wonder anyone can ever communicate anything to anyone else. Different people employ different encoding tactics some of which instantly impart meaning while others only begrudgingly disclose it. While I might never reliably interpret the contents of any book by its title, considering the many elements present on the cover often helps me feel as though I do understand what I stoop to pick up off the shelf. The design says more than the title, but without words. The designer chose the color for its reliability in inducing a certain attraction within the prospective reader. I might identify a thousand interacting elements there, each sufficiently ambiguous to leave me either wondering or certain. Taken together, these design elements make a statement beyond, beneath, and behind what the title might impart. All communication seems to work like this.

On days where my awareness seems especially tuned in, I might consciously catch one in a hundred or a thousand of these cues.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MakingADifference


"Just being here seems to spawn more difference than anyone could ever comprehend."

A Difference seems to stand at the very top of the list of 'things' people say they want to make, well above 'supper' and even 'trouble.' The statement itself strikes me as banal, though I know it's supposed to seem supremely inspirational. I, myself, think of myself as a difference skeptic. When comparing myself with the context within which I stand, I see little leverage. I'm a small guy imbedded in infinite infinities, tiny in comparison with almost everything else. Sure, I hold BIG ideas and sometimes even great notions, but the possibilities seem the very opposite of endless, even before I add in the insidious effects of time. I figure that if I really want to make a difference, I just need to close my eyes for an instant, then open them up again. The challenge seems to lie in noticing what's different then.

Even when I accept that I might make some difference, I tend to think in inappropriately grandiose terms. I want to make a BIG difference, so I start gnawing on something much bigger than anyone could effectively chew, let alone eventually swallow.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ninny



"I pray that no one will take me very seriously."

I consider myself to be at root a ninny, and not a particularly apologetic one, neither. As the ninny I consider myself to be, I fail to fully qualify as a coward, for I am known to stand up and be counted on some occasions, but I hold few strong convictions. I keep a low-ish profile. If you want to pass me, be my guest. I'll even slow down to make it easier for you. If you want to take advantage of me, I'm wide open. Not naturally suspicious of my fellows, I'd rather anticipate the best than the worst of everyone. I prefer avoiding competitive games, and not just because I hate to lose, but because I hate to see anyone lose. Winning zero sum games offends me, even when I win.

I figure that there's not really any leverage in being pushy or shove-y. Better approaches exist.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGoodCitizen


"We seem destined to continually surprise each other."

Any conversation broaching the topic of good citizenship seems destined to follow the same sorry trail that conversations about being a good christian usually take, and that trail tends to terminate in irresolvable recriminations within which no citizen, good or otherwise, ever feels very good about themselves. They lean toward the Thou Shalts, which all by themselves seem antithetical to anything other than the dominion of some authority over everyone else; hardly anyone's idea of civility. When I speak of good citizenship, I intend to speak more of the I Wills, the rather personal covenants I hold myself responsible for abiding by, whether or not anyone else even knows that I hold them. For citizenship seems a painfully personal proposition, the never fully resolved answers to the question, "What will I agree to do for the mutual benefit of everyone else?", not what society demands that I contribute. Good citizenship never was a matter of simply obeying the law, but of abiding within it, which sometimes seems to demand working hard to change it or even to civilly disobey it. Like I said, it's a personal thing, but a personal thing writ larger than any individual.

It's a personal thing in context, that context being innumerable others also pursuing their personal things, the boundaries of each person's pursuit essentially undefinable but not necessarily indiscernible, for each individual seems first free to attend to those surrounding them, to respect their space and reasonably expect them to respect your space in return.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Master-re-re-re-re


"The end does, indeed, come like a thief in the night, but then so do new beginnings."

We all understand what to do if, when, at first, we fail to succeed. We try, try again. But what should one do when failing after achieving a certain degree of mastery? Regardless of the previous level of play, failure always remains a possibility. In the early years, the budding apprentice grows to accept that some percentage of his efforts will very likely prove fruitless. The journeyman grows to increasingly rely upon success to manifest, and might even explain these wins as evidence of his growing skill. The master, though, tends to perform in front of larger crowds who amplify his own anticipation of success. Then, a stumble disappoints others, too. We all know what that can do to you.

The blithe response to a master failing tends to be, indeed, a blithe response, a faux-cheerful, aw-shucks chuckle. At least that's the way it might appear on the outside.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheTruth


"Just like life. Exactly like living."

I do not ever speak TheTruth. I almost always speak MyTruth, and almost never tell an outright lie. I might fudge details to impart a higher-quality story, but I only very rarely embellish anything into its opposite, at least that's what this guy admitting that he never speaks TheTruth insists. I seem to me to be the only difference between TheTruth and MyTruth, for MyTruth appears to accurately represent only me to myself, never everyone to anyone else. Others might perceive something less than genuine in my confessions, yielding TheirTruth, which might seem considerably less than genuine to me. Nothing irks me more than someone contradicting my characterizations of MyTruth, as if they could possibly know better than I what only I could possibly know. Bottom line: I am not now nor will I ever be (nor do I aspire to ever become) the holder of TheTruth. You might as well entrust the family jewels to the tender care of a cranky two year old.

MyTruth seems slippery enough for a guy like me to handle.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Probl'ms


" … clinging remnants of our previous naivety about the nature of a difficulty …"

Can we all agree that we're surrounded by problems? Might we agree that they seem to be getting ever worse, more intractable? Certainly, the vocabulary of the times seems infused with problem language. The casual invocation of this 'P' word might have, at least to my mind, became a fresh category of problem, for many of the difficulties described as problems really hardly satisfy the criteria for problem-ness. I believe that if we could just clean up our language a bit, many of our most intractable-seeming 'problems' would cease to remain problems. I'm not saying that they might not still exhibit the troubling characteristics of genuine difficulties, but at least, perhaps, we could reduce the overload of problems haunting us.

There's something about a problem that seeks a solution.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Opiniums


"a recipe for creating dystopia"

Karl Marx insisted that religion was the opium of the people. These days, though, I think that opinions have replaced religion as the opium of the people, or maybe, to wax more thoroughly modern, the Oxycodone of the people now. I call them Opinums in side-smirking homage to their addictive presence.

The phone rings and it's someone seeking my opinion on the subject of Death Taxes. I ask what the heck he means by Death Taxes and he sounds a little stunned by my question.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CircadianClueless


"I figure a pot of beans probably won't do any harm."

I've never lived a particularly well-regulated existence. I've never had a difficult time making it on time to any job I held, usually arriving early and staying late. I burned midnight oil for more than the first half of my life and lit the predawn lamp through the other half so far. I do more than get by on fewer than the recommended hours of sleep. I serve no meal at any regular time, breakfasting five or more hours after rising in the morning and rarely sitting down to supper until well after seven at night. I've grown to despise regular hours, which seem more designed for the convenience of farmers and industrialists than for the benefit of hunter-gatherers like me.

The rhythms persist, however.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SquarePeg


"a breath of breeze through glistening trees."

I think of myself as a square peg. Always have. Likely always will. I seem to thrive only in bespoke contexts, ones custom made to house my particular eccentricities. When someone asks me who I am, I think to myself, "What an exquisitely impossible question to answer." However I might search the standard stereotype archive, I seem to come up empty-handed. Even constructing an N-dimensional Venn diagram of overlaps seems simply impossible, resulting only in odd lot, ant/elephant combinations, almost but not entirely unlike whatever I might reference within it. My favorite response has usually been, "David," which, of course, amounts to no response at all, for we live in a time immersed in BIG 'I' Identity, where to fail to identify with at least one of the more popular stereotypes renders one essentially irrelevant. It's as if the 'I' in identity must associate with an even larger 'O' in Others for an individual to be considered even relevant.

It's a fine paradox, and one complicit in much of the depressively low self-esteem floating around society. If I am not you, or at least an awful lot like you, why should you like me?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Competition


"I consider competition to be a mental illness,
hell bent to destroy all who engage, a snake eating its own tail."

Competition is a form of self destruction. Initially, it might seem designed to merely conquer competitors, but repeated, it turns into the opposite of its original intention, ultimately undermining the competitor himself. Even the Ancient Greeks recognized this subtle curse, and counseled great caution whenever engaging as if competition might accomplish something positive in the longer term. How much better to cooperate, though people being people, we seem more than capable of turning even generous cooperation into some form of a Holier Than Thou competition.

The contest seems necessary, though, so we struggle hard to get ahead, to leave the weaker sisters in our dust. Then, of course, we hold culpability for the violence visited upon our weaker sisters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reflecting


"They're already loosing steam."

If you want to learn what I think, ask me, then wait, perhaps for a very long time. If you want to know how I feel, ask, then prepare to wait even longer. I am a walking echo chamber, filled to the brim with contradictory, often conflicting perspectives. I remain steadfastly uncertain, humbled in my acceptance of the tenacious indecipherable surrounding me, eternally teetering on the forward edge of another great unknowable. In lieu of knowing for sure, I question. Of course I exhibit preconscious, essentially autonomous behaviors, though I'm hardly aware enough of them to explain them to myself, let alone to anyone else. On the scale of the grand action/reflection dichotomy, I'm sitting somewhere inside the mirror, considering.

My preference for reflection makes me a lousy fascist, for fascists value action, even reaction, above all else.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MagicUnderpants


"I ain't telling nobody."

I knew today would become extraordinary the moment I reached into my underwear drawer and found my MagicUnderpants on top. I don't know how this pair earned its designation. Perhaps they just look more distinguished than all the others, but I knew when I purchased them that they would become my favorite. And the have. When wearing these babies, I fly confident that my airplane can't possibly fall out of the sky. I sense that parking karma will lead me around all day, leaving empty parking spots adjacent to front doors. Good things happen to me every day I wear my MagicUnderpants.

My other pairs just don't seem to do the trick and I do not know why.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Religion


"Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless."

Like most of the people inhabiting this world, I don't consider myself religious. I was raised in white middle class America which some report as not possessing a culture. I attended a white bread, right of center Christian church in my youth but never noticed Jesus attending. I identified as more a Just Visiting distant relation than a full member of the congregation, though I'd always volunteer to help set up or tear down the multi-purpose room. The doctrine eschewed smoking, but my dad smoked. My mom could wax irreverent about the dichotomies between what was preached and what was practiced and I guess I considered church as somehow distinct from religion, certainly from spirituality.

I thought bible lessons allegorical, unconvincing as literal truth, useful perspectives but certainly not holy writ. I thought that if The Bible was the literal word of God, God needed a decent copy editor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Thinking


"I grab just where I think it is only to find that it must be somewhere else instead."


Before you begin reading this posting, please reference Google (or even Bing!) and look up the definition of Thinking.

I'm fairly certain that most readers did not accept this invitation, but it hardly matters. Had you refreshed your memory with the formal definition of Thinking, I doubt that you came away any clearer about the meaning of the term. Google or Bing! Images related to the term Thinking, and you'd be no better off. Light bulbs, empty dialogue clouds, and photos of people scratching their heads greeted you, didn't they? If effective communication relies upon those involved sharing a common understanding of the topic's meaning, we seem to be sunk before we've even begun considering Thinking as our topic of the day, but since I'm really investigating the many facets of cluelessness, we might be starting at something close to exactly the proper spot. At least I think we might be.

I've thought of myself as a thinker all my life. I hold no advanced degree in thinking, mind you, but I've nonetheless thought of myself as more of a thinker than anything else.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Feyness


"The net result of learning should properly be a slightly higher class of cluelessness, never Feyness."

In the days when The Muse and I facilitated workshops, we studiously avoided introducing any sort of lifeboat drill-type exercises into the curriculum. These were the sorts of games requiring the group to expel someone from the group, the kind of "play" we commonly see on so-called reality television programs. We never believed that these simulations very accurately portrayed real-world situations. Quite the opposite, we thought them suggestive of tactics relatively useless in anyone's real world workplace. Besides, they tended to make the learning space unsafe, and our primary watchwords for our workshops were, "Safety First." If we could not create a safe learning environment, we would be culpable for inhibiting deep learning, and nobody attends any workshop so that they can hold their facilitators culpable for inhibiting their deep learning.

Learning seems to require some sense on the part of the aspiring learner that they might have a decent chance of actually learning something, that they could not possibly leave the experience without having found something useful for themselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Grudges

grudges
"I finally decided that maybe I could live with myself again, so I did."

Grudges have become badges of honor, honoring some past insult. We wear them like deep sea diving boots, hardly handy for tap dancing, or even walking around. They seem to ground us but tend to sink us instead. Still, social and political movements feature grudges as a part of members' required uniform. One cannot join without prominently displaying their grudge. Stadiums fill with supporters seemingly present to show off their personal grudge to others, some competing to demonstrate that their grudge is bigger than anyone else's. Just as if they could fix the past by dragging a particularly wounding part of it around with them, they engage in a kind of group primal therapy, howling at their common misbegotten moon.

It might be that nurturing the memory prolongs the past slight's life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Mediocrity

Mediocracy
"To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it."

Throughout recorded history, mankind's unending quest for good enough has been goobered up by a few over-achievers, who, having reached a perfectly satisfying meadow halfway up the mountain, insisted upon turning their walk in the woods into some kind of extreme sporting event. They pine after that rarified, stony space above the tree line, where winds whip around lightening bolts. They want excellence. Their search seems endless, their lifestyles, downright obsessive. They become relentlessly proud owners of dissatisfaction, ever ranging even further upward. The rest of us, perhaps a little cowed in the presence of such seemingly misguided determination, feel moved to move no further. We're suddenly much more attracted to gratitude for what we've already achieved and acceptance of the way things currently are. We'd rather nap on our already acquired bed of laurel than go searching for unlikely eagle feathers.

I've noticed that business seems to have gone downhill since embracing the theology of excellence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Breaking

breaking
"I figure the whole truth will be better approximated in a volume to be published ten years from now and surrounded by enough context to bring today into clearer perspective."

Early yesterday afternoon, my Facebook Feed announced the latest breaking news. I followed the link to learn that this particular piece of breaking news was a lengthy analysis of news expected to break later that afternoon. Experts waded in to explain background and foreground, some even projecting the effects this impending breaking news might have once it actually broke. I wasted five unredeemable minutes of my afternoon on this floss. Later, the news the earlier announcement predicted, came to pass as breaking news, which washed over the late afternoon as no surprise, an anti-climax whetted by overlong anticipation. The earlier broadcast captured the gist of the actual event, with some details probably unavoidably miscast. The final breaking story, though, had by then lost much of its potential impact. I caught myself skimming through the details, more seeking to confirm the earlier implanted news than to broaden my understanding.

Breaking news might by necessity be about ninety percent distraction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Convictions

convictions
"As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either."

I'm driving that car you're trying to pass. Yes, I know the road looks clear ahead. It's a clear, sunny day. You zoomed up to ride my rear bumper and you're gesturing with both hands in frustration. I know you want me to drive faster. I'm not trying to act as obstinately as I must appear. What's wrong with me? A grave shortcoming. I'm driving at the speed limit. We've passed two speed limit signs since you started crawling up my tailpipe. Perhaps you were too distracted to notice? I'm noticing for you, I guess.

Why? Why can't you coerce me into driving more recklessly?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Paradox

paradoxelephant
"I consider an improvement anything that might shift it into even a slightly more malleable form…"

Paradoxes can make us stupid, but also uncommonly wise. Alexander demonstrated great wisdom when encountering that stupid knot prophesied as determining his fate. Rather than choose to untie or not, he rent the knot in two, rendering it absolutely irrelevant, forever thereafter neither tied nor untied. Few of us show such presence of mind when finding ourselves in a paradox's grip. Few of us ever seem to realize just what we're dealing with, so we trot out one of our half dozen or so trusty problem solving strategies, none of which could possibly produce the faintest twitch of surrender in even a low-order, run-of-the-mill paradox. The paradox is never the problem not realizing what we're facing turns out to be.

Damned if you do and also damned if you don't hardly circumscribes the range of available choices, of which there exist in any instant an infinite number from which to choose.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dichotomy

zenos-dichotomy-e1515427608294
" … it's subsequent sortings all the way from every here to every there, to the end of every line"

With his Dichotomy (illustrated above) the Ancient Greek Mathematician Zeno proved long before any of us were born, the logical impossibility of moving between any here and any there. While his logic was sound, his conclusion, curiously, was not, as I just demonstrated by walking all the way downstairs AND BACK! Logic works like this sometimes.

In my youth, I took a job as a bull hand dancer in an asparagus factory. My job involved performing the first sort on freshly blanched asparagus passing along a conveyor belt. Lift truck drivers in blue hard hats would dump huge steaming bins of the stuff replete with everything from chunks of fence post to freshly steamed snake and mouse carcasses which needed to be removed from the stream, and not only because they wouldn't fit into the little white containers which would later be flash frozen, labeled, and rushed to the frozen food section of local grocery stores. The first sort was rough, nothing like fine finish work. I'd yank out the obviously awful and line up as many spears as I could given the conveyor's speed. A long line of secondary sorters beneath my position on the conveyor performed ever finer sorts, resulting in containers capable of passing the quality control inspector's gimlet eye at the far end of the line.
Dichotomy works like this.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Expectations

Expectation-Quotes-1
"They're disposable just after they seemed like the only possible One Best Way."

The above quote might qualify as one of the most clueless utterances ever. To act without expectations seems to be a recipe for not acting, but then I might not quite be Zen enough to comment. I cannot imagine acting without expectation though I recognize that expectations probably encourage most of the cluelessness in the universe. Still, expecting seems a perfectly human feature that leads us all into considerable trouble. I doubt that just omitting the expecting amounts to anything like sage advice. We are the ones who lead ourselves into the bulk of the temptations we encounter, but I can't quite believe that we're automatically screwed because we continually expect.

Like with cluelessness, the problem might not very fairly represent the problem. How we cope with this feature might hold some clue about what to do short of stifling one of our primary motive forces.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Presuppositions

bmatebwcover
"… they still bite more than they ever bark."

When did you finally stop beating your dog? The best accusations come imbedded with presuppositions, unstated premises, darned near impossible to counter. This dog accusation "presupposes" both that you have a dog and that you sometime in the past started beating it, for how could you possibly stop beating your dog if you'd never started beating it in the first place? But wait! You say you do not now nor have you ever owned a dog? So much the better for the accuser, who can play The Denial Card. I mean, if you won't even admit to having a dog, how much further from repentance could you possibly be?

I frequently see this dance initiated as a means for tangling rather than resolving differences. Notice how the accuser avoided making any actual accusation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmartVSDumb

dumb-vs.-smart
"Like Mad Magazine, but, you know, real."

I've learned more in my life so far from Alfred E. Neuman than I have from Albert Einstein, and Neuman is a fictional character. I sometimes fancy myself a smart person. Just how dumb is that? I might conclude my summertime inquiry into cluelessness right here. Einstein, as insightful as he doubtless was, couldn't hold a half-melted birthday candle to Neuman, entertainment-wise. Can you imagine Spy vs. Spy in the hands of the celebrated physicist? People seem to require some absolute stupidity to attract their attention. A graphic novel about the history of 20th century physics was stickier than everything else I'd ever read on the subject. Eggheads love to read comix. What do stupid people read? Oh, the really stupid ones don't read, or … can't … read, which renders them social pariahs to all those to can and do read.

Some of the stupidest people I've met in this life held advanced degrees from prominent universities. Some of the smartest, failed to graduate high school.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EditingAuthenticity

genomeediting-pencil-01
"I wonder some days when human existence will be edited out as altogether too messy."

I recently read about some study suggesting that gene editing doesn't work quite the way I'd thought it does. It's not a simple matter of snipping and pasting. Genes resonate changes more deeply than a simple delete or paste metaphor might suggest. Unanticipated mutations sometimes result. The connections appear to be much more complicated than our present understanding leads us to believe. Our modern day gene splicers might in the future seem no more skilled or insightful than a medieval medicine man does to us today, all leaches and humors and stuff.

We live in The Age of Editing. Forget about original content, repurposed content reigns now.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Song-righting

song-righting
"They only ever seem right after seeming just wrong for the longest time."

I wrote my first song when I was in the 4th grade. It was stupid and derivative and absurdly simple, but I'd just taken up playing a guitar and like everyone else in my generation who came into close contact with a guitar, I found that it magically turned me into an accomplished poet and brilliant social commentator, at least in my own mind. The trance quickly became self-reinforcing. The more songs I wrote, the more I wanted to write, with no saturation point visible or audible from within the spell. I thought myself doing very well. I grew up to "be" a musician or, more accurately, I grew up to be a song-righter. I was never that accomplished at playing the guitar, avoided covering others' tunes, and stayed close to my own songbook. I never was anything like a human jukebox but I always wrote songs.

My earliest songs seemed indescribably precious to me then. I've forgotten most of 'em. A few through the years, though, seemed to stick and became an alternate identity for me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Conditions

conditions
"What in the heck am I supposed to do here?"

I swear that there's nothing I can't do if the conditions are right. When the conditions are wrong, though, it seems that there's hardly anything that I can do, or at least that I can do right. Now, if my nose were more sensitive to sniffing out right conditions, I'd belly flop much less. I belly flop plenty. I'll own this little inability, though I might claim that my training's been complicit in complicating my life. I've been more trained in how to do things than I was ever oriented in how to sniff out conditions, even necessary pre-conditions. Conditions seem to take up their position out on the far perimeter of my activities. I often forget to check for their presence before I begin and even when I remember to check, they're likely to slip past me.

Gregory Bateson spoke eloquently about context, the great unseen influence. He claimed that one could arrange a space such that the arrangement itself subliminally informed those who entered it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SubjectivelyClueless

subjective
" …reviews prove unreliably subjective …"

The eyeglass fitter at my optometrist recounted how she's worn these contact lenses designed to reshape her eyes while she slept. They worked, eventually reshaping her eyes to 20/30 acuity, which objectively rates as even better than the normal 20/20. Having had glasses since she was a little girl, the fresh correction left her feeling disoriented. She could not imagine how she could drive a car with vision like that. Her eyes finally corrected themselves to something more like 20/20 and she could see just fine again. Her story highlights the difference between the objective and the subjective worlds we simultaneously inhabit. The quants calculate best while the rest of us rely upon fuzzy felt-senses, which might well uniquely interpret for each observer. Perspective matters to us who live in the subjective world. We're extremely context-sensitive in ways the quants could never calculate.

The Style section provides lists enumerating various bests: best movie, best bagel, best baseball player. Your preferences might well vary unless you've figured out how to subjugate your tastes in preference to the popular ones, a slick trick, indeed, and one the media seems determined to help each of us master.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

A Mentor Passing

jerry_weinberg
"He didn't need to say anything else."

I suppose that Estranged stands as a valid phase of every mentoring relationship, for these sorts of associations were never chartered to become eternally continuous. They serve as leg-ups, nudges to help someone over some hump and somehow putrefy if overly prolonged. I think that both parties understand from the inception that the terms of engagement won't allow for real friendship to emerge, though the exchanges always seem warm enough.

My relationship with Jerry Weinberg, who passed yesterday, lasted about fifteen years, which is long by any mentoring standard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Truth-ish

TheWholeTruth
" Truth was never as popular in junior high as most every lie, and so grew up rather shy about its native social acceptance."

Would you prefer that I lie and promise to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when the whole truth usually has a few elements besides the truth imbedded within it? The truth of the matter might be (must be?) that it's never wholly whole, but only because it can't be. It can't be because us humans tend to be unreliable recording instruments. We seem prone to seeing what we anticipate rather than what's actually there. We remember what doesn't shut us down rather than what we experienced. We are subjective beings, never objective observers, and so prove unreliable conveyors of any absolute, truth being prominent among them.

Yet we still, sometimes smugly, believe ourselves capable of discriminating between a truth and a bold-faced lie, and we are not always incorrect in our assessments.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Electronics

bm-01-9780080519944
" In trust we trust. Amen."

Our new car, The Schooner, has very few moving parts. I expect in a few years to be able to buy a car with absolutely no moving parts. Once, cars were mostly moving mechanical parts. No longer! Now they're smart, or at least much smarter. Many of the formerly laboring mechanical parts have up-sold themselves into management positions thanks to the marvels of electronics. Our new car is a thinking car. It anticipates for us so we don't have to. It's not rocket-scientist brilliant or anything. It just maintains vigilance where ours might wane. It helps keep us safer and just that little bit saner, too. It almost seems benevolent, a friend.

A friend until something goes wrong

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Books

Books_0
"I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else."

I read a lot of books, well over a hundred a year, maybe twice that. I rarely remember anything I read, not in any detail, but then I try to avoid the types of books requiring me to remember much. I almost exclusively read fiction because it seems much more real, although there's not really any genre BUT fiction since even so-called non-fiction gets filtered through authors who perhaps unavoidably fictionalize whatever they put down, wrapping their stories in the trappings considered appropriate to "real" storytelling: hero, journey, challenges, and triumphant return. I consider myself an exacting reader in that I only rarely finish a book unless its prose pleases me, either in construction or concept. I consider myself to be a prose chameleon, my own writing quietly influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time, so I'm careful to quickly discard trash. I read all the time.

I'm in and out of the library several times each week, often daily. I scrupulously return any book I've finished the same day I finish it or the very next day at the latest. I always figure someone might be waiting for me to put it back into circulation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Whom

belltolls
"Never give them a passing thought," …

This week, a Facebook friend (a designation with which I intend no derision) asked me who I wrote for, by which I interpreted him to mean, who do I imagine reading my stuff. His question sparked quite a bit of old tinder because I never could find an answer to that seemingly perfectly uncontroversial question. I once again encountered what I consider for me to be a fundamentally unanswerable question, though it gets down on one knee and seemingly begs for a response, and a straightforward one at that. Certainly, if I write, an object of my efforts must be present, if only in my mind. There isn't and I don't.

I realize that by admitting this omission, I might be violating a first principle of marketing: Thou Shalt Have A Target Market, except I'm not marketing, but writing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NothingMuch

zeroinfinity
"We're here in the middle, comforted by the edges we imagine constraining us."

I understand nothing about as well as I understand infinity, by which I mean, hardly at all. Like infinity, nothing can appear in a surprising variety of quantities. I can experience Plenty of Nothing as well as NothingMuch. Likewise, infinity can come in any of, dare I suggest, an infinite number of discrete forms. Even Forever After might hold a shorter shelf life than Ever And Ever, for instance. The concept that neither nothing nor everything comes in specific single-serving packets should set me back on my heels. It might be that this explosion of variety never comes into play until one thinks they're experiencing nothing or everything. Then, a multiverse appears.

Some mornings, I rise convinced that I have nothing to say.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TwistedMetaphors

Metaphor1
" … seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones."

The VP of HR called me into his office to discuss a troubling complaint he'd received following my last workshop. Two participants had taken umbrage at a metaphor I'd employed, insisting that it clearly demonstrated that I was racist. Pretty certain that I could not possibly be fairly characterized as racist and curious about where this conversation might go, I showed up, though I arrived wary. I'd gotten tangled up around misunderstood metaphors before and felt fairly certain that I understood where this conversation would go, for there's no counter-argument to anyone's firm conviction. There's also no way to fix this sort of past. I sat quietly as the VP failed to explain my error to me. I hardly mounted any defense. I knew before I showed up that I would not be asked back to deliver another workshop.

I permanently deleted that metaphor from my patter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeesBall

baseball2
"We love who we love."

If you want to experience the human condition, watch sports. It hardly matters which one. Baseball works best for me because I naively presume to understand the game, but soccer or football or golf will suffice. Each relies upon the fan believing that they know something about the game, though the numbers strongly suggest that they could not possibly know very much. The baseball fan up in the cheap seats wearing the porkpie hat and holding a kraut-smothered dog in one hand and a frosty Iron City in the other, could hardly be expected to grasp the statistical swirl they witness. They, like me, focus upon probably irrelevant elements, fully expecting that they can predict what might happen next. That home run hitter, coming up to the plate, brings with him the strong statistical probability that he will return to the dugout deeply disappointed, but the fan sees the opportunity to pull ahead in a lurch.

I guess it does't matter how many times the fan's expectations end up being disappointed. Enough homers happen to encourage that hope essential to encourage any supporter to hope yet again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MondayMorning

MondayMorning
"I remain an apprentice in this life …"

Somebody wiped the slate clean overnight. Whatever had backed up and accumulated over the last week simply disappeared. By the end of this week, another clog will have appeared, detritus remaining from the fresh aspirations coloring this sunrise and the few to follow. For one moment, I feel as though I've caught up. I leave The Villa refreshed. On the drive down to the lab, The Muse muses over the clog before her. Everything coming due at exactly the same time. No time in reserve for her upcoming week. It's spent before it's lent.

I've got my circuit. Gas up the car. Stop at the hardware store for parts to fix The Muse's leaky toilet. Pick up that special roast the coffee shop agreed to make up for me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MidLife

MidLife
"A degree of difference, persisted over time and distance, results in a lot of difference …"

By the middle of summer I start to catch on that this season ain't gonna quite turn out the way I'd envisioned it. This recognition should come as no real surprise because 'not turning out as expected' might simply be the nature of things as they've always been and therefore most probably always will be. I still plan ahead, anticipating some facility never before in evidence. I stop near the middle, taking stock of my progress to always find it wanting in some material way. I have even shown myself capable of chewing on myself for failing to achieve whatever it was I'd earlier convinced myself that I would have achieved by now. It all seems such a ridiculous swirl.

I'm not very goal-oriented. I do not now nor have I ever maintained a bucket list. I hold my aspirations rather loosely.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

KnowingBetter

knowingbetter
"Acceptance speaks loudest of all."

What better demonstrates cluelessness than KnowingBetter? I suspect that it's not the knowing that contributes to the sense of cluelessness but the bettering. KnowingBetter seems to set up a sort of competition, a one-up, which easily sours any encounter. The intended betterment encourages a kind of resentment from the one being bettered at, or from the one being battered by the attempted betterment, for no one actually achieves the objective of demonstrating that they KnowBetter. They achieve at best a tentative nomination for inclusion in the Asshole Hall Of Infamy instead, for turning what might have been a collegial sharing of knowledge into a pissing contest.

I've noticed that I feel smarter when in the presence of a genuinely smart person.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lieberry

lieberry1
"It's become the Go space on the seemingly otherwise completely built out Monopoly® board …"

When Ben Franklin first proposed the creation of the US Postal Service, the now-humbled post office, he envisioned a strategy for instilling the presence of the federal government in every town and hamlet in what until then had been a divided collection of colonies. The postmaster would be the duly selected representative of that far distant machine which remained otherwise invisible to the average citizen. Over the past thirty years, successive attempts to manage our postal service as though it was the business its founders never intended have left it no better off than any under-inventoried K-mart awaiting closure. What once carried a grave sense of place and authority now holds all the ambience of an ill-maintained men's room. It's still a go-to starting place to receive a raft of government services, but one feels as though you really need to squint hard and use both hands pulling those services to the surface.

As one after another government service has been slight-sized, many needs now go begging.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pre-living

Preliving
"The Plan Says rarely qualifies as a good excuse."

I've spent most of my working life so far anticipating futures. I advanced in my career to the point where I was sought after as a teacher of the dark art of projecting useful shadows on far walls. I eventually realized that I paid for every moment I spent planning for any future by forfeiting my present; my presence. I became an acknowledged expert at pre-living life, but remained a rather rank amateur at actually living it.

I believe that I understand that no existence could hope to be complete without balancing some mix of presence and absence, whether that absence be spent in review or anticipation. Obsessing over the past seems somehow equivalent to obsessing about any future,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CluelessLove

LoveClueless
"I only know it when I feel it."

Many seem to conflate love and like. I'd love to tell you why, but I don't know why. I think, perhaps, I'd really rather like to tell you, but the common idiom insists that I oversell my motivation by insisting that I'd love to tell you. I would if I could but I can't. Perhaps such conflations originate in our inability to properly define the term love. Love fails the noun test—it's clearly neither person, place, nor thing—though everyone uses it as a noun. It seems to be a terribly personal emotion without a specific universal referent. Ask what it's like and you'll receive a flood of profound banality in return. Some say that God is love, which, by The Commutative Law Of Is, means that love is also God. Go figure.

Fall in love and lose your mind, though losing your mind has never been shown to be a clear path to God.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Democracy

Democracy
"It's messy here, but human."

Democracy seems as if it might be a terrific way to govern the clueless. After centuries of spotty results presuming divine rights and absolute authorities of kings, popes, and potentates, The Founders chiseled out a radical alternative: Hows about we ask The People what they want and focus the government on achieving that? Version 1.0 seems rather crude to our eyes, a couple of centuries and change after the founding of this republic. Version 2.0 seemed better, at least more promising, though some of the new promises faced steep opposition by foot-and knuckle-draggers who struggled with the realities of equal justice for all. They'd apparently become accustomed to unequal justice, where their thumbs weighed more on those revered blind scales of justice.

We're eyes wide open now, I think, ever more closely scrutinizing our intentions against our delivery. We inevitably fall short, though finding that we're still falling short seems a perfectly normal and expected outcome for the avowedly clueless.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheFonderHeart

absence3
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

I think of myself as a great proponent of folk wisdoms. They tend to be tricky, though, with unexpected nuance lurking behind what everyone automatically takes for granted by the five thousandth time they've heard it. Absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? But this chestnut applies to more than separated lovers. I've noticed that the very best moment in the life cycle of any project tends to happen around the very start of the effort, when the outcome still seems glowy and perfect, before the accumulated disappointments and compromises have had their way with the originating big, bright idea. Before emerging knowledge had grounded the balloon. Nearer the end, familiarity tends to have bred considerable contempt, and by then even the early champions would drive a stake through the effort's heart, given half a chance.

TheFonderHeart might prove to be a tell, an indicator of considerable cluelessness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AbsentEye

Eyeballs
" …the long-banished philosopher, our long-lost best friend."

About a decade ago, while browsing in The Library of Congress, I happened upon a field of study I'd not previously encountered, The Philosophy of Science. I ordered up a pile of books on the subject to my study desk and over the following weeks, read through several of them. Since Descartes, the philosopher, once one of the principals of scientific enquiry, had been more or less banished from the laboratory in favor of more physically-oriented observers. The practice of I Think, Therefore I Am might be better characterized by the phrase I See, Therefore I Am. The philosopher might bring unseeable into the conversation, muddying otherwise clear inquiry. Heck, the philosopher might rail on about the nature of 'is-ness' itself, seemingly endlessly questioning the very base of observation as the principle tool of enquiry. Objective assessment nudged out the subjective.

I over-simplify, for living, breathing, thinking, actively observing people populated the ranks of science, and so the philosophical never fell too far beneath the surface, like one of those public secrets needing no confirmation or commentary.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TooMuch

TMInformation
" … either overwhelmed by Too Much Information or underwhelmed by far too little."

Cluelessness carries a paradox. Too little information cannot always be resolved by simply providing more, like water resolves thirst or food, hunger. Too Much Information can induce cluelessness every bit as vacuous as too little. The detailed specification might leave the fabricator overwhelmed. On the other hand, mere rumor probably won't suffice as meaningful instruction, either. The more anal systems analyst might insist upon producing essentially executable pseudo-code while the more cavalier coder prefers to iteratively refactor, no sweet spot seems to exist in the middle of this eternal muddle.

The Bible opts for analogy and metaphor, seeking to induce rather than instruct, but then many insist upon interpreting as if they were not interpreting at all, sticking to the literal meanings as if those weren't interpretations, then blaming the resulting tangles on heresy and worse.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGreatMystery

TheGreatMystery
"Some desires seem best served by being denied their denouement."

Pagans, philosophers, scientists, and poets have been diligently considering TheGreatMystery at least since the beginning of recorded history, and probably much longer. While great progress seems to have been made, our inability to report that we're even close to solving TheGreatMystery might say most about the nature of that mystery. TheGreatMystery persists, perhaps more amused by our machinations than informed by them. Competing theories seem to simply thicken the plot.

I greatly admire the Jewish Talmudic tradition, where sacred texts are endlessly studied and discussed with the intention of gaining greater insight but without the expectation that TheGreatMystery encoded there might ever be resolved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Deception

sleepingdogs
"If I deceive myself, and I do, how inhuman would it be to exclude you from my grand Deception?"

I consider myself a fundamentally honest person, perhaps because my many false pretenses have migrated into spaces I rarely ever think about anymore. I doubt that even I know the truth about myself now, if I ever did. I question what utility complete authenticity might buy me. I am not quite what I appear to be. Confessing just how deceptive my appearances might be seems to offer little utility for anyone. I'm not sitting on a murder most foul, committed in passionate insanity, but where should I draw the line? As a somewhat public persona, I studied the arts of clever projection. I understand that appearances matter and that people tend to judge harshly when their unconscious expectations get disappointed. For appearances' sake, I deceive, and quite deliberately.

Some forms of cluelessness seem absolutely benign, unlikely to wound anyone involved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Telling

telling
"My elementary school teachers unwittingly taught me that Nobody Can Tell Nobody Nuthin' …"

I hold the firm conviction that nobody can tell nobody nuthin'. In this case, the double negative works both ways, and I fully intend it to carry the apparently contradictory message. Part of the phrase insists that nobody can tell anyone else anything. The other, that one cannot ever fail to communicate something when trying to tell another something. Pundits persist, though, trying to convince the dedicatedly disbelieving. I believe that they fall into a shallow cognitive trap when thinking that they might hold the power to clue in others. Though their words are unlikely to be interpreted in any way they anticipate, so thick the membrane protecting people from unexpected information, they (we!) persist.

Our elementary school teachers might have taught us something, demonstrating a curious superpower whenever they'd call on us to respond to their trick question with a simple response while the whole danged class watched.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EmotionalIntelligence

emotionalintelligence
"Our spontaneity IS our superpower."

I decided to write about Cluelessness because I'm not that bright, myself. I often feel stumped enough to conclude that I might justifiably claim that I'm not quite bright enough to qualify as not that bright. The Muse insists that I complicate my life by over-thinking it. I can appear aloof and dismissive even when I try to appear engaged and inclusive. I read others poorly, which means, in my experience, I read others about as well as they read me. Being a cypher to myself, being misread by someone else fails to very deeply disturb me. I figure that some things aren't really meant to be read.

I've delved into several self-assessment instruments, managing to keep a straight face through most of my delving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Unlearning

unlearn
"Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions."

Given the difficulties learning brings, I do not wonder why I seem to hold tenaciously to whatever I've managed to absorb. Letting go and letting something new come in feels like an exercise in unflushing a troublesome toilet. Once that shit's sorted and gone, I won't ever want to reexamine it. My attitude stems not from sloth but prudence. If learning's risky, unlearning might well raise merely risky to some obscene exponent of itself. I've seen what I've seen and cannot blithely ever unsee it. My initial impression, which sunk deeply into bedrock, does not seem to simply wash away with a light bleach solution. I've got what I've got.

Advertisers rely upon this understandable reticence to engage in unlearning. They project memorable impressions which they know you won't be able to easily, if ever, shake.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AffordingToKnow

t_logo_291_black
" … I work diligently to stay within budget …"

I warily read my Times each morning, choosing what to expose myself to, and, perhaps more importantly, carefully, mindfully, avoiding what I do not feel I can "Afford To Know", to use my friend David Thompson's descriptive term. I suspect that we're each selective when subjecting ourselves to potentially disruptive information, the news that might well be "fit to print," as The Times touts, but somehow nonetheless, too personally costly to actually read. Go ahead and accuse me of overly-carefully tending to my cocoon. Dirty Harry insisted that a man has to know his limits, and while I can't exactly describe where my limits lie, I carry deep notions about what sort of company they keep.

Whole areas of subject matter, in this way, fall outside my range of interest.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheHunt

TheHunt
"… leaving the possibility for great delight to emerge
from an otherwise completely pedestrian activity."

Every Saturday morning, The Muse and I go on TheHunt. We explain that we head out to restock the larder, but we're actually on The Hunt. Nobody could reasonably label this activity shopping because, while we maintain an indistinct list of aspired-tos, we have little idea if we might find those or where we might find them. We do have a route, an old and largely reliable route, culminating at a supermarket, which serves as the source of last appeal, where what we were not fortunate enough to find might be approximated. TheHunt exists because we don't actually know or, perhaps more accurately, we refuse to accept good enough as good enough.

We know some who religiously head for Costco because they can reliably acquire their heart's desire.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StudiedCluelessness

positivefeedback
" … defensiveness, too, eventually becomes an exclusively positive feedback loop,
an a priori universal, StudiedCluelessness."

Maintaining some cluelessnesses requires focused study. Given the proliferation of contradictory information floating around, defending any perspective against discouraging intrusions seems an inevitably hopeless undertaking. We live and we learn. Learning unavoidably entails reconfiguring earlier convictions to construct ever fresher understandings, some of which might well later prove misguided. We live and learn just how full of shit we used to be. Some, though, seem relatively invulnerable to the vagaries of the learning cycle, sticking by earlier guns as if they represented inviolable truth in spite of the presence of heavy conflicting evidence.

If your livelihood depends upon swallowing bullshit, you'll likely swallow bullshit. You might not appreciate the mouthfeel, but you will be forgiven for at least pretending that you savor it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HighSummer

HighSummer
"Gilded clouds greet each sunrise and surrender every evening."

Lupin blossoms creep up the small hill out back, starting at the bottom in late June. By mid-July, they've moved into the backyard. Yarrow stretches out of the garden bed. The damned deer have been gnawing off the rhubarb leaves again. Conifers finished their pollen throwing to settle into being background again. Rabbits wander freely. A gang of turkey vultures wheels overhead searching for untimely death. Grasses recently greening from the ground up have set this year's seed and begun their browning from the top down. I set my sprinklers in pre-dawn darkness before the breeze kicks in.

Windows stay wide open day and night. We chase the few flies that enter through the screen door we cannot seem to remember to close behind us.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Jam

Choke-Point
"I might settle into this fresh reality, but probably not."

The Muse and I call a narrow convergence home. Several busy roads merge into a single six-lane vulnerable to all the usual vagaries. I often choose to take one of the two most prominent two-lane alternatives rather than try to drive my camel through that needle's eye, though sometimes, even the back routes close down. A surprise Spring snowstorm can shut down the whole shebang, leaving us stranded along the way. Clogs are common, flow disruptions expected, except when they aren't. It seems to be the nature of traffic jams that they only occur when least expected and therefore least prepared for. We can't live in a constant state of readiness, and the demon traffic gods understand this, waiting for peak inattention to strike.

A seemingly small slowdown.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StewPidity

stupid1
"What if authenticity was the coin of this realm …?"

I hold beliefs that make no logical sense. I have no clear sense of what constitutes logical sense. I am easily confused. I can't tell you how anything works. I'm often surprised. I make mistakes multiple times each day. I cannot seem to write legibly. I cannot sort laundry in a way that satisfies The Muse, who holds a laundry sorting algorithm which she cannot coherently explain. I have relatives who believe that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old. I do not 'know' how to write, type, or read, though I write, type, and read every day. I once scored well on an IQ test without knowing for sure what most of the correct answers were. I can only barely pass a driver's license test, but I fancy myself to be a good driver.

I'm always with stupid. I am an extremely mobile universal stupidity machine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Salvation

save
"I'm more of a browser, myself."

At thirteen, I agreed to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had no idea at the time what that agreement entailed or, indeed, what it might mean. Even today, a lifetime later, I still can't grok what it means. I had not been a hellion in my youth and carried no deep regrets or vile misdemeanors into my teen-aged years. Indeed, I've rather naturally not strayed too awfully far into the venial as an adult, never really attracted to the low life. I don't have to try too terribly hard to behave decently. Not that I'd ever consider holding myself up as any sort of exemplar, but I'm an indifferent sinner if, indeed, I really qualify as a sinner at all. Not that I'm a saint, either. I can carry murder in my heart for careless drivers, heartless landlords, and the more studiedly clueless, though I can't really see myself carrying out the crime.

I imagine Personal Lord and Savior to be a kind of superhuman personal shopper sort of role.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wind

wind
"Curtains turn frantic whenever someone slides open the door again."

The wind in "Sou' Dakoda" is nobody's friend and everyone's near constant companion. The Muse insists that it doesn't so much blow as suck, nothing standing in its way from Northern Saskatchewan, Western Wyoming, or the Gulf of Freaking Mexico. It rarely sucks west. A still day hardly ever visits and never comes anywhere near to wearing out its welcome when it does, leaving with the familiar groaning weather vane in the night. The ground's usually firmly enough tacked down to prevent blinding dust, but a fine gritty film seeps in around every window's trim. The porch feels like sandpaper underfoot. Wind turbines spin effortlessly, endlessly.

The Schooner nudges along, goosed or rudely shoved aside. Verges ripple like shimmering grease as the sidewind screams through the grasses there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Howdish

howdish
" …a simple flexing finger might welcome even a stranger home."

Section roads checkerboard the state of "Sou' Dakoda." East River—that is, east of the Missouri—where the land lies essentially flat, section roads seem to run in an expansive one mile grid; every mile, another section road appears. Most are gravel and provide access to cropland and farmsteads. They're numbered according to their distance from the state's borders. This morning, I'm writing near the intersection of 139th Street and 412th Avenue. It's not uncommon to find section roads numbered in 1/2 increments. This whole state, however lonely it might seem, has been thoroughly surveyed and settled.

The dust reappeared yesterday.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CellAbrasion

cellabrasion
"Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration."

Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration. Each to their own. Some only find satisfaction with a big brass band; others, a quiet beer. Cheer's in the ear of the one who's cheering, never the one's who's jeering. Your hip-hop sounds like noise to me. So much the worse for me. Holidays bring the need for genuine tolerance. Some just seem to need to celebrate by disrupting their neighbor's tranquility. Accusing someone of making war on Christmas only further fuels the presumed conflict into perhaps a genuine one.

Some say the world will end with a firecracker, others, with an ice chest overfilled with beer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Monumental


monument
" …traces of their passage still remain."

As we neared Watertown, The Muse started musing about her grandmother's heritage. Her mom's mother's birth family had lived in and around Watertown for a few decades around the turn of the last century, and since we were in the area and running early, she proposed that we exit from the eighty mile per hour rat race route and toodle over to see what we could find while she reconstructed some history. That side of her family were what was then derisively referred to as bohunks, Sudaten German Catholics displaced from Germany following religious wars a couple of hundred years before. They'd immigrated in through Baltimore then migrated inland to central Minnesota before settling into what was then Dakota Territory, before statehood. We don't know exactly what these people did for a living, but it's a good bet that they were laborers. Most migrants into this area at the time worked at least part time for the railroads who had recruited laborers by the thousands from their home countries.

The South Dakota countryside on the third of July easily passes for an extended park stretching further than any eye can see.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ChurchLeague

churchleague
" …the sort of ball Jesus would play."

Over root beer floats at the Dairy Queen after the game, I asked why they did this, this being ChurchLeague slow pitch softball. "Why wouldn't you?", was the response. Never having belonged to any church in my entire adult life, the idea had never occurred to me. My team sport of choice has always been solo yard work, being the extreme introvert and homebody that I am. I have trouble meeting up with myself, so the idea that a dozen folks might manage to converge at the same place at the same time throughout an early summer season to play a series of weeknight and weekend games baffles me. In theory, it seems possible, but in practice, impractical, but in this small midwestern city, impracticality seems little encumbrance to actually pulling off such an unlikely anything.

My brother-in-law and I had just watched a double-header, home team losing both games. The play seemed baseball-ish, varying only in degree from the baseball I'm accustomed to. The balls are day glow yellow

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BackHome

stillhere
"It gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts …"

The prairie hasn't read the memo yet. It still thinks it's Spring though Summer's nearly two weeks on. Eight inches of rain in the last week has left the corn tall and deep green with muddy feet. Wildflowers smear expanses of prairie grass coming into full fuzzy head now. The thermostat hasn't found its upper reaches and we run with the sun roof and side windows wide open, more ambient than we had any reason to expect. We both seem born to this place. The Muse because she was born to here, me, I suppose, because some of my forebears homesteaded just south of here. The Muse is headed BackHome.

In our part of this culture we say that we "go BackHome." Most of our generation moved away somewhere. The prior generation was no different.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Denial

denial
"I'll be gone until I'm not gone anymore."

Denial is the first stage of vacation. The few days leading up to departure swell with stiff-arming tactics. The list of preparatory must-dos grows as one thing, then another blunts apparent progress. By the morning before, I face a numbing blank wall of possibilities I feel certain might hang us up for at least a day. By the night before, that list reduced to a final one or two, I resign myself to the high likelihood that we might even leave on time.

I figure the unknown blunts me. It slows me down, disabling whatever others experience as excitement at the prospect.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Up-Out

up&out
"tomorrow will deliver a fresh faced opening in the turmoil"

I have no more than an hour each day I can call my own. Though I might spend most of every day alone, save for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's ever watchful eye, only that brief time really feels as though it completely belongs to me. Just after sunrise, I'm the only one moving. The yappy neighbor dogs still snooze. Even the freeway across the gulch fairly whispers at that hour. The Times hasn't yet arrived. The Muse wraps herself in emphatic covers, sucking every second out of her last hour of sleep. I've been up puttering for over an hour by then and feeling restless.

I step outside to immerse myself in the moist, cool stillness. Even in the middle of a heatwave, that early morning hour caresses. I'm up and just have to get out.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Entrope

entrope
"I could swear that an early summer morning is more eternal and more designed than a statistically accidental convergence …"

Things fall apart. More than ninety percent of stuff purchased today will be discarded as garbage within a month. Everything displayed within the BIG box store has the same destination. Energy, while conserved, is also more or less continuously disbursed into higher forms of entropy: heat, wind, tidal motion, photosynthesis; each further disbursing energy until indistinguishable, unmeasurable. We retain memories of lower forms of entropy and hardly sense the higher forms. What's here today continues its inexorable run, each tree temporarily suspended between seedling and dust. Nothing ever stays the same.

We speak of change as though it were the exception rather than the continuous norm.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheThirdPerson

eyeinthesky
" … you might as just well be mumbling."

Me, myself, and I never considered becoming a trio, for we are one and the same perspective using three different names. I can describe you, from my perspective, and you, me, from yours, each fulfilling the role of second person, like a back-up. Me and my shadow have always been two distinct entities, speaking not as one but as opposites. While me, myself, and I speak from personal experience, like me and you do, explicitly owning the perspective we share, my shadow, whom I refer to as TheThirdPerson, exclusively speaks as though he were not there. Instead of proclaiming that he saw something, he hints that something was seen, leaving nothing more than an innuendo of ownership behind. Product descriptions and scholarly papers read as though nobody wrote them, an anonymous voice mouthing hollowed-out phrases.

Such writing works far more effectively than knock-out pills.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CluelessCookery

questionmarkpan
" … by the last guest's departure, I will have somehow managed to have done it again."

The night before, sleep won't come. My mind had become a nattering checklist ticking off items while I tossed and turned. The Muse had invited twenty or thirty, more or less, over for a supper the following evening and I, as usual, assumed my proper role as cook. The "Pork Shoulder Butt Roast" had been soaking in its sou vide bath for a day and a half, to be finished off over a slow, smoky hickory fire the following day. Two chickens were marinating in lemon/herb d'provence goop. A whole steelhead fillet waited attention in the cold corner of the fridge. Two dozen San Marzano tomatoes and a couple of Vidalia sweets were queued up, destined for salsa. A hearty half dozen different beers hovered in the garage, awaiting ice. I would be prepping all the following day.

I think it axiomatic that all great work emerges from some annoying disadvantage, sleep deprivation most common and cluelessness not unknown. No well-rested adventurer ever achieved anything, only the stupidly yawning, painfully limping, and disturbingly impaired even need apply.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Besting

blessed1
"I could have had plenty good enough, but dug in my danged heels insisting upon The Best instead."

Nothing better encourages the human comedy than the concept of best. Whenever it enters a conversation, meaning flees to be replaced by abstraction. Ask someone to recommend The Best place for dinner and they might provide an opinion. Take that advice and you'll learn to question their perspective in the future. Many companies self-proclaim themselves to be The Best. Some rating agency, that is, a company in the business of absolutely discerning The Best, will publish their annual top ten best places to work list. If you'd ever worked inside any of those places, you'd deeply question the findings. Our search for best might be inbred, instinctive, but innate capacity does little to inoculate against the resulting obvious cluelessness.

Best exists as a comparator, not an absolute designation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rumors

saltspiral
"Maybe I could blame the sugar high."

Before any truth becomes substantiated, it seems to exist in tentative suspension, a rumor-like state awaiting validation. Most of us don't hardly wait. Screw the grain of salt, we're wide open and suggestible. We believe what attracts our ear and reject what repels it. The freshest news seems to ache for echoing. By the time it's become fully validated, it's already anchoring the fifteenth page of the Times. The cover screams for attention. We rarely see the back pages where the details emerge.

It seems that those most up on the breaking news exude a particularly clever kind of cluelessness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecurelyClueless

securityline
"I live close to home …"

I cope with living in the Greater Denver/Front Range region by mentally cordoning off parts of it. Early on, as we explored the area, I silently swore to myself that I would thereafter make it my business to ensure that I would never return to this or that neighborhood or town. I could not have explained exactly why some places failed to pass muster, and I'm uncertain if I even now could explain my exclusion process, but I've come to realize that I'd roughly marked off what I would think of as "my" territory. I would never have to learn about or overly concern myself with any of the area outside of my selected territory, for I would maintain it as more than simply unfamiliar, but unknowable. I would remain clueless about them.

Most of the Denver Metro area now lies within my temporal no-man's land.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TooClued

rtoo-many-clues_shop_preview
"I generally find that I can well afford to continue with my cluelessness …"

I sometimes use the term Clueless to mean the opposite of its denotive meaning. I can certainly seem clueless because of an obvious lack of clues, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by a rather un-obvious abundance of them, especially subtle ones. In retrospect, by gazing into my rearview mirror (the one where things sure do appear to be a whole lot closer than they are), I finally register what seems like should have been obvious before, when I wandered as if clueless when merely unable to see forest for the proliferation of trees. I believe that clueless only rarely means an absolute absence of clues, but rather a curious inability to winnow them down into any immediately useful form. I focus upon foreground when the real story's unfolding in background or I'm simply not paying close enough attention, or even too close of attention.

When I observe another wallowing in obvious cluelessness, I often wonder how it could be that they cannot see all the feedback trying to inform them. The inability seems willful.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfDeception

Fields
"I've been deceiving myself through the worst of it
just hoping to make the best of this someday …"

I will excuse you if you mistakenly conclude that I know what I'm doing here. I have been what I consider fairly diligent in my pursuit of the various masteries of life, but I know without even delving very deeply down that I've yet to realize my aspirations. Decades ago, I quite deliberately chose to just get on with my life rather than wait around for any mastery to appear. I was aching to get moving and not so much impatient, for I'd idled a considerable time, but disgusted with inaction. This decision brought with it the apparent necessity of deceiving myself, for my sense of being an imposter could otherwise overwhelm me. I proceeded as if I were capable when I knew with certainty that I wasn't, not yet.

I still don't know how else one might pursue mastery without beginning that pursuit long before having achieved what one pursues.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnintendedConsequences

"I firmly believe that there's always a pony in there somewhere,
no matter how much horse shit fills the stall."

Because I inhabit a tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe with only my sense-making apparatus with which to comprehend, I don't always understand what's going on around me. Or maybe I should say that I too often believe that I understand when I could not possibly understand. My dilemma doesn't make me in any way special, for it seems that each of us inhabits the same (or very similar) tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe and we each possess roughly similar sense-making capabilities, so we're all pretty much in the same boat. Sure, we each consider someone a whole lot stupider than us and also a few we consider much smarter, but our senses seem puny when compared with the surrounding universe. Our shared inheritance might be best characterized as Cluelessness. For all we know, all we couldn't possibly know looms far larger around us. Always.

I can't quite bring myself to characterize our native Cluelessness as in any way a problem. It's just the way it is, and it brings with it certain advantages as well as disadvantages.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Destructions

structions
"So it goes."

My friend Wayner calls them "destructions." Those step-by-step illustrations printed on the back of the box, that box you inadvertently pulverized when opening, before you realized there were destructions printed on the back. He calls them "destructions" because he insists that even if you hadn't pulverized the box when opening it, the illustration on the back probably wouldn't have helped you assemble the fine product within. The destructions almost always appear to have been produced by someone for whom your native language isn't native. Also by someone other than anyone who might have actually assembled the fine product inside. They hire copywriters, out-sourcing this sort of work. It's cheaper that way.

I almost always end up assembling the fine product exactly one more time than I disassemble it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trolls

tomten
"Those who seem to have no interest in hearing generously, probably forfeit their right to speak."

The Muse can tell you that I rarely read the reactions to my postings on our neighborhood listserv. Something about the context seems to encourage people to drop their pants and lead with their least attractive profile when responding. Many tend toward a scolding stance. Some delve into the demeaning. Of course I feel goaded and sorely tempted to respond, if only to set the record straight. I'm learning that it's probably not my responsibility to set straight any record deliberately twisted through less than generous interpretation. Sure it feels as though I've just been ripped a new one and of course I really want to defend my integrity, but jumping into the pig wallow, even if explicitly invited, won't improve any argument, though the pigs seem certain to enjoy the spectacle of any high-minded anyone self-debasing themselves into to the troll's native environment. The Muse reads them. I don't usually.

My next door neighbor sent a text message regretting the latest savaging of which I'd been blissfully unaware. I appreciated him with a grateful reply. A few more personal messages arrived, each appreciative and generous.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PeakingParanoia

peekingparanoia
"I'm wary, on the look-out, peeking over one shoulder every step of every way."

I have heard about an alien concept I'll call ConfidentStrides. This term describes a totally mythical state where a person moves forward without hesitation, said to accompany personal conviction. The literature speaks of revelatory insights inducing such a sense of certainty that ConfidentStrides result. The hero or heroine marches into their future, utterly transformed, unstoppable. I refer to this state as alien and mythical because, while I've heard that such a state exists, I've never personally experienced it. Further, recognizing that I have not yet experienced it has sometimes encouraged me not to act, to sit tacitly by rather than to move forward and engage. I've yet to achieve anything by means of ConfidentStrides, which is not to say that I've never accomplished anything. I'm apparently more of a PeakingParanoia sort of person, I guess.

When challenged to do some right thing, I notice my paranoia peaking. I would, in that moment, much prefer to take a break, take a nap, perhaps cower beneath my bed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Distressed

upside-down-flag2
"We cannot possess what we cannot share."

I humbly post this brief explanation. You might have noticed that I've hung an American flag upside down from my deck. No, I didn't accidentally string it backwards. This was a willing, willful act, one intended to express the extreme distress my house, my home, and my country currently experience. When I read in the paper that border agents play a cruel bait and switch with the children of those seeking asylum in my country by explaining that they're just taking the child for a bath, only later taunting the helpless parent by saying that they might never see their child again. This report distresses me.

Illegally crossing the border for the purposes of seeking asylum never was a felony. It would until recently garner an infraction about as damning as a speeding ticket, a misdemeanor easily dispatched with a couple of hundred dollars, a few days in jail, and/or a ride back from whence you came.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DiningDown

Mead-St-Station-1000x500
" …home food seems better suited to our temperaments."

The place looked okay when I spotted it from across the street. Early Friday evening, seventy eight sweet degrees, and The Muse and I are out to do something with the tail end of our week. She suggested Highlands, a neighborhood of over-priced crumbling shotgun houses with a definite yuppie vibe: dog spas, yoga studios, cafes with sidewalk seating. I agreed. We found a place to park just a block down from the main commercial strip and strolled up to see what had changed since last time. We'd both sworn to not choose that pseudo Italian place we'd visited a few times, each dinner intended to convince us not to come back. Denver doesn't seem like much of a restaurant town, so choices limit our choices.

Not that we know the place. We're true exurbans now. We complain about the lack of urban services in our exurban neighborhood, but we seem as lost as if we were from rural Kansas whenever we near the South Platte, the seasonal stream separating Downtown (both upper and lower, LoDo) from its residential counterweight to the West.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lottery

lottery2
"We're lucky and cursed not by the lottery gods, but by ourselves."

I don't play the state lottery, mostly because I don't know how to play it. When I stop into our local inconvenience store, I usually find somebody buying a ticket, often several. I don't know what they do with them or how winners get selected. I do know that the odds of winning seem infinitesimal, and that I'm too embarrassed to ask how one 'plays' the game. I figure that if I was meant to know how to do that, I would have already learned how. I figure that I automatically win another sort of lottery by not knowing how to play the lottery, my lottery prevents me from ever losing a dime playing that other lottery. My ignorance serves as an insurance policy against the almost certain prospect of losing whatever I spend playing that other lottery.

I suppose that I play in many different lotteries. So far, I'm winning the health lottery, though I expect to eventually lose it. That's the thing about lotteries, play one long enough and you're guaranteed to lose.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Relevance

relevance
"I gain fresh appreciation that anything perceived to be beyond this moment
might be aching after irrelevance."

Aging might be a process by which we learn how to cope with encroaching irrelevance. What I twenty years ago thought might liberate some oppressed class, helped only a few find their innate freedom, and even then, I quake at the thought of ascribing anything I did to their discoveries. I at most served as a medium for any message I believed I carried, my audacity perhaps communicating most clearly whatever I was trying to say. I would stand up and speak. I often felt eloquent then, sometimes insightful. Those insights seem irrelevant now. Civilization seems to progress by going backwards to relearn what prior scholars and philosophers firmly believed they'd cleanly resolved. Fresh generations enter skeptical of their elders, and honor most of them by assuming they were at least misguided, but probably wrong.

Yet we, as a society, persist in sharing our insights, of audaciously standing up even when we should know that we'll later be found misguided, rightly or wrongly, it will not matter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TMI

flickr-amattox_mattox-neurons-20141223
"Maybe one or two of those delights might stick to you in turn."

Writers feed the monster, though we are no less susceptible to it than the least of our readers. Though not all readers consider themselves to be writers, all writers are also readers, taking in many multiples of what they ever produce. Any writer's output seems paltry when compared with the fire hose volume continually spewed in their direction. No self-respecting writer could ever let all that goody gush by without trying to take a few swallows. For a writer, the antidote for Too Much Information seems to be creating Even More Information, but, you know, a somewhat better class of it.

We serve foie gras by the spare ounce because a ton of it too closely resembles what the sous chef calls it: goose shit. Served sparingly, it's transcendently wonderful stuff. In excess, it turns to crap.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SwingArm

swingarm
"I washed my hands with Lava® soap after I finished the job, just like a real handyman would."

My readers know me to be nobody's handyman. Sure, I sometimes dress the part, hoping that my threadbare work clothes might somehow set a context within which I might manage to select the proper screwdriver for once, but handiwork requires some content behind the context. I'm learning, but I seem to have started way behind on the grand learning curve of handyman life, so I doubt that I'll ever catch up. My workbench tends toward cluttered. The sloping garage floor leaves me struggling to prevent my handyman chair from rolling down and into my work table. I seem to be at least one tool short of completing any project, almost invariably finishing by ineptly applying some lame hack. Usually.

The Muse's swing-arm floor lamp went bzzzzzt a few weeks ago. I'm no electrician, but even I could tell that the light bulb socket looked kind of fried. I wasn't that surprised.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dirt

dirt
"Dirt lies in that thin layer between bedrock and sky where, on my knees, all things seem possible."

I figure anything really worth doing deserves my attentive procrastination. I'd dedicated nearly two full weeks to circling this effort, maybe closing in on starting, maybe deferring imagined agony. I kneel before the space as if performing some ritual, and perhaps I am performing a ritual, one I've repeated many times before, each instance different enough to carry great uncertainty. The sod needs removing. I don't know for sure what lies beneath it, though I imagine bedrock. Once I scratch this surface, I've committed myself to follow through whatever I might uncover there.

I fill a five gallon paint bucket with rocks for every yard I cultivate. The dirt itself seems fine, surprisingly so, featuring earthworms and decent soil. I'm surprised, maybe delighted. My muscles remember the routine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CleanSweep

sweep
"We can breathe again. Not necessarily breathe any more easily, but breathe."

I've never thought of myself as a slob. Few of us believe that we're the mess makers we turn out to be for everyone else. I maintain my tidinesses quite compulsively, if quietly. My "orderly" piles of books ready to my hand. My shoes lined up just so serve me just as I intended. The Muse maintains her order, too, mysterious (to me) central organizing principles and all. Tidy for me might well constitute a mess for anyone else. I stumble over The Muse's carefully placed shoes, too. The tangles between us remain largely inadvertent, preconscious resonance of a sense of order we each absorbed long before we suspected we were absorbing anything.

Cleaning, too, echoes traditions probably predating great grand parents. The Muse's sensitivity to dust and my tenacious inability to see dust might have each originated in some pioneer days survival strategy.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConverSayShuns

cat-and-mouse
"Rose probably knows more about me
than any other living being
and she still consents to sit on my lap
for almost ten minutes at a time …"

I most days spend more time talking to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat than to any other living being, other than myself. Many have written on the so-called art of human-to-human conversation, but I've found little advice on chatting with my most common companions. I've never really subscribed to the notion that one should converse in strategic ways, preparing as if for a debate competition and progressing as if engaged in chess. I'm more of the dialogue sort, engaging more to see what might emerge than to demonstrate how clever or well-prepared I could be. To my mind, no one ever wins a conversation, so I never worry about whether I've succeeded in scoring my points. I believe that real conversation has no point, so I might usefully engage with Rose The Skittish or even with myself without feeling as if I'm necessarily lonely or degrading my sociability by doing so.

"Hey, Weasel Head," I often begin when conversing with Rose, for she seems to undoubtedly embody the moniker. She sort of barks in response.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Noteworthy

Coors2
"Feels like home to me."

The town smells of roasted barley malt this morning. Home to Coors brewery for nearly a century and a half, Golden, CO often carries the signature aroma of brewing, proudly off-gassed directly into the neighborhood. Tourists travel from all over to visit the plant, a dystopian hulk of glowering towers and steaming chimneys straddling Clear Creek and stretching downstream for miles of barren warehouses and railroad-sided grain silos. I've never taken the tour myself, having a local address and all. I frequent the less known but perhaps more noteworthy Second Largest Brewery in Golden, housed in a neighborhood alley pole building and ancient milk house behind a small brick Victorian home just three blocks off the main drag. There, they pass pints and pitchers through a window in the milk house and patrons imbibe in a year-around, dog-friendly open air beer garden while seated at communal picnic tables. I'm likely to meet somebody I never met before while drinking there. The beer's also clearly distinguishable from Clear Creek's water, too, unlike the stuff Coors produces.

I'm not very attracted to the biggest and self-proclaimed best of anything, but much more to the second best, or third, or fourth, or even lower on the pecking order. The best seems a notorious self-designation, unseemly in its self regard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Grumbling

thunder
"Around four this afternoon, the sky should commence to grumbling again."

The summer-ish sky starts darkening by four. I notice one towering thunderhead already east of me, moving like a single advance galleon leading a following armada. Then I notice a much larger fleet wallowing in to the north. Once I slip down into the valley, I see a dark smoke-screen smear obscuring the western horizon. More sails appear. It might already be raining up at the house. The Muse dawdles leaving the lab again. My mind generates alternative scenarios for skirting mindless freeway traffic, which instantly turns stupid with the arrival of any rain. The invaders depend upon our over-confidence and I refuse to fall prey and so I freely catastrophize while waiting on The Muse.

We make home before the storm makes landfall, though distant rumbling comes from the west, up and over the mountain separating us from the true west.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Audience

Photos_space_high_res_file_5
"If I am powerful, I am powerful not because stars speak to me,
but because I emphatically speak to stars."

Eventually, someone will ask the question wondering after your audience. Who do you think can hear you from where you stand? Whom do you intend to hear you? To whom do you imagine yourself speaking when you open your big yap? These are terrific questions and not simply because they border on the fundamentally unanswerable, the only questions really worthy of human consideration. For me, I never find a snappy answer to any of them, perhaps because of a little understood yet fundamental law of human communication. The most powerful messages come from those one never suspects capable of delivering powerful messages. We could call this The Bushwhack Principle. We easily filter out familiar sources, somehow second-guessing what they're gonna say and hearing what we anticipated rather than what was passed. How insightful could those messages likely be?

The Earth sits, from our perspective, in the middle of an apparently infinite number of light points surrounding us. Some rather close by, but most, millions of miles away. Let's say that those stars and pulsars and such represent our audience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGreatAmericanSongbook

TheGAP
"That's where our innate greatness always resided."

When my contemporaries were busy imprinting on GlamRock and headbanger Southern blues, I was distracted listening to old Frank Sinatra tapes, imprinting on the music made for a generation or two before mine; The Great American Songbook. I studied the life of Jimmy Van Heusen, the songwriter that The Chairman of the Board wanted to be when he grew up, memorized Johnny Mercer lyrics, collected Cole Porter records, and pined after the long lost nineteen thirties, a time a couple of decades before I was even born. I instantly recognize Dinah Washington's voice, pitch perfect and reputed to never, ever having required more than a single take to make a perfect rendition. I listen to Hot Jazz Saturday Night on Washington DC's venerable public radio station WAMU almost every Saturday evening and tune in to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey's Radio Deluxe every week.

When some popular recording artist of the seventies, eighties, nineties and so on passes on, I invariably never heard a thing they recorded.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gardening

handplow
"I refuse to leave remaining roots to serve as witnesses to any inept beheading of weed tops."

I consider myself a student of gardening. Not a grad student, either. I'm still struggling to learn my way around soil, water, plants, and light. True, I have recovered several gardens in my time, each different, results personally paved with many, many grievous errors along the way. My greatest influence might have been an early and repeated exposure to The Victory Garden, a PBS series filmed on a former heavily compacted clay parking lot turned into an immaculate acre of garden, complete with greenhouse and a host with seventy years of experience. It all looked so easy and fulfilling, with no episodes focusing upon endless weeding and broken turning forks. Heck, that garden hardly attracted any weeds at all.

I never tried to transform a heavily compacted clay parking lot into an immaculate acre, but I have amended soil with peat, perlite, sweat, and love.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MannersOfThinking

MannersOfThinking
" …his students can stumble upon a MannerOfThinking which might enable them to save themselves,
if only they'll stick with the pursuit."

To my mind, the greatest sin lies in telling people what they should do. Especially if I'm convinced that I really do know better. First of all, adults, even children, seem nearly immune to any sort of good advice and potentially hostile toward any intended to be good for them. We seem to want to discover and know for ourselves and when we don't, we really probably should. Much of what matters can't be transmitted as advice, no matter how good it might otherwise be. Still, many of us were early on convinced that we might usefully tap another's knowledge and somehow make it our own, either as passive witnesses like in school or as active inquisitors like in a court of law. How we come to know baffles most all of us sometimes.

Much of what we seem to know hardly qualifies as knowledge, anyway.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EarlyDark

flowermoon
"I have some places to go where I seem to need to carry the places I've been."

My internal alarm clock rouses me before the mechanical ones set for four am. I called The Muse out to the driveway last night to witness the moonrise, a fine, fat Flower Moon, the last full moon of Spring. By three thirty, the neighborhood lies bathed in deep velvet green, an almost glaringly subtle brightness subsuming what might otherwise have been merely dark of night. Night's darkness has already begun to recede, replaced with EarlyDark, a softer and gentler form of night. Morning hasn't quite yet shown her cards. The birds won't start twittering for another hour or so. Stillness reigns. Whatever outrage might rampage through the upcoming day still slumbers, catching up on her beauty sleep before inevitably turning ugly again after breakfast. The world seems gleefully solemn, satisfied with herself, and should be.

We leave the windows open all night, fumigating the whole house with flower freshness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StormyWeather

stormyweather
" …the day hardly warrants remembering.
I hate it when that happens."

I knew perfectly well why there was no sun up in the sky. I'd been tracking lightening strikes for the prior couple of hours on the WeatherBug app. The line of storms had been moving steadily north and east, heading right for us. I mowed the lawn early. By the time I'd finished the chore, the temperature had dropped ten degrees and a gusty late March morning had emerged from the nearly-summer one. I'd hardly broken a sweat shoving that ancient push mower around the yard. I took this as a sign that I had been growing stronger for all my physical exertion this season, but I suspected the cooling wind. I'd opted to delay watering since the sky seemed as though it was aching to save me the trouble of hauling hose and placing sprinklers. It does little good to water when it's windy here, anyway.

The storm took her own sweet time arriving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AuntDavid

eyepatch
" …I insisted that I was henceforth Aunt David to him …"

Andrew, who must be eight now, always wants to take the steepest trail. Christopher, a couple of years older, insists upon zooming ahead of everyone else, blazing the trail, leaving the rest of us in his dust. Lilly stays close, intermittently screaming at Chris to slow down. I cede the lead, though I'm the only one who knows the way to the top of the peak. Everyone becomes just who they are when hiking.

I'd suggested a hike to the top of the mountain with the three middle kids, nephews and a niece, to fill that awkward hour between their arrival and supper time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EgyptianWalkingOnion

Egyptian Walking Onion sets -  summer
" … still actively aspiring, still learning, preserving the potential for if not better, at least different, later on."

The Muse and I cover the nearly twenty miles down to the Union Station Farmers' Market most summer-ish Saturday mornings, timing our arrival with the opening; easier parking, fewer people, more opportunities to chat with the farmers. Each week, something "new" appears on offer, or something new to me. This week's newby turned out to be Egyptian Walking Onions. I'd never seen them before, so I asked and got a long, nearly scholarly dissertation sprinkled with philosophy. These onions, like all onions, produce 'sets' atop their stalks, Eventually, these sets outweigh the stalks, causing them to fold over, placing the sets in proximity to the ground. There, the sets take root to grow a next generation. Over time, this repeated folding over to grow a next generation can result in the onions "walking" across a field, hence the name.

These onions aren't much to talk about.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hallmark®Holidays

Hallmark
"Today, Wikipedia informs me, is World Thyroid Day, …"

My friend Franklin recently recounted his family's Mother's Day fiasco. They'd intended to do brunch at a fine Italian restaurant, but arrived to learn that they'd already sold out of everything Franklin's lovely wife Monica wanted, so they went strolling around the neighborhood, figuring a second best would quickly appear. Every place was booked solid with reservations. They finally settled for a seventies-era steak house where they served Corn Chex® as salad croutons. Monica teaches people how to cook like their grandmothers cooked and reviles "cereal" like Corn Chex® as the embodiment of everything evil with the industrial food system. Happy Mother's Day anyway!

Franklin reported that HallMark®Holidays seem to be the most troublesome ones.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MayAM

MayAM
"I shy away from my shovel, knowing I will barely scratch the surface of this place."

By the last week in May, the sun finally gets around to rising at a decent hour, even encumbered by daylight saving time. By five, it's hardly dark anymore. By six, the sun's well up. The mornings will lengthen for the next month or so before starting to recede back into themselves again. This final month of Spring brings seven hour mornings and eight hour afternoons. Evening arrives just before bedtime. Morning's the choice time through this month. Afternoons can slump into thundershowers, naps, and tedium, but mornings vibrate with promise and possibility.

Aspen and cottonwood finally figure out how to fluff up their leaf cover again, hardly luffing in the languid breeze.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reticence

reticence
"Anyone not reticent about starting a new adventure
will end up with a lot more adventure than they bargained for."

I become reticent when facing a new challenge. I understand that this culture better appreciates those who at least appear decisive, but I have never been one of those hard charging full-speed-ahead kinds of people. Even hastening slowly seems to me to exceed a reasonable speed limit at the beginning. I become reflective, sensing an impending disruption more than any possible improvement. I'm not so much interested in or obsessed with whatever end state my actions might induce, but with the beginning state they will insist upon. Who must I become to begin? What must I leave behind to start?

I call this time The Essential Milling Around Period. No project schedule ever represents this useful activity because it seems useless, trying the patience of the more decisive, apparently producing nothing of real value; no measurable deliverable, no fluff of wind in anyone's hair to represent progress, which as General Electric used to proudly proclaim, "is our most important product."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HistoryLessen

JuneMorning
June Morning, Thomas Hart Benton

"It's a HistoryLessen to recognize how little anyone eventually knows."

When I peer into the portraits of my great great grandparents, I find the most superficial representation of these two people frozen in a forgotten moment in time. When were the photographs taken? I'm uncertain. Possibly eighteen ninety, give or take a decade. I know some of their backstory. My grandfather Elza's parents grew up on adjacent spreads in the dryland wheat country of Eastern Oregon's Gilliam County. He, on the top of Hale Ridge, some of the last land grant ground left by the 1880s. She, at the bottom of that ridge beside a year round stream. My great grandfather Nathaniel's chore as the oldest boy left after diptheria took his two older brothers involved herding his family's livestock to the stream at the bottom of that dry ridge to water them and to fetch water for household use, since their property had no water, no well, given that several thousand feet of basalt sat between it and the water table. My to-be great great grandmother Clara's family lived near the watering hole.

That story represents a kind of history which projects whatever image I might choose to infuse it with.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PlantingSeason

PloughingItUnder
" … we've made another successful passage through the barren months."

Somewhere South of Mother's Day, PlantingSeason arrives. Sure, I'd been poking around the yard since March, but the containers which comprise most of our garden (thanks to the deer and elk, who seem to eat anything) have remained in garage storage until we could become reasonably certain the snow's finished with us for the season. The chokecherry tree's in glorious bloom, scenting the front yard with an aroma far sweeter than its fruit will ever become, or so I suppose since we've yet to see fruit on those trees. A killing frost or thunderous hail storm has managed to strike each year just as the trees reach full bloom, withering or bludgeoning the blossoms before fruit could set. This year might be different.

The bulk of our garden lives in containers on the back deck

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InstantFamily

instantfamily
"a stop just about halfway between there and somewhere else"

Families don't happen in an instant. They are the oldest and most permanent part of our lives. They predate any particular member and so far, for The Muse and I, have always succeeded in outliving any individual member. The Muse and I have never grown accustomed to living separate from family, though it seems as if the last twenty years have been for us an extended exercise in living separate from family. We hold family in our hearts much more often than we ever hold them physically near. When we come into now rare proximity with our family, our hearts sing.

The Muse's brother Carl, his wife Louise, and five of their eight kids stopped for lunch yesterday on their way to Arizona to visit her ailing parents. They'd left the evening before in their shiny new Suburban Subdivision

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Neighbors

yappy-dog
"I guess the subtlety undermined the message."


I try to comport myself as a good neighbor. Honestly I do, but I can become yippie sometimes if provoked. It takes quite a lot to provoke me. Yesterday, after about eight hours either on a ladder or crouched low on my knees painting, I'd just settled into a camp chair on my freshly painted deck to reflect on a job well done when a yippie dog somewhere down the lane commenced to yipping. It was fairly emphatic, whatever the provocation. I figured it might quiet down after a few minutes, but I was mistaken. I leaned back to meditate for a few minutes, figuring I could probably repel the aural assault by focusing my mind. Let's just say that my mind has nothing on any duck's back. Later, I was moved to write a short vituperation and post it on our neighborhood list serve. I know, unrequested advice. Now, of course, I'm crouching, fairly terrified to see what feedback I've received.

The Muse serves as translator when one of these things happens, and she read back a few of the many responses.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Asympbotic

asymptotic
"I don't know what could possibly replace a sincere lack of foresight. "
Beware the wily asymptote,
he only knows how to run.
He quickly secures essential funding,
then never gets a hundred percent done.


Unlike the wily asymptote, I manage to get things done. Unlike him, my completions tend to happen quickly. My beginnings seem to take forever, though. I operate asympbotically, which is pretty much the opposite of the way our wily asymptote runs. He takes forever to never get completely done while I seem to take forever just getting started. Once started, I quickly complete the task, like a slacker rabbit racing a diligent but slightly misguided tortoise. Many physical operations follow the wily asymptote's path, so many that we generally forgive the asymptote's inevitable shortfall, ascribing it to nature, God's will, or plenty good enough for whatever kind of work we're engaged in. Who are we to insist upon an unnatural outcome?

For about 90% of the duration of any project, I'm convinced that it will never get completed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Handyman Dave

Handyman
"I become a disciplined robot for the duration."

I doubt that any military campaign ever received more detailed planning. Logistics have been swirling around unresolved in my brain for days. This morning, the wet weather finally broke, the humidity dropped twenty percentage points, and the forecast predicts no chance of rain for the next two days. I can put on the two top coats of paint on the deck railing today and even slop over into tomorrow if I must. I linger in bed, running through more obscure details, the order of application seems to trouble me most. What sequence will minimize wait time between coats? Should I mount the ladder or squat on the deck first? I suppose I should apply that annealing primer to the top rail first. It's likely to take longest to dry.

I wear a uniform every bit as steeped in tradition as any general's.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gluten

gluten
"The sermon, repeated each visit, is delivered olfactorily, in glory and excelsis, a cloud of nearly overwhelming sweetness, brimming with righteousness and salvation."

I heard this week that the Potomac (Maryland) Nationals, a minor league franchise of the National League's Washington Nationals, hosts periodic peanut-free baseball nights, so those allergic to peanuts but addicted to live baseball can exercise their addiction while respecting their allergy. Allergies can sometimes seem like a laughing matter until you discover that you've contracted one. I, over the last few years, seem to have become allergic to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat. I consider my newly-acquired affliction ironic. My daughter has a gluten allergy severe enough to remind her with headaches whenever she decides to go ahead and eat the wheat bread before her. She tries to stay with the spelt stuff, which can be decent when properly prepared.

I am an unapologetic member of the local Gluten Appreciation Society. We meet each Saturday morning in a nondescript small industrial park in Golden, Colorado, the home of the snarkily-named Grateful Bread Company, a wholesale purveyor of high-end breads that opens for retail sales only on Saturday mornings.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Civility

civility1
"Even Slugbug can be enjoyably played without resorting to slugging anybody."

Yes, The Muse and I continue to enthusiastically play Slugbug every time we're traveling together in the car, but we maintain a certain civility when engaging. We do not, for instance, actually slug each other, like a six year old might. Yes, we do observe the catechism, "Slugbug, no slug back," but only to preserve the essential form of play. Some days, The Muse quite joyfully skunks me, spotting a hot half dozen before I spy my first. Other days, it's me holding her underwater, reveling in my easy accumulation. Honest, there's no underlying malice. It's just a game for us.

I hold open doors for whomever follows me inside. If an adjacent driver signals to change lanes, I make it my business to open enough space for their shift. I expect similar civility from those around me, but I won't hold my breath until I receive it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

OldFashioned

oldfashioned
"All things considered, I'd rather ride the bus."

I'm old-fashioned in the way that thirties black and white films are old fashioned, unselfconsciously. I do not paint my deck while wearing a suit, tie, and broad-brimmed fedora, though I do have a deck, something almost nobody had in the thirties. I'm also familiar with more modern scientific concepts. I no longer smoke. I never could dance, but I never couldn't enviously eye Fred Astaire's smooth moves. I suspect any store larger than a mom and pop shop. I despise freeways. I don't believe in microwaves. I prefer black and white photography, including films. Current movies and music baffle me. I still listen to old radio serials on Sunday nights and hot thirties jazz on Saturday nights, finding them preferable and far superior to anything of more recent vintage, with the occasional exception of baseball.

I read a lot, something of a lost art after alternative medias elbowed their way into the arena. I'd really rather stay in an old hotel, with the bathroom down the hall, than in another anonymous Marriott.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Suddenlies

suddenly
"I grieved the end of summer last year but hardly prepared for its eventual return …"

This world trades in Suddenlies. For the longest time, stuff stays the same, as if stuck. Then suddenly, everything changes. Spring this year seemed to take her own sweet time to come, carrying Winter's frozen water for weeks and weeks before finally melting into herself. Likewise, Spring has suddenly become Summer six full weeks before Summer was scheduled to arrive. The neighbor kids run barefoot down the same street snow covered just a week ago. The yard, dormant then, turned bright green overnight. The season hasn't changed yet, but some Suddenlies sure showed up.

Boredom might be a natural manifestation of a deep disbelief in Suddenlies.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Chislic

chislic
"Life goes on a little richer. Bring a Pepcid®"

The Muse explains as I wonder what the heck chislic is. The menu describes what sounds like chicken fingers, breaded, deep fat fried, except with "finger steak", whatever that is. She says that it's a South Dakota thing, common bar food, a dish she's known about all of her life. I'd never heard of it. In deference to me, she orders some so I can taste without committing to a full order. I nibble a piece and gratefully leave the rest for her. Some will remain after we've both finished our meal.

The Muse pulls up the Wikipedia page describing the many variations on the dish.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Plotting

30_plotting
" … we're leaving with the destination unknown, but only because it's properly unknowable now."

I'm up early this morning, plotting the course for the start of the return trip. I learned on the way up that The Muse had planned for a two day run back home, which took me by surprise. I'd thought we'd tuck down our heads and drive the seven hundred miles in a single day, but she insists upon toodling back like we toodled up, and I'm more than agreeable. I texted the cat sitter to please put out the garbage on Tuesday morning and set about considering how we might spent that extra day. Distances seem so vast here that we tend to stay within the same narrow escape and reentry paths, struggling to justify the additional hours any alternate might demand, but with a whole extra day to play with, plenty of choices emerge. Too many choices emerge.

If the purpose of plotting is to pre-determine how we'll go, I'm not really plotting at all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Birdlife

Birdlife
"Forces marshaling before the great reconquering and resettling begins."

The ruckus starts early, before the sun crests the low eastern hills, and continues well into the morning. A slow decrescendo continues until later afternoon, when the ruckus starts again. Mourning doves count continuous cadence against which grackles chitter. Robins hop nearly ten feet in the air before returning to their relentless stalking. Swallows silently swoop through. Sparrows by the dozens fine groom unturned soil. Redwing black birds noisily defend territory. Hawks and turkey buzzards surveil from a few hundred feet above. Canada geese point out every imperfection troubling their passage, leaving behind cigar butt trails. The prairie blooms first in bird life. Before dandelion and quince, before tulip and cherry, birdsong breaks the long winter silence with exuberance, the soundtrack of budding life.

The passenger jets from Minneapolis fly over a fly zone that extends clear down to the ground.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NotGoingHome

NotHome
"We must be heading somewhere else."

The map doesn't hint at the disparity between what it represents for us and what we'll find there. The roads seem unchanged, though a few new businesses have sprouted up along the still familiar route. My first visit, twenty years ago now, and The Muse's childhood here moved away long ago, leaving what was then the future in their wake. We, hampered by memories and lingering, long-lost first impressions, reenter for the first time again. We wade through what we expected to find, hardly able to see what we find. Old relationships have become history. Relatives still familiar, though everyone's been constantly changing since the last time we came. Us, too. We feel no more than almost familiar to ourselves here now.

The end isn't coming because it already came, elbowed aside by new beginnings again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reveal

reveal
"… keep the roads clearer for those of us who come here for the reveals."

Top a hill or round a bend and experience another reveal. Driving across Nebraska, off the Interstate, produces a recursive kinescope of the state. Each hill, every damned turn and twist in the road, reveals a similar yet quite different perspective. I feel as if I'm delving ever deeper into what those who observe while flying over from thirty six thousand feet see as simply flat. True, with the exception of Scott's Bluff, nothing but ghostly grain elevators loom against any horizon here. Quite false that the country is flat, or even seriously flat-ish, for it rolls and seems to swirl as we top another hill and round yet another bend.

Difference, those of us blessed or cursed to have been raised in mountain country, seems to require altogether much more drama than it actually needs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blogging

blogging
"I write, therefore I blog."

I posted my first blog entry on January 12, 2006. I labeled it The Autistic Organization. My editor at the time had taken great offense at its content so it had proven unsuitable for formal publication. I figured it qualified as blog material, so I started this blog called PureSchmaltz. Choosing a 'platform' proved nearly overwhelming, a road paved with more good advice than I could use. Many strongly recommended WordPress, but I could not figure out how to navigate around in it. It seemed to have been designed for people who learned to use computers using MicroSoft software on a Windows machine, two mediums I never could figure out. I decided to limit my search to native Apple apps, and found a start-up called RapidWeaver. I've been using their software for eleven years. Not all those years have been pleasant, as this software, like all software, occasionally suffers from improvements, aka upgrades, which usually degrade the quality of operation for a few days or a few months. Still, I've found nothing better suited to me.

I'm no computer wiz.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SouDakoda