.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Lowdown on Bygone Dirt

Whenever I see a movie set in European courts, castles, and other haunts of the rich and privileged, from the 1700's on back to the Middle Ages, I smile. The most recent film I've seen that does a great job of illustrating the point I want to make is "Marie Antoinette," made in 2006 and starring Kirsten Dunst and, incidentally, a bunch of other people but mainly her. I look at how scrubbed and spotless everyone looks. That goes for the food and the furnishings and everything else as well, but especially the people. No snaggle or missing teeth, no crooked, pitted noses, no clouded, bloodshot eyes, no ragged or unevenly spaced hair. No, just young cinematic perfection to the utmost.

I smile because I've never forgotten being informed by English literature professors in my college days that, beneath all their copious, colorful and exaggerated finery the royalty and the nobility in those days were a mess. Those founts of useful information put across in no uncertain terms the revelation that there is a huge disconnect between the ideas of sanitation in the regal settings of just a few hundred years ago and today's admonitions toward super cleanliness that in nearly every string of TV commericials we are urged to achieve. And I wondered if it was actually true that, if we could go back into Versailles or one of those other fabled halls where all that gentry was gathered, at one of their balls or a meeting of lords, dukes, and even kings, whether our noses would indeed be assailed by all sorts of scents that we associate with pigpens and untreated sewage, while, if we were to look closely, we would see complexions on that bygone elite that would make us think of sandblasting activities or unhappy experiences while trying to climb Mt. Everest.

It seems that we would.

There's a principle that rules in many areas of our lives and is a staple of dramas of all kinds, in which rogues attract far more of our attention than do saints. So, since being unkempt and dirty has the ability to garner our interest at least as much as being tidy and clean -- that is, if you're not going to a dance or a singles bar in the next half-hour -- there are two recent books that sound like they offer engrossing reading.

I couldn't resist grabbing for this post the following passages from a review of both books that appears in a recent issue of the Wilson Quarterly. (The quarterly's site was so cagey about supplying the issue's exact date that I couldn't find it in the two minutes that I allotted to the search, though I'm guessing it is Spring 2008. Meanwhile thanks, Angry Arab.)

The real Dark Ages of cleanliness began in the 16th century. Fear of disease helps explain why people just stopped ­bathing—­indeed, doing any meaningful washing. Ashenburg blames the plague, which produced so many corpses that they were layered in mass graves “just as one makes lasagne,” wrote one Florentine. Smith thinks the likelier culprit is syphilis, which by the 16th century was both virulent and prevalent. Clueless doctors declared that bathing was dangerous, because it opened the skin to the malign “vapors” thought to cause much illness.

....Most of the deliciously dreadful things you know about how dirty people used to be are drawn from this lengthy Age of the Great Unwashed. Even aristocrats were filthy and ­louse ­ridden beneath their jewels, brocades, and furs. In England, Elizabeth I declared that she bathed once a month “whether I need it or not.” In Spain during the Inquisition, Ashen­burg says, Jew and Muslim alike could be condemned by the frightful words “was known to bathe.” Nor was sanitation prized in France, where feces left in the halls of Versailles were carted away once a week. Instead of bathing, smelly, grimy people changed into fresh linens, which became a consumer craze among the Dutch. When John Wesley famously re­marked, in 1791, that “cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness,” he wasn’t talking about the body, but about ­clothes.

If you want to read more, one of those books is "Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity," by Virginia Smith. It is described by the quarterly as being "scholarly." The other is "The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitary History," by Katherine Ashenburg." It is described as being "gossipy." I know which one will be grabbed first.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

NTodd/Atrios & The Fiddlefaddle Rule

Yesterday I made a rare visit to Eschaton," the site of the famous weblogger, Atrios. Six or seven posts down into his entries that day was one that caught my eye and held it to the exclusion of the others. Extremely terse, as most of his posts are, it read simply, and with no explanation, "NToddler is such a loser." And attached to that was a thread that contained 355 (!)comments.

I recognized the name. NTodd is the somewhat rambunctious proprietor of the "Dohiyi Mir" site. That was one of the first sites that drew me into the weblog world and led to my creating this site. Dohiyi Mir impressed me because it was the first -- and so far the only non-chess-oriented weblog -- that I've seen that had a chess diagram on its home page, and because of that and his general though sometimes edgy friendliness, for a time I would frequently leave comments there. In the process, in fact, soon I even became an inconsequential part of "history" when NTodd and G.A. Hall, the writer of "Rook's Rant," engaged in what they billed as the first ever blogging chess game, during which I was a regular kibitzer.

You would think that because I was so impressed and chess is so into my blood, that I would have a diagram decorating my own sidebar. And indeed I have access to thousands of end game studies and other positions that would be just right. Even if a person couldn't work one out, it would still be highly decorative. But that's one of the many things I need to get around to, including changing the look of this site in a couple of other ways. But I'm still too happy with the way it looks now.

Eventually my orbit and that of Ntodd drifted in very different directions -- or rather mine stayed where it was while his widened exponentially. Through his tireless excursions into the progressive weblog world, NTodd has made a real name for himself, to the point where he was one of the most celebrated participants in an event that is taking place this weekend in Philadelphia and which, as it is the brainchild of Atrios, is called "Eschacon08." It is a convening of many of the most well-known progressive weblogists, and, in recognition of his stature, NTodd shared nothing less than the keynote panel with Atrios and two others. Therefore I can say, to a very modest extent, that I knew him when.

So what happened between Ntodd and Atrios?

I started slogging through the first of those 355 comments to find out, but almost instantly that thread had become bogged down in what I call "the FiddleFaddle Rule."

I have trouble understanding why Atrios is so renowned, because whenever I've checked, his statements are on the sparse side, and instead the lion's share by far of the offerings on his site are made by his numerous adherents, and meanwhile the Fiddlefaddle Rule is usually in effect. This law just recently codified itself in my mind while I was observing the Angry Arab Follies, though I had long before observed it at work in Eschaton and other hugely popular sites, which is why, as a rule, I seldom read them. My Law says that no site, however large its number of frequenters, has enough of them who are able to make more than about a hundred sensible comments on one thread in a single day. Beyond that number you can assume that things have descended, if they haven't earlier, into bitter mud-slinging, or excursions into extreme trivia, or into other forms of complete babble. And so it happened in response to Atrios' "Ntoddler" post.

But at least one sane voice, Ellroon, was there. She is familiar to me because the name of her site, "Rants From the Rookery," seems to have been directly inspired by Hall's weblog, and I believe she sometimes posts on Steve Bates' site and on Andante's, and I think she even posted on mine once or twice, long ago. She was the first to ask the Atriots the same thing that I wanted to know, which was, what did NTodd do? She was ignored. Later several others asked that as well. Still no answer. Instead there was just a lot of unintelligible banter, seemingly designed, as one guy said, only to keep the comment count up.

After giving them the benefit of those first hundred comments I finally came to my senses and decided I'd go right to the horse's mouth, Ntodd's "Dohiyi Mir."

These days NTodd is much more consumed by posting photos than he is by using words, and he had plenty that he had snapped at Eschacon08. When he wasn't displaying those he was linking to pictures on other sites that included images of him, and he had nothing to say even about what was happening at the convention, except that it was hard to take pictures of the lady participants because so many of them had "no pictures" stickers on their convention badges, and well they might, I thought, with him around!

Eventually on one of those other sites, I learned that so far the panelists had decided that the election is going to be a contest not between the Democrats and the Republicans but between the Democrats and the media instead, because the media is so enamored of John McCain. So it's going to be the job of those assembled webloggists to find ways to bring McCain's shortcomings more to the national attention. But how? The answers to that were not immediately popping into the attendees' heads.

Meanwhile I never did find out what NTodd had done that had aroused so much of Atrios' disdain. I'm guessing it was just a clash of similar, large egoes. You don't get where they are without those humps in the camel's back.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Paunches and Alzheimers

One of the latest scientific findings to be publicized lately is that people (I assume mostly men) that have pot bellies in mid-life, such as their '40's, are three times as likely as others to develop Alzheimers in their later years, such as their '70's. The connection might seem strange at first, but it seems that belly fat is especially adept at producing just the right chemicals needed to construct time bombs in the brain.

Sometimes I wonder about some of these medical findings, because they exude a certain cruelty.

There's been another one in the last few days saying that people who were born prematurely have a greater chance of meeting early deaths, by a factor of two or more. What does a person who, through no fault of his own, was born prematurely do with information like this?

To be sure, it's different in the case of the Alzheimers, though not for old men who had, and might still have, considerable paunches. They, like the preemies, are in the toilet. The study, however, is not for them. It is purely for the benefit for all the generations before mine, especially the so-called baby boomers, who might still be able to lose enough abdominal fat to make a difference. Besides producing those demon chemicals, abdominal fat is also supposed to be easier to lose than other kinds. That may be, but how easy is it to lose, period? So, some people, bowing to what they see as their limitations, might still feel doomed.

Though my mind doesn't dwell on it, because I don't know what I can do about it, I sometimes wonder if Alzheimer's is one of the demons waiting for me just ahead. My whole existence has always been weighted much more toward my mental being than.toward the physical, and the thought of losing that is totally appalling.

That house of mine that you can see in the upper left corner of this weblog illustrates this. For various reasons I built it alone, except once or twice to stand a wall section up and later to install the septic tank. But the lumber, fresh from being parts of large oak trees and so with still plenty of moisture in it, was extra heavy, and I was forced to devise all kinds of ways to get around not having human helpers, and building the house was truly a triumph of mind over matter. That is one reason why I am so tightly attached to it, though I know it doesn't look like much more than an oversized shed to the uninformed eye..

I built my house mainly (it is still not quite finished) when I was in my late 40's, that dangerous age for Alzheimers, and during that effort I got entirely too much exercise to have a paunch. In fact, I was still as thin as I had always been, weighing not much more than 135, so I should have no worries now. But about 20 years ago for some reason I suddenly had a spurt of weight-gaining that ended as quickly as it had started and left me weighing about 160, at a height slightly short of six feet. So I am still sometimes seen as being on the thin side, but nowadays I do have some abdominal excess. Not much but some. I can wear size 36 pants, though 38 is more comfortable.

Anyway it is too late to worry about Alzheimers now. As I already said, I am in the boat now and have no way of getting out. I like to think that what really helps to fight against having your mental faculties go south is to keep using them as much as possible, and I do that, willy-nilly. Writing weird stuff in weblogs helps, as does hosting anxieties in every direction and constructing all sorts of impossible scenarios at the drop of a hat.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What Goes Up ...2

Left Leaning Lady showed the way to the Discovery Channel show, "Mythbusters," and how the results of their investigations could be obtained online without seeing the show. So, in the case of the falling bullets that I already mentioned a few days ago, here are their conclusions:

Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.

busted / plausible / confirmed

In the case of a bullet fired at a precisely vertical angle (something extremely difficult for a human being to duplicate), the bullet would tumble, lose its spin, and fall at a much slower speed due to terminal velocity and is therefore rendered less than lethal on impact. However, if a bullet is fired upward at a non-vertical angle (a far more probable possibility), it will maintain its spin and will reach a high enough speed to be lethal on impact. Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most states, and even in the states that it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured. To date, this is the only myth to receive all three ratings at the same time.

Hmm. This can be serious business after all. The probablities are still light, but they can be jacked up when, for instance, you have dozens of men firing into the air all at once to celebrate a victory or some other joyous occasion, as I have often seen in video shots taken in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. That has to drop innocents now and then on the fringes of the crowd.

A simple "hoo-rah" ought to work just as well. Somebody should tell them.

Whoops. The Unwelcome Visitor!

Yesterday, in the midst of an interesting discussion on Steve Bates' Yellow Doggerel Democrat, about C.Rice as a possible VP candidate to run with J. McCain, an unusual "guest" appeared. It was a Republican,.and he gave his view on the matter, which, as you might expect, ran counter to the tenor on that thread. Steve took exception and though he didn't delete that post, he immediately banned the interloper henceforward from his site.

That's when I thought, "Whoops!" Because it put me in a strange position, and meanwhile you can smile now. I realized that I would not have done the same, but that's because of a number of factors making Steve's situation very different from mine.

First, I am not as passionate and straightforward as he is, though, paradoxically (for a maximum of three comments), I would have been more disposed to duke it out with the man, especially on my own site. (Is that a residue of my nevertheless always limited chess pugnacity?) The man at least had going for him the fact that he didn't speak with obscenity or outright idiocy, despite being a Republican, and I could tell that he had taken some pains with composing his message, which I likewise always try to do, maybe to a fault.

Second, unlike Steve's, my site is so unpopular (fitting in with its name) that I feel that I don't have the luxury to ban people, even if I knew how to do it, which I don't. I can afford to say that because the occasion has never presented itself, and during this latest return to weblogging after a long absence, for some reason so far not even the spammers that I used to get, much less antagonists, have found me, though I haven't taken any preventive measures. Third, my site is free, whereas Steve's is not, and so he quite properly didn't like the idea of hosting objectionable remarks in space for which he is paying good money.

But all that is still not at the heart of why Steve's booting of that guy really threw me for a comical loop. The chief reason is that lately, on another man's site, I have been guilty of exactly the same crime! And I wouldn't be distressed and definitely not surprised to find that, by now, I have been banned from that site, too, though I haven't tried to confirm that.

As the Lifelong Outside Man, I almost never read anything by the proprietor of The Field Negro site or its many commenters that I agree with. Yet these are supposed to be among "my people." But in this run-up to the Presidential elections, I see these guys as headed down a path that I believe to be suicidal, and I've been saying so, by every few days throwing in a dissenting comment and then going my merry way, without checking the reactions -- partly because so often when I expect reactions to stuff I say, on that site and others, there aren't any.

A few days ago, in exactly the same fashion as Steve's "friend," I threw in the following response to F. Negro's theme of that day:

When I saw that headline in the Google News first thing this morning, about H.Clinton and the Bosnia sniper fire, I thought, "Uh-oh! Field Negro and his crowd of other professional Hillary-haters are going to have a field day with this one!" And sure enough, right on cue and on time, you didn't disappoint.

Where I come from, piling on is considered to be unsportsmanlike and even criminal, and unthinkable when the person being buried is a lady. But then you don't come from the same place as I do, and for that we are both overjoyed.

Still, I would think you would be uneasy about lining up with the mainstream media and the Republicans, who are likewise sure to jump on that report with all four feet and joyfully accuse her of something akin to the biggest lie of all time. Meanwhile surely you've heard that saying about people who live in glass houses....

Just the other day, Mr. F.N., you yourself took some liberties with the truth, , when you happily followed other mistaken souls by calling Rod Parsley "McCain's pastor."

Maybe you didn't notice that McCain didn't call Parsley his "pastor." Instead he said "spiritual advisor," suggesting that the title "pastor" belonged to someone else. And he had to have used the words "spiritual advisor" only in a spirit of exuberance that ought to be familiar. McCain is just going around trying to pick up as many conservative vouchers as he can. Megachurches are good sources of those, and he might call the ringleader of any of those teeming dens his "spiritual advisor." Shortly before Parsley was handed that honor, people had John Hagee playing the same role. Actually, McCain is such a thoroughgoing screwball that I don't think he would recognize "spiritual advice." But that's another matter.

In reality McCain's pastor is a man named Dan Yeary. He presides over the North Phoenix Baptist Church, in Arizona. His credentials for being McCain's pastor are solid, if you put any store in the fact that McCain and his family have been attending Yeary's church for the past 15 years, not far short of Obama's attendance at Rev. Wright's place. You might be interested to hear that while Rev. Yeary, being a Southern Baptist, does not agree with what Rev. Wright said, he otherwise defends Wright, by stating that ministers can become the victim of their own exuberance. "All preachers have a tendency to overstate because our passion is so intense," he is quoted as saying.

You would do well to zero in on the word "exuberant," Mr. F.N. You yourself are nothing if not that, and politicians are just as guilty of it as are preachers and weblog proprietors. And H. Clinton is not the Devil incarnate, as you and your constituents would like to believe. She is just a politician, who, purely because she is a woman with a longtime record of not "knowing her place" (a charge that ought to be familiar to folks around here), she is fated to be constantly fired at by dummies of all hues who can't distinguish feathers from cannonballs.

Have you heard of lead balloons? :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Profile for Disaster

Things are getting lively near me, most of them just over the county line to the north and one in my county. The former events are making the national news, especially because memories are still fresh of another series of happenings in the Virginia-Maryland-DC area just a few years ago.

A few hours ago five vehicles were hit by sniper fire on I-64, the interstate that runs to Staunton (pronounced "Stanton") and points west and in the other direction to Charlottesville and points east. But there have been no fatalities and injuries, as far as I know. It is early and not much more than that has been reported so far.

Then today I also just finished reading in the county newspaper that at a falls in the Blue Ridge, along the western edge of the county, another visitor has met his death.

I have never been to this falls, but, from a geographical\geological point of view, it is the No. 1 sight in this county. It is supposed to have the highest vertical drop of any falls east of the Mississippi, and it is popular with hikers, campers, and sightseers. Every two or three years, it seems, you read of another such death happening there, and the total since I don't know when is now 25.

The story is that this fellow, a young college guy, along with some buddies, climbed over a safety wall and down and onto a large, slippery rock next to a river that, miles farther along and in a much more peaceful mood, runs just a half mile or so from my house, and in fact my creek runs into it. He fell off the rock into the river, and, running fast up there, it swept him over the falls.

The newspaper report contained sly suggestions that alcohol was probably involved, and that often enough in the past it has been. No one is surprised.

There are plenty of warning signs around the falls. One of them, as quoted in the paper, reads:

"Young men and women between 18 and 26 years of age, who are bright, intelligent, and educated, fit the profile of the victims of the siren of Crabtree Falls."

That's cold.

The End of the World

Common Dreams today has an article that is particularly distinguished not only by all its info about the breakups of the Antarctic ice sheets but also by its comments section.

I always approach the comments on Common Dreams with extreme trepidation, ever since I discovered that reading any of their articles that have something to do with the Democratic Party or Hillary Clinton is like drinking a pitcherful of Japanese Beetle juice. Actually that applies to just about any article dealing with politics, period, since CD's denizens are totally consumed with the idea of forming a 3rd party, which they would love to do at the expense of the Democrats. They retain just enough moxie, which is not much, to know that they have no hope at all of doing so with any remnants of the Repubs. In fact they give the Repubs a free ride, which is the main thing that repulses me.

But on non-political subjects a better class of commenters seems to appear, and, as at the end of the cited article, they may even end up collectively composing a second article that is just as informative, if not more so.

Mainly here they are predicting the end of the world, the human components of it -- in a huge variety of ways, and they don't think it will take long in coming.

Nobody appreciates the idea of the end of the world more than me. I don't mean the total obliteration of the planet. I mean instead events that will drastically erase the many ways that humans, by rampant proliferation and misuse of technology, have harmed the planet. But when this end comes, I expect it to do so slower than these commenters would like to think.

Maybe that's because of what my mother did, sometime in the 1950's or in the early '60's during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when, for nitwit reasons, the "world" really did seem to be on the verge of, if not ending as such, to be at least altered in some distinctly unpleasant ways.

When, in the early '50's, the Russians ended the American monopoly on nuclear arms, it caused quite a tizzy, and, coming so closely on the heels of the terrific, widespread conflagration of World War 2, there were all sorts of predictions flying around about a nuclear Armageddon.

That seemed logical to me, and I thought it would be something to see, and meanwhile we would need something to eat while it was going on. So I started stocking canned goods in one of the kitchen cabinets.

I was a little stunned and maybe a little miffed when my mother scoffed at the whole idea. So I didn't get very far with my preparations, and my five or six cans just stayed up on that shelf for several years, until they had to be discarded.

No appearance of the Four Horsemen just yet! But, as the saying goes, better late than never.

Now, years later, I feel that I am much better prepared for the show. I no longer live in a city that is slated for the floods. I live on higher ground. I calculate that at about 800 feet elevation, if enough ice sheets way south of here melt into the sea, that should put me in the running for my hilly 20 acres of woods in a county that nobody's heard of to become prime waterfront property. I have plenty of wood for cooking and heat, and I have a well that is still functioning, so far. I know how to do lots of homesteading, survival things, though at the moment I don't practice them. I am on good terms with all my neighbors, and I have a double and almost complete collection of useful tools. I may even have an arsenal that just might enable me, if I had the will, to hold off the starving hordes from my hometown for all of two seconds.

But I won't say that I'm ready. I won't say that I'm looking forward to the end of the world, because it is definitely something that I don't want to see. But I will say that it is something that has always been interesting to hear about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The 4,000

At last, in talking about the number of American military killed so far in Iraq -- the only figure that really matters for most people -- we have finally reached a nice, round, easily remembered number that we can work with.


That has a certain ring, doesn't it? Right up there with "300," the name of the recent movie about the small group of Spartan warriors who held off gigantic numbers of Persian fighters at Thermopylae, Greece for several days, before logic and sensibility finally prevailed and they were overwhelmed. (The fact that they had the help of 700 other Greeks is usually left out of recountings of the deed, maybe because the "300" figure makes the odds sound so much greater and therefore adds to the heroism of Leonidas and his few.)

To get an idea of how that number of war dead compares to the total American population, I tried dividing 4,000 into 300,000,000. I came up with the answer of 75,000. But I have gotten on the shakier side these days, mentally and physically, and i don't fully trust myself in these things. That can't be right, can it? In this context 75,000 is an astounding number. Neither of the two cities nearest me, Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Virginia, has that many people!

If 75,000 is indeed the right figure, it means that for every soldier lost in Iraq, 74,999 Americans have been left to enjoy their lives in peace, comfort, and a preference for not hearing what is really going on in Iraq. They are left in a state of blissful indifference, free to enjoy the option of stirring themselves to note the number of American dead only twice a year, once in March and again in May, while completely avoiding the discomfort of noting the Iraqi figure -- so far -- of about 1 million dead.

During World War 2 it wasn't unusual to see little fringed cloth rectangles -- blue if I remember correctly -- hanging in front windows and each emblazoned with a gold star, signifying a death in the fighting of a loved one. By contrast that 75,000 to 1 ratio indicates very clearly that very few presentday Americans will know anybody who has lost a young family member in Iraq, let alone a member of their own families.

Meanwhile it is a strange and perverse oddity that the burial ceremonies of those ultimate casualties are attended around the country by the picketing family of the incredibly hateful Kansas minister, Fred Phelps, more often than they are by GW Bush and friends, because of the inexplicable connection that Phelps makes between the military and homosexuality (just as a member of the Israeli Knesset has determined that homosexuals are the cause of earthquakes).

To people opposed to the war -- and I have been one even from long before it started -- 4,000 is nevertheless an appalling number, and they see it as one of their strongest arguing points. It is more than the number of people that lost their lives in 9/11, and it is far more than the populations of the two county seats nearest me. It means that in the U.S. that number of young people, overwhelmingly men, will not raise children and have grandchildtren, will not get to mow their lawns, will not get to hunt, fish, play cards, or skydive, and will never see what the near-term future holds.

Sadly, however, as wars go, that figure of 4,000 pales, and that awareness, while rarely brought into the open, can't be far from the appreciation of the average American mind.. In Vietnam U.S. losses were about 55,000, and, though that took 10 years as opposed to the five -- so far -- of the GWBush War, the disparity between Vietnam and Iraq is still easily tolerable to those who actively support keeping a gun hand in Iraq for however long anyone wants to. Besides -- and this is also usually cloaked in callous silence -- there is the oil.

This failure of the great majority of Americans to feel the real pain of Iraq, while, however, they make sure to answer the pollsters' questions in the decent way and so appear to oppose the war by a large margin, is why J. McCain, a current Republican candidate to succeed GWBush, can comfortably promise, if he is elected, to continue participation of U.S. forces in the Iraq abomination indefinitely, promising a victory where the American defeat has, however, long ago been a fact, if not recognized.

So what can be done?

For starters, voting Democrat. I know that the deadly disease of conservatism, which sees nothing wrong with indulging in this Iraq horror, infects some Democrats as well. But not nearly as much as the Republicans, the ones who pushed the U.S. over the edge of this cesspool in the first place . The chances of emerging from that nauseous pit while still able to breathe are much better with the Democrats.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Goes Up....

This news item tells of how a famous chef, Paul Prudhomme, was accidentally hit by a bullet that someone fired into the air somewhere within a one and a half mile radius of where he was. It punched a hole in his chef's jacket and broke the skin on one of his arms but otherwise did no damage, and after shaking the .22 bullet out of his clothes, he blithely went on with setting up a cooking situation on a golf course, as befits a New Orleans cooking whiz.

This interested me greatly, because I have always wondered how dangerous bullets were in falling back to the ground after being fired in the air. I had wondered if it was possible to be killed that way. I had heard that shooting upward is not a good thing to do, and so, though I have a .22 rifle and a .16 gauge shotgun, I never fire either in the air, though this place is so devoid of people that the chances of anything falling back down on me or anyone else must be close to zero. Still the bullet doesn't just dissolve up there, and you never know.

Death by a falling bullet must be very unlikely, because I frequently see TV shots of men in the Middle East especially, celebrating every occasion that offers itself, by firing into the air with a variety of firearms. They do it so profusely that you would think wagonloads of people standing in the area would quickly have to be carted off to the hospital with bullet wounds to the head or shoulders. But apparently not.

A .22 bullet is a small caliber and supposedly not particular lethal even if fired directly at one, unless it hits a vital spot and is not a hollowpoint. So, taking into account that the bullet also has to lose some of its velocity on its way up and even on the way back down, Prudhomme was probably never in any danger of death or serious injury, even if it had hit directly on his big chef's hat, provided he was wearing one.

I wonder if the police scouted the area, while trying to look casual. Provided that the word got out, if I had been them I would have looked for someone whistling.

People also shoot much larger caliber pistols, revolvers, and rifles into the air. Presumably the bullets fired from those go much higher up and so, in falling the long way back to the ground, they probably gain some velocity and could be a very different cup of tea.

I hope there's not another news report any time soon, on someone napping on his or her belly on the grass at the Washington Mall and getting hit in the derriere by a 30-30 bullet accidentally discharged through a pigeon loft roof in nearby Arlington, Va. I don't really need to know how that will work out. My conjectures and my unshakeable faith in probabilities will do.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Proportion in Iraq

Are two deaths more to be regretted than one, and three deaths more than two, and so forth? Some people, especially those with political agendas, might say not so and that where death is concerned, any number is to be mourned equally. But I don't see that at all, and I think, while sending the 4,000 young Americans to early deaths was horrible enough, the million or so Iraqi deaths with the accompanying even greater number of maimings and dislocations should always be mentioned first and with a proportionate amount of mourning and outrage.

But human nature being what it is, Americans invariably focus first on their own deaths and in ways that suggest they see that as being the main tragedy of Iraq, if any. This attitude must be a carryover from primitive times, when humans had not yet coalesced into the huge, overwhelming, and, frankly, unsightly mass that now covers the earth in the strips and patches that are unlucky enough to be able to accommodate them. Instead they existed only in groups of various sizes and were so widely separated from each other that each group was absolutely certain that they were the only people on the planet. And even though they've long since found that they are not, something keeps them from being able to drop that conceit.

I guess more time has to go by before that badly skewed outlook in any national group is righted and the true perspective is recognized. Meanwhile the big problem for us and for others is that, as long as they see things only from their end of the gun barrel, Americans will continue to try to shrug off their responsibility for having allowed the Bush Administration to set off this incredible tragedy in Iraq and to keep adding to it. In addition this helps set the stage for the next chapter of the same kind of catastrophe, maybe in Iran, just as Bush and Iraq already had their model in the actions of another Republican, Nixon, who likewise threw open the door for disaster in Cambodia.

"What does that matter?" some good Americans will think, "as long as it doesn't happen here."

But even in human affairs, sooner or later pendulums tend to swing back the other way, and that should be additional cause for concern from Maine to Hawaii.

"Man proposes, but God disposes," an old saying goes. And right now a just and merciful God surely has serious doubts about a country that has allowed itself to be under the sway of people who, out of the most baseless and perverse of motives, instigated a calamity of this magnitude upon another country, and in this case a much smaller one. And now it seriously compounds that error by seeing nothing obscene in the proposal that that administration be replaced with another headed by a man who has promised to keep that crime going for another four years or more, all in the name of a concept that, in Iraq, has become not only thoroughly debased but also has been pushed far out of the realm of any rational possibility: victory.

Actually, from any standpoint, the Bush invasion was a defeat the moment the first U.S. Army tires touched the sands of Iraq.

The Promised Land

In his last sermon the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. assured the assembled faithful that he and they together would reach the Promised Land. But a day or two later a bullet fired from afar ended his life.

After King's death, Ralph Abernathy, another clergyman and King's faithful assistant and successor, told the remaining faithful:"We will get to the Promised Land, and it will be under my leadership." But he turned out to have not nearly as much charisma, and the times had changed anyway. After a while nothing much was heard from him.

Earlier Eugene Debs, the famed Socialist leader of the early 1900's, had already told his followers something like, "I am not going to try to lead you into the Promised Land, because if I could, someone else could come along and lead you back out."

Land is the ultimate unit of wealth, because, along with the oceans, the atmosphere, and the Sun, it is the source of the great majority of the things that keep us alive and in reasonably good spirits, and he who has no land lacks having the biggest stake in the ultimate well-being of his nation. That is why those in flight from the clutches of a deceitful pharoah endured an ordeal of many years to get to the land. Also it had been promised.

After the Civil War there was the celebrated promise to the freed slaves of 40 acres and a mule, but the rising tide of events led the great majority of the emancipated and their descendants to seek their salvations in cities instead, and for a while the sun did shine as brightly there as on the fields.

But that wasn't forever, and in the years following the Second World War, those urbanites descended from Europeans chose to move closer to the basics -- including space -- that are so much more available on the land, and these new suburbanites took with them the smiles of the legislators and the industrialists that are so key to keeping cities in good repair. That left those who remained behind trapped, with none of the means that land provides for facing an uncertain future.

In 1895, when "black" people were being lynched in the American South at the rate of about four a day, they nevertheless owned 15 million acres of land.

Today, with lynchings long out of fashion but because of trickery, siren calls, and the choices of heirs, that number is down to 3 million acres or less.

Bye-bye, Promised Land.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

DNC Survey

Yesterday I got some mail from the Democratic National Committee At first I was glad to hear from them. I had been wanting to exchange some thoughts with them, though I knew that anything I had to say would be sadly inadequate, compared to what has already been delivered to them by Left Leaning Lady.

The Committee had sent me and I assume everyone else on the Democratic rolls what they called a "survey," along with a cover letter. I read both as thoroughly as I could, but that was hard, because of my increasing dismay. Instead of sending me the picture as things appear to me, they had sent a document much like a photographic negative, with all the colors and gradations reversed.

The letter and the survey were generously sprinkled with mentions of J. McCain and the dangers he presents, and I concede that that is very true. But at the moment McCain is doing everyone a great favor by being out of the country and therefore temporarily out of mind. The idea probably is that he is piling up "foreign policy experience" while the Democrats are temporarily unable to do the same, though actually he and his boy Lieberman are only engaging in an extended tourist trip, in which the media reports amount to fancy postcards in which they can tell the cat and the canaries back home that they got to talk with various leaders, and through those important consultations they learned that the boats do indeed go through the Suez Canal in both directions.

At this particular time, the situation with the unseated Michigan and Florida delegates is, in my opinion, the more pressing problem, and, just as this crisis was brought on in large part by the DNC inflicing punishment on those states, now things have worked out that, thanks partly to Republican legislators in both states who are more than happy to sit on their hands and so block Democratic efforts to hold revotes, only the DNC appears to have the means to end the impasse, by seating the delegates on the basis of the primaries that were held in both states in January. Yet there wasn't one mention of Michigan or Florida anywhere in the DNC's literature. Instead, at the end of survey they had tacked on what you might have expected, a modest request for money. It's easy to suspect that this pitch was the main point of the DNC's mailing, and the survey was just a dress-up for it. That's consistent with the negative reversal aspect.

Actually maybe the survey could be seen as reassuring. The DNC could be telling us that there is really no reason to worry about those delegates, whether or not they are ever seated. The Democratic nominee has already been chosen, all rancor and the August convention are history, and what remains is only to face head-on the apparition of John McCain and his blood-thirsty cohorts.

Nevertheless I've been thinking about returning the survey with all the questions left unanswered, and instead with the sheet covered only with words in huge, black letters, reading something like, "First, what about Florida and Michigan, dummies!"

But that would be rude, and these days more than ever I place huge store on not being rude.

Speaking of rudeness, I know all too well that the late General George Patton and I would not see eye to eye at all. But I have always taken great delight in the speech delivered by the also late, great George C. Scott in the first minutes of "Patton." That movie is worth seeing just for those lines, and also for Jerry Goldsmith's music. In his instructions to his troops, Scott/Patton says something like: "One more thing. I don't want to get any reports that we are holding something. We're not holding anything. Let the enemy do that. We are always advancing!"

That's how I feel about being rude. Let the enemy do that.

Besides, it's Easter, the season of brightly colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. Till yesterday I didn't know that today is Easter. Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Yesterday a friend came over to buy one of my wonderful pieces of beekeeping for which I no longer have any use.

While talking we looked at a devastated section of my once equally wonderful bearded iris collection, which for the last two years has been undergoing sytematic destruction by voles.

Until I few years ago I didn't know what voles were. They are, as you would expect, underground little animals at about the same size as moles but more mouselike. But moles have the great virtue that they build all those tunnels through your garden looking for Japanese Beetle grubs. Voles, on the other hand, like to eat your Iris rhizomes, your tulip bulbs, your lily bulbs, your tiny tree saplings, and other things whose flowering or fruiting days you've been looking forward to with great anticipation.

The friend said that in the process of trying to start a small orchard he had fought a losing battle with voles. He tried mouse traps and many other means, but nothing worked. Finally he asked an old nursery owner, and this man offered a simple but apparently effective solution. He said, "Stop feeding your cats."

Just two hours later, if that, as if he had been listening, Beauty, our lone cat, barged into our sunroom from outside, while making a loud noise. Too late I realized that the noise was like one you would expect to hear from a cat complaining loudly about an undesirable colleague trespassing on the premises or that he is in unbearable anguish, but in Beauty's case that cry is really his way of announcing to us and to the world that he has just made another great kill. And too late I also saw that he had something in his mouth. I quickly ordered him out, and he did, just as quickly, but only after first dropping his mouthful on the sunroom floor -- a dead vole.

I was here in the country for years before I even heard of voles. A little later i heard about what they could do, and a little after that I experienced firsthand their ravages.

That makes me smile anew at the warnings I got from certain people in the city, before moving here, about the bears, mountain lions, and other large animals that were waiting to "get" me. But I have found that, while the bears are indeed walking around and have in fact paid me a few visits, the real terrors of the wild animal kingdom around here are the tinies, the field mice and the voles.

It's no wonder that -- after that king-sized asteroid crashed into the Yucatan shoreline 65 million years ago and wiped out all the dinosaurs and everything else of that ilk -- the little beasty mammals hiding under the tree stumps came through just fine, and they went on to become the ancestors not only of ourselves but also of a species more faithful to them and who are now happily doing a Chixilub trip on my irises.

Obama, Racism, and As'ad

The Angry Arab doesn't care for B. Obama. He doesn't care for H. Clinton or J. McCain either. In fact I have been unable to detect anyone on the political scene, here or in the Middle East, that he does like. This shows how being angry is like having a boa constrictor wrapped around your brain.

A day or two ago, consistent with his usual views, Arab, or As'ad, published the following post:

Aside from his conversions on issues of foreign policy, one of the disturbing things about Obama is that--out of fear of offending white voters--he has not once spoken about his experiences as a victim of white racism. This is an African-American man who studied in New York City and in Boston, and traveled around the country but does not have the courage to speak about racism that he encountered in his life. I had an African-American graduate student once at Georgetown who would share with me his experiences as a victim of racism on a weekly basis. DC police used to stop him while he was walking. And do you notice that Obama sounds more like Clinton the longer he campaigns?

Among Arab's regulars is an incredibly obscene bunch that for now I will call the "Garbage-Mouth Gang." But they must've been busy slinging offal on each other on one of his other threads, so I took advantage of their absence to make a retort. His Obama post had hit home in a couple of ways.

Blogger Carl (aka Sofarsogoo) said...

That post is absurd, Professor. I think you should've looked at that grad student closer. Are you sure you weren't a victim of what you wanted to hear?

My observation and experience while being of the dreaded color and living here for much longer than Obama, 76 years to be exact, is that "white" folk have far too many other fish to fry, as unbelievable as that sounds.

In all that lifetime of moving around all over the place, including 45 years in D.C., the police have only stopped me twice, both while driving -- once at a shooting-fish-in-the-barrel speed trap and once at a license check where they were stopping everybody. If I had been looking for racism I might have had more success in finding some, but I never thought that was worth doing.

This retort was one of several that popped into my head after reading As'ad's post, and I only hit the button after I tired of trying to decide among them. I don't think it was necessarily superior or inferior to the others.

As usual, that wasn't the end, and afterward many other ways of framing a reply muscled their way in and out of my head, on into the next day. That's what happens when somebody touches on a subject that you've been mulling over all through your thinking career.

The trouble is that, besides the dozens and even hundreds of ways I could have thought of to respond if I could move myself to it, there are actually millions -- as many as there are Rainbows and Euroes in the U.S. That's because most of the time racism is subjective and a matter purely of perception.

I also believe that a lot of racism adheres tightly to the principle of you get what you give.

B. Obama appears to be much like me, a naturally non-salty person and therefore unlikely to have had much salt thrown on him in return, racist or otherwise. For all this country's problems there is still no state in the Union full of raging skinheads ready to spit on every "undesirable" that they see. There's not that much room for them. They're bad for the American Dream, which is still a tangible entity. So it's entirely possible that B. Obama has had very few personal experiences to relate that would be of interest and that would meet his own truth tests, since the subtle occasions -- which are more likely -- are too susceptible to being mere suspicions. Also they wouldn't have enough bite, while testimonies of more open cases, on the giving or the receiving ends, appeal only to those in the racism industry. For one thing, they're embarrassing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Convergence of Horrors

Several evenings ago I had to endure a lot of psychological discomfort.

It was caused by the 36th and 37th half-hour episodes of the HBO series about psychotherapy called "In Treatment." In those two segments far too many things came together that zeroed in on the two worst traumas of my life so exactly that it almost seemed to be intentional on the parts of the show's creators, or on the Powers That Be.

My discomfort was caused by Alex, one of the two characters that bothered me the most, though most people looking at him and then looking at me and being controlled by the likeness in pigmentation and gender, would assume that I would identify with him, or that in him I would see my son..

Alex had met a sudden death of, storywise, some as yet undisclosed cause. So the 36th segment took place in just the kind of circumstances that still so painfully scorch my mind from memories of my father's funeral, which next month will be 70 years ago, except that "In Treatment"s" treatment was on a much grander scale, because the Alex character was a bigtime Navy pilot in the year 2008, while my father had been a humble chauffeur in the year 1938.

But the fancy stuff didn't matter. What really mattered was that the episode showed all the mourners still standing around in the same stances that I remembered, immaculately dressed in their best black attire, looking solemn, and talking in hushed tones, and -- though I think I unconsicously but intentionally failed to notice, there had to have been a lot of flowers around, no doubt gladiolus. Of course I couldn't catch their scent either, but to this day the odor that I remember from those huge banks of gladiolus blossoms still terrifies me.

Finally, sinking my spirits even more, though I had been expecting it, the camera settled fondly, as every callous, unthinking, "creative" moviemaker on the planet feels he must have in his productions, the casket.

I am highly pained by the fact that I live in a culture that still can't get enough of the barbaric custom of having funerals at which the deceased are present, enclosed within those oblong, shiny, and always easily identifiable containers for the dead. One reason is that for me, the caskets might as well not be there, because I can easily look through the walls and see the bodies lying within, their hands crossed on their midsections, and all wearing filmy blue.

The dead do not make good attendees at those extravaganzas staged in their honor. This is because they have nothing to say, though, in regard to several burning questions that have engrossed humans through the ages, they alone are now in possession of the answers that the living are dying to hear.

The worst memory I have and one of the most vivid is, first seeing my absolutely still father lying in just such a box with his eyes closed, and then later seeing that container being slowly lowered into a rectangular hole lined with some sort of bright green material and bordered at its edge with a low bright brass railing -- a hole from which I was not too young to know he would never emerge.

I think that neither I nor my younger sister were well served by putting us through that, though of course that was in an era when the dangers of child trauma might not have been known.

If "In Treatment" is any indication, that awareness must still be zero, because Alex's two children are shown sitting there in the parlor taking everything in, just as my sister and I did, unaware of how we had been put in the process of shouldering a heavy burden that we would have to carry forward, not always successfully, for the rest of our lives.

In that episode the psychiatrist sits and talks with the young son just as he had been doing with the child's father. In my ear their words came across only as meaningless murmurs. No doubt I was thinking of how deeply sympathetic grown-ups must have sat down and talked with me in the same way, but their counsels probably never even reached my ear drums. What got through and never to leave were the visual things, and the smell of the flowers, and I keep hoping against hope that I will never be required to go through such a horror again.

A short, simple memorial service held next to a small, unpopulated, swiftly flowing river and attended by not that many people, all in clothing of any color that they want, is much to be preferred.

After unsuccessfully waiting for her to mention it, I finally brought up with my wife, Esther, the matter of my attending mother's ceremony. She answered that, knowing how things are for me, she hadn't even intended to bring it up.

Today my mother-in-law is to be laid to rest. As her only child, Esther will be at the center of that production. Because Julia was a teacher of generations and a pillar of the community, I expect that the event will be attended by a huge crowd of many persuasions, all looking their absolute best and impeccably clothed in various shades of black. It will be a beautiful spring day in Florida, and there will be eloquent eulogies and poems recited. There will also be lots of wonderful singing and colors galore, with enormous banks of deliciously scented flowers, including glads. I expect that the occasion will be all that Julia would have wanted and then some.

It has been so ordered, however, that meanwhile I will be here 900 miles away in the deep quietness of some woods in Virginia, with my only companion being one black cat. I will be trying to avoid certain thoughts, and for him that will be all well and good, except that he will much prefer that those reflections don't include the only topic of any real urgency: the contents of a small can.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stalemate in Fla-Mich

Over the last few days the strategies in Florida and Michigan have cleared a little, but it's not a pretty picture, if you're the kind that, from the sidelines, likes to see a game played right.

I had thought that the ball was in the DNC's court, especially when it came to Florida.

In Florida the state Democratic party had thrown up its hands when it became obvious that all the proposals for any kind of a re-vote had too many naysayers, and its chairwoman said that Florida simply does not want to vote again.

That seemed to mean that only the DNC could settle the matter, either by sticking to its vow not to seat any Florida delegates because of that state's defiance of the DNC's warning not to move up its primary, or by the DNC swallowing its pride and seating the delegates anyway, on the basis of that primary, which Florida held in January and was won by H.Clinton, 50% to 33%.

I had thought that, because he came out so far behind in Florida, and because stand-ins for him in Michigan, who voted both as "Uncommitted" and in the Republican primary, didn't do much better, it was to B. Obama's advantage to go for revotes in both states in hopes of a different result and picking up more delegates. But now many reports say that his 100+ lead in pledged delegates and the scarcity of more primaries before convention time make it impossible for H. Clinton to overtake him without big wins in Florida and Michigan. So it's to Obama's interest to drag his feet on all proposals to do anything inside both states till it's too late, and to take his chances that anything the DNC does will not hurt him either.

That's not sporting or chivalrous, but it's politics, though B. Obama might want to look farther, to gauge what might happen in those two states during the run-up to election day, if, as H. Clinton likes to point out, the voters in those states are piqued with the Democrats by the failure to allow their votes to have a say in picking the nominee, when every other state in the Union is definitely having one, which doesn't happen often.

Just today two Florida state senators came up with a plan that doesn't involve any action by the Floridians but instead calls on the DNC to seat half the delegates that Florida would ordinarily have and the other half by one of a number of different, proposed proportions, some based on the popular votes in the primaries of all the states except Michigan and Florida.

Meanwhile in Michigan, the prospects for some sort of a revote are slightly better, and Clinton is there right now trying to urge the legislature to get a move on, as that is where the main hangup is.

I keep looking for the DNC and their Rules and Bylaws committee to say something, because they're the main villains in this piece by being so rigid in refusing to allow Florida and Michigan to steal a clap or two of thunder from the smaller early bird primaries, mainly Iowa and New Hampshire. The DNC should have been able to look ahead and see that something like this might happen, and to have all sorts of contigency plans drawn up that wouldn't hurt the party.

But that would be expecting too much, and that's borne out by remarks made by James Roosevelt, Jr., a grandson of FDR, highly respected member of the DNC, and co-chairman of its Rules and Bylaws committee. In so many words he said that rules are rules and they're just going to stand pat and it's up to those two states to get something going.

In chess there is sometimes a peculiar possibility that puts both players up on their toes big time, if they're prudent. It usually rears its demonic head in the final stages of a game, and it snaps its jaws shut when one player's King is not in check, i.e. being directly attacked, and it's his turn to move yet neither his King nor any of his other men has a legal move. This nasty or comical outcome, depending on which side of the board you're occupying, is called a stalemate and it's a draw, usually to the dismay of the other player who more often than not has a winning advantage and who is now kicking himself for his carelessness.

I believe that, despite the steadfastness and the proven great integrity of the likes of Mr. Roosevelt over many years, he and his colleagues are in great danger of collectively becoming that latter player, except that in this case the the draw will be more like a several-fold loss.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Second Amendment

Taking a stab at being a Constitutional lawyer, or even a Supreme Court justice....

The Second Amendment of the Constitution says simply, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Do we see here an errant comma, clumsily inserted after the word "Arms" and then overlooked these many generations ago? Without it that sentence runs smoother, grammatically speaking, but the meaning seems to remain clear enough.

The operative word appears almost at once, a good thing, and it is "Militia." I haven't been in college for many years, but with that as my marker, if I was confronted with this sentence in an English class and asked to say what I think it means, I would consider that to be a soph question. And isn't answering that question precisely what the current discussion in the Supreme Court, about a case involving gun laws in D.C., is all about?

Without any hesitation I would answer that the amendment is concerned solely with militias. And if asked to elaborate, I would add that militias were groups of crusty, rusty Euro men -- the only citizens that counted in those days and therefore the only ones that the amendment's writers had in mind. And to distinguish them from lynch mobs, which were fashionable, their purpose was to be available to be called out whenever there was a need to deal with some sort of local disturbance. That was necessary because whatever there was of the U.S. Army would always be somewhere else on guard or trading cannonballs with the British, French, Mexicans, or others. And as the militias needed weapons to show that they meant business, and as it wasn't much fun to be in a militia anyway if you didn't have a weapon so that you could be legally sanctioned to shoot and hopefully murder somebody, and as it was expensive and a little dangerous to maintain armories because, among other things, they had been known to blow up, causing widespread dismay, it was thought best to operate the militias on the cheap and have those worthies bring along their own muskets, fowling pieces, dueling pistols, or whatever else they happened to have that could reasonably be used to inflict bodily harm. And, as the amendment said, the right to have those implements was not to be infringed, because otherwise you couldn't have a militia report for action empty-handed.

To have these guys armed, assembled, and ready for any other purpose was not covered, and so that was left for the governments of the future.

So, in case they don't already know, there is only one compound question that the Supreme Court needs to confront in this all-important case involving D.C., the city where I was born, raised, and educated but fortunately never shot, and that is in process right now. That question is, "Do we have militias today, and if so, is their right to have weapons ready and waiting at home being infringed?"

If I was an attorney on the good guys' side, the D.C. side, and if I was allowed, and if the justices weren't too short-tempered and impatient -- because of course I would already know the direction in which they would lean and soon enough would flop over completely -- I would adopt the philosophy that the longest way around is sometimes the shortest way home.

I would said, "No."

If challenged I would then go on to point out that militias long ago disappeared from American life, except in the form of illegal gun-toting groups with an intimidation agenda, like the KKK, the Black Panthers, and numerous hate groups. I would say that the organization closest to a legal American militia today is the National Guard, and thanks to the current folks in the White House, that group has essentially become part of the U. S. Army, and a large number of its men are serving alongside the Army and the Marines on the other side of the globe, ironically fighting just the kind of ragtag militias that the Constitution-amenders so fondly had in mind.

As far as the conclusion of the amendment's language goes, I would add that what we have instead in the way of owning and operating firearms and resisting infringements are merely deluded homeowners, obsolete hunters, a bunch of gun nuts with serious collections, and cities full of juveniles running around with usually concealed pieces, bought or stolen and used for robberies and to shoot each other and to terrorize any older people who might dare to try to instruct them. And that last cited group, in particular, will never be called out to face down a band of Cherokees or to quell a whiskey rebellion or to help the Army fend off the British, yet they will account for nearly all the daily homicides and gun cripplings that periodically make people want to do something drastic about owning guns.

In the face of that, the justices could then say, "You're arguing, then, that, as this amendment reads, the right to restrict the rights of gun ownership rests in the hands of present day governments as affected by their needs and not those of post-Revolution days. Therefore, if a government on any level thinks it might be helpful to restrict the sale and dissemination of firearms, it is within its rights to try to limit possession of the same, in whatever ways it thinks are feasible."

"Yes, Your Honor."

That wasn't hard to figure out. So what has all the fuss been about, then? --Oh, how can guns be kept out of the hands of angry, swaggering, unthinking youth? But that's another question entirely, and it should be entrusted to the computing powers of those who are currently trying to figure out a way to safely transport men to Mars and back. That has nothing to do with what the 2nd Amendment means.

This case is being closely watched because supposedly the current justices are enjoying the luxury of having a "clean slate" in front of them. That is extremely rare, and it must be a big relief for them, and maybe even exciting for their hugely inflated egoes. This means that there are very few previous decisions on this matter, setting precedents that they have to consider. Therefore they can create some new law, just like the first writers of the Constitution.

From what I've read they're on the verge of doing just that. They're appearing to lean away from the rights of governments and toward those of gun owners. That way they dodge a lot of political bullets but do nothing to help people avoid real bullets flying in the city streets. And they will relegate the Second Amendment to being just a small piece of outdated language.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Food Paradox

With my wife being down south most of the time recently and thus seldom being around to remind me, in spite of my best efforts I eat so little that often I feel weak and sometimes on the verge of illness, while my refrigerator looks as if I've forgotten what its purpose could be. Yet I could wash dishes every day and still the sink would always be full of more to do.

My question today, and on every other day, is, how can this be?

But it's good that life never runs out of such mysteries and paradoxes for use as cuds.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Dog Tag

Today I was reminded of something that always comes as a little of a surprise. I am a vet, of the Korean War. I survived nearly four years on the fierce battlefields first on the frigid shores of Lake Geneva in New York and then later in warmer Illinois, California, Nebraska, and Okinawa -- the last-named nine years after the fact -- plus two boat rides across the Pacific and one side flight to Goose Bay, Labrador.

All this was at the generous and thoughtful though also whimsical behest of Uncle Sam. For instance, upon our graduation from tech school in Illinois, why did he send the top guy to quaint, beer-swilling, post-Nazi Germany and all the others to what was then the hellhole of Korea -- except me, the 2nd ranking? I was dispatched to the ever sunny, orange-blossom ambience of Long Beach, California.

But Uncle Sam was quite a guy, and he never gave me or anyone else the why and the wherefore of his decisions. Instead he was always silent and only communicated with us via an unending series of documents that are now faded and crumbling, called "Special Orders." I never had any trouble picking out my name instantly among the others on the lists, because next to mine would be affixed the notation "(N)". Usually I was alone or nearly so in receiving this special attention, because most of the other airmen had nothing next to their names. Instead they had been consigned to total ignominy by being referred to at the start only as a group brusquely designated "W, unless otherwise designated."

I have to confess that I always got a surreptitious kick out of being one of the favored "otherwise designated." (It might help you to know that this was only five years after Harry Truman had desegregated the armed forces.)

--Someone had spoken of a website where, to get in, it helped if you were a vet. Always interested in things where it could come in handy to be a vet -- it only happens every decade or so, I can tell you -- I thought that as proof the site would want to know my serial number.

On the off chance that I remembered it and so wouldn't have to look it up, I thought I'd try punching a button in my mind.

To my surprise, eight digits came singing out that sounded suspiciously like the right ones!

Just to check, I got out my magnifying glass and looked at my dog tag, which I keep on my key chain. In the 56 years since the Air Force issued it to me, the tiny, embossed letters and numbers have sunk deep into the metal, and they were hard to read even with the glass. But yep, there those same digits were, precisely right.

It was the rhythm, you know. Back when I had to recite my name, rank, and serial number every time I turned around, I took to saying that number in a certain rhythm, a bar of music on which the numbers were printed like notes on a stave, and I guess by so doing I permanently engraved them in my head.

But there's an advantage to that. Even at this late date I can never know when I'll be taken a prisoner of war, except that now I have no rank to tell the captors. Hopefully, however, I will always know my name.

I thought about that dog tag, wondering if modern ones are made the same way, and whether they still have that little notch in one end. Probably not many people know what that's for. If you are killed in battle, they can open your mouth and insert the dog tag between your upper and lower teeth, with the notch pushed between two of your front teeth. Then they can give your corpse a good hard kick under your chin, to shut your mouth and lock the tag in there. That way everyone will know who you were.

I always thought that was an exceptionally interesting and important thing to know.

G. Ferraro and Her Zen "Koan"

Something is drastically wrong with me, otherwise how could I be missing something here that is so obvious to the rest of the world? All the reactions I have read to G. Ferraro's recent "inflamatory remarks" have said nothing to explain to me exactly why her words were racist and horrible. Obviously, then, everybody else is way smarter than I am. But I'd rather think that these detractors have just been snapping their whips by pure reflex, conditioned by the general biliousness of these times.

I thought my reading comprehension, though weakened, was still reasonably up to par, but now I am baffled, because her contention that B. Obama would not have been so successful if he had been a Euro, i.e. "white" man didn't strike me as being an attack. Instead it was a puzzler, and that was because I didn't find her meaning to be at all clear. II the import of her words was no more than what it appeared to be on the surface, how could the explanation she gave for Obama's success be possible?

Her statement sounded to me as if she was saying that "black" men -- formerly that much-feared and scorned bottom-most rung of American society, except when they are holding microphones in front of their faces or are carrying a ball of some kind under one arm -- actually have been discovered to have a tremendous but previously unrecognized capacity for good governance. Yet in all the years that I've been on the scene and watching things, exactly the opposite view has been held with unbreakable tightness to the bigoted breast.

Surely there couldn't have been such a total turnaround in just this one year. Things in this huge, inertia-gripped country just don't move that fast. So, though that may not have been Ms Ferraro's intent, to my ear her words actually implied that B. Obama, in his capacity as the newfound wonderful "black" man, is in fact, by opening eyes, a true worker of miracles, and that is not a racist statement but a ringing compliment instead.

Or maybe on a more mundane level she meant that B. Obama was profiting from "white" guilt or from the number of "black" voters. But I don't think you will find nearly enough of either to account for his numbers.
This whole business shows why it's so important, especially in superheated situations, to speak in such ways that there's absolutely no room for misunderstanding. How many times have we seen people saying something more ambiguous than they realized at first, and the listeners, unable to unravel it in the two seconds that they want to think about it, are so piqued by their inability that right away they choose to jump on any part of the statement that can be taken to be verboten.

G. Ferraro's first mistake, then, was coming out with something so gnarled that it couldn't instantly be understood yet led people to think that they understood perfectly, and the second was letting herself, as a so-called "white" woman, be heard having the effrontery to use the term "white man" so close to B. Obama's name and therefore by absolute implication to the concept of "black men." In such cases in various circles nothing more needs to be heard, because she spoke in an atmosphere in which every statement is avidly searched for possible use as gasoline to be thrown on the electoral fires.

Her third mistake was also a matter of meaning, and it arose from a shortcoming common to most Americans, and that is a habitual slackness in the use of that wonderful language, English, that they profess to be using. Instead she should have taken a cue from yours truly, and in place of "white men " and "black men," she should have chosen the far more accurate and meaningful terms, "Euro" and "Rainbow" men, respectively.

Then she would have struck a great blow for linguistic freedom, though that event would have been slow to dawn on most of her listeners. Still, she would've been all right, and the Clinton-haters, both the traditional ones and the newborns, would have had to hook their talons elsewhere.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vigil's End

The vigil in Florida for my wife and her stepfather, and for her mother, is over.

Last night, on the 15th, my mother-in-law, Julia, left this life. By a strange chance it was her birthday. She was 82 (or 83). The combination of several highly severe conditions that set in nearly all at once finally had their say, and under solicitous therapy center care, she slipped away for her appointment with her Maker, in comfort.

She was a career school teacher, and after retirement she served on the county school board, being elected its chairman at one point.

My wife, Esther, called to tell me right after she was called with the word. Being choked with tears, she couldn't talk to me for long. I'll find out what else is happening later on, in what is now the next day. Unable to sleep I'm staying up late, keeping myself occupied at the computer, alone in the house here in Virginia.

I don't think my wife expects me to be at the funeral, though we haven't talked about it. It's been a long time since I've made a day-long drive, and she has become the one who does all that, and she is way down in Florida.

Plus I was badly traumatized by having to attend the funeral of my father when I was only six, and some of those details have never left, in full color. In the middle part of my life I gradually became less afflicted by the memories, but lately they have found increased occasions to return, and that has not been good. Sometimes I feel as if I have never gotten far from April of 1938.

My wife has lots of relatives in Florida and Georgia, plus her mother and stepfather had many friends, so my wife will have no shortage of highly supportive company. She and her stepfather had been resigned to this and about as ready as it is possible to be, for about two weeks.

I will miss Julia. Due to geography I never saw that much of her, but through my wife's closeness to her I was always aware of her benign presence, wherever she happened to be, and it was always nice to know that she was around.

And the odd thing is that, for me, that means there won't be much difference. In the sense of which I'm speaking, she will continue to be "around," and to nearly the same extent.

River on the Outside

Well, it's time for yet another post about my favorite Iraqi poster girl -- actually the only one -- though I've never seen a picture of her and don't even know her name, except "Riverbend," as she refers to herself on her often interrupted weblog, Baghdad Burning.

As has happened several times, she is again missing from the Internet airwaves, or should I say computer wires? She hasn't posted anything since October 22, close to five months ago. At that time she and her family had left Iraq and were in Damascus, Syria, along with a million and a half other Iraqi refugees, and also including two and a half million more who have fetched up in other countries. This was after the actions of the Bush bandits five long years ago, to the tune of the leader announcing that the move would bring freedom to all Iraqis, and instead, among many other dire consequences, it led to four million of the Iraqis fleeing in fear of many kinds out of their beloved land, site of the world's first ever civilizations.

As always I wonder what River and her family are doing. I'm confident they're still alive. If Iraq couldn't get them -- and it had plenty of chances -- then how could Syria or anywhere else? But these things can have minds of their own.

The other day Juan Cole, the best source I know of on the situation in Iraq, especially since Riverbend left, moaned the lack of news reports on the still high levels of mayhem in Iraq, and he called on the webloggers to take up the slack. So, immediately I felt personally responsible.

Just kidding.

Earlier in my weblog career I used to post on Iraq regularly. At least I believe I did . I think my recent lack of Iraq postings has partly been because first Riverbend was talking of leaving and then she actually did so. She and the way that she and her family were courageously existing in the heart of the Iraq maelstrom for over four years furnished a personal connection that could easily be felt by those on the outside, as if she were a close friend, and I was far from being the only one that she affected that way, even if she made it clear that she had absolutely no use for Americans.

But that doesn't mean that I don't read Cole every day and check out his daily litany of death and destruction, which is so large and continuous that you have to wonder how Iraq could possibly still be standing. By now half the population must have been found by police in mass graves. Yet a lot of them are still bustling about and toughing out things there as best they can. Twenty-four million must be too many to be easily eradicated by their cousins or by foreign bombers and gunfighters.

Riverbend is probably a Sunni, if she is anything. I say that because I don't remember her being critical of Saddam Hussein or of the Ba'athists. And that must've been why she and her folks had to finally give up and leave Baghdad, because the majority Shi'ites have been busy driving the minority Sunnis out of their neighborhoods.

I hope that River hasn't had to hock her computer yet and soon can get close enough to some amperes to learn that people are still thinking of her, and so she can tell us more of how things look now from the outside. That can be as illuminating as the view from inside the burning belly.

If you don't read anything else today, check out the last two posts on her weblog, the one I mentioned and the one before.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Update on the Hanging States

I was overly optimistic or either misled by news reports that were not in full possession of the facts. Now it seems that solutions to the delegate dilemmas in both Michigan and Florida are still not that close, and the B. Obama people seem to more of the problem than the H. Clinton side.

Up to now, the counsel of B. Obama's advisers seem to have been almost faultless, helping to account for his overall lead in delegates, but here they appear to be gambling too much. I sincerely hope they know what they're doing.

Of course it stands to reason that they should be uneasy at the idea of revotes, because the initial votes were not encouraging for them. H. Clinton finished ahead in both the original votes, 55% to 44% for the uncommitteds in Michigan, and 50% to 33% in Florida.

In both states the sentiment seems to have settled largely on in-person revotes. And how else can the matter really be settled, short of the DNC being stirred by their money backers and others to seat the delegates determined by those original votes after all? But I wouldn't expect the Obama people to be pleased by that either.

One report tonight said that also the money needed for the revotes cannot be easily raised. I doubt that, once decisions are made.

All this strikes me as being exactly like a chess game being played behind a curtain, and as a longtime chessplayer I resent not being able to see the moves. Meanwhile the clocks are ticking, and I feel second to no one in being familiar with the intense agony of falling into time trouble.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What Shall We Do About Florida?

Some people in the state of Florida -- which is already sorely cursed by having too many Republican governors, too many bowel-bound Cuban exiles, and absolutely no high ground -- are worried. They fear that because of the Democratic delegate difficulties hanging fire there, threatening to create a fiasco rivaling the events that plunged the U.S. into a darkness that has lasted for eight years now, their state will be blamed, just as it was, and rightfully, in 2000.

The delegate situation is almost the twin of that in Michigan, with the important difference that though neither he nor H.Clinton campaigned in Florida, honoring the punishment meted out to the state by the DNC for moving its primary date up into late January instead of having it in early March, this time B. Obama's people, more prudent than those in Michigan, kept his name on the ballot, though, as in Michigan, again H. Clinton won, with the smaller figure of 50%.

The Florida situation is more mysterious to me than is the Michigan one, because of some questions that I haven't seen the news reports answering, maybe because the answers make so little sense that the authorities are loathe to let them be known.

One is, since a record number of people already voted for Obama and Clinton in the Florida primary on January 29 to the tune of over 1.7 million, why can't the delegate count so determined stand, while the DNC drops its vindictiveness and seats them? If the pair didn't campaign, so what? Is there a law that they have to campaign? That just means the campaigns saved some badly needed funds. Meanwhile surely the literacy rate is high enough in Florida that their views were almost as well known in the first of the year as they would be in this coming June, six months later.

I am missing something important there, but I hzve been unable to find out or to conjecture what it could be.

A combined plan of in-person voting combined with mail-in voting, to be completed in June, is being floated in Florida, but at least on the surface no one likes it. The entire Democrat Congressional delegation is on record as being opposed. Why? The news reports never pass along any explanations.

The H.Clinton and B.Obama campaigns are also opposed. Why? I think it is because they don't like the mail-in voting, because they fear it will open chances for fraud and ballot-counting irregularities. The H. Clinton campaign wants a state-run in-person re-do. As yet I haven't seen any statements on what B. Obama wants. I think that, having in a sense missed the boat in Michigan, though he would bitterly deny that, now he is just doing some watchful waiting, leaving it to the responsible parties, which by all rights should be the DNC but most likely won't be, to come up with something palatable.

But despite all the air of impasse and of ponderous movement if any, things may not be that bad, and actually it looks as if all that really remains to clear the air is raising a mere 12 million dollars in Florida and the same sum in Michigan. That is the amount needed to do the in-person redos, which the Obamas ought to like even more than do the Clintons, since they lost both the previous bouts in those states.

So, from here that is what needs to be done and ought to be easy enough to do. But they had better start moving. I know from bitter personal experience that the most ominous day of the year, June 22, the Summer Solstice, when the nights start getting longer than the days, always comes up like a shot.

Side note: I loved the matching titles that I picked for these last two posts, but for a long time I didn't know why, except that they sounded musical. This morning suddenly it came to me. That second person inside my head that does most of my writing was remembering a sea chanty on one of my concept tapes. The chanty starts with "What shall we do with a drunken sailor," and that it is repeated twice, ending with "...so earl-li-ay in the morning?" followed by a resounding burp.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What Should Be Done About Michigan?

Let me see if I can talk about the current primary mess in Michigan in a way that even I can understand.

Phase 1: Following a trend, Michigan Democrats decided to move their primary up to earlier than the 5 Feb "Super Tuesday." So did Florida. But the Democratic National Committee (the DNC) said no, no, and as punishment stripped those two "rogue states" of their delegates to the convention

I don't know why the DNC did that. If I had been on the DNC, I would not have gone along. Due especially to the urgency of the times, that decision was bound to cause trouble down the line, even if events hadn't worked out the way they did. Both those states held primaries anyway, on the January days they wanted and so defying the DNC. So, if nothing more was done, were the conventions really going to start with no delegates from two sizable states, and against an opponent as toxic and implacable as the Republican party? Unthinkable!

I don't understand what all the fuss is about anyway, concerning the dates of the primaries. Whenever they fall, it's after way too much has been heard about the campaigning, and they start happening much sooner than they should, and in the winter.

Phase 2. Both Obama and Clinton went along with the DNC to the extent of agreeing not to campaign in Michigan, and Obama went farther by also taking his name off the ballot, but Clinton left hers on. To counter that, Obama people urged Michigan voters to vote "Uncommitted," and that "stand-in" got 44% of the vote. But Clinton got 55%.

Phase 3. Not that much was said about the situation till after the votes of the biggies in February, when, unexpectedly and to some horror, both candidates were left still very much in the running. Also a lot of furore was being stirred up far ahead of time about superdelegates and fights in the convention, and with that suddenly it was deemed desirable to bring the Michigan (and Floridian) delegates onto the stage after all. But in what manner that would mean the least embarrassment to all concerned, and also would not strain the coffers ? And it seems to me that at least in Michigan there was a lot of embarrassment to go around, except to H. Clinton.

It doesn't look as if it was real sharp of the Obama people to take his name off the ballot if his opponent didn't. It reminds me of one man walking away before the whistle to play is blown in a hockey face-off or a basketball tipoff, leaving his opponent to bat the puck or the ball in any direction he pleases. And, to borrow some words spoken by, I think, the Benjamin Franklin character in the trailer to the upcoming "John Adams" series, getting on the ballot, especially for President, is no small thing, by a very long shot. So why jump off it, unless a Greenland-sized asteroid is only minutes away?

Phase 4. So what should be done? In the interest of avoiding extra expenditures in time, money, and effort, the natural impulse is to work with what they already have, and the Clinton camp has good reason to favor doing just that. But the Obama camp can feel themselves to be on higher moral ground, party speaking, since they went along with the DNC all the way, and in the process were agreeable to those eager smaller early birds, notably Iowa and New Hampshire, and they can argue that in any case the will of the Michigan voters can't be really known if there isn't some kind of a revote.

The solution? Last night I thought that H. Clinton should agree to be magnanimous and allow a 51-49 split, in her favor. That would lessen the charge so often levelled against her of being the Iron Lady, plus she would still be the overall winner. And Obama should be satisfied with winding up 5% better than his "stand-in" votes managed.

But I woke up this morning thinking that in the interest of keeping everything clean and free of future regrets and suspicions,, the only way is a revote, preferably in person. The pique of those who have already bothered to vote once and now have to stir themselves again would be outweighed by this new chance that others who didn't take part the first time could seize to get in on the fun after all. The weather would be warmer and it wouldn't be that bad.

As for Ms. Clinton, I think she is in a strong enough position to chance it, and she would come across as being daring and bold. Besides, she would have contributed to the Ultimate Truth.

Who would pay for it? The DNC, being mostly to blame, should shoulder the biggest cost. The Obama camp might throw in something, and H. Clinton lesser still, because she went only partway toward bowing to the DNC's bad judgment, and instead she refused to deny the great honor that she and Obama had been given simply by being placed on the ballot.

I hope that writing this at least gives me a stab at making some sense out of an intensely knotty situation. Meanwhile it will be interesting to see how close either of these two snap judgments comes to the final decision. --The joys of having a weblog, especially one in which there is nothing at stake!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Water from a Spigot

Not having enough terrors and titillations, some Americans are enjoying and cringing at recent reports saying that trace amounts of various pharmaceuticals have been found in the drinking water of municipalities all over the country, including in D.C. These traces got there from the drinking water having been recycled from waste water.

I am unperturbed. That's because it's been pointed out to me in literature that every molecule of water that we drink is recycled anyway, not only from our wastewater but also from all the water all over the world for millions of years. That's because all the water we have, including all those vastnesses of poisonous stuff in which the jellyfish team, is all the water that we, and the dinosaurs, have ever had. It never comes in from outer space, if we discount the bare traces left with us by comets and other occasional visitors, nor does it leave the planet in any appreciable amounts.

So it is said that, on the molecular level at least, some of the water that each of us drinks every day is the same water in which Christ washed his hands, or, if you prefer, the same water that was used to wash the blood, guts, and feces out of the Colosseum, during the "Games."

When I attended Howard University in D.C., and actually always before that, close to the campus right there in the middle of the city there was, and most likely still is, a strange body of water that everyone noticed, yet it was never a topic of conversation. It covered from 10 to 20 acres, and adjoining it were some fields dotted, at regular intervals by equally strange small square brick structures. It was called the McMillan Reservoir, which meant that it obviously was there to furnish drinking water for the residents.

It was fenced off well enough to prevent interlopers, such as mischievous boys, from entering, and actually you never saw anyone on those well-mown, grassy stretches. Yet my recollection is that it was so close even to houses directly across the street that it wouldn't have taken much for someone to throw a phial of poison or whatever over the fence and into those waters. But no one ever did. You just drove or walked by and admired the sight, and that was all the interest that was ever taken.

But having imagined such an event from an early date, worrying about trace amounts of Aleve in my drinking water to the tune of parts per trillion doesn't strike me as being anything to worry about.

Still, when the "War on Terror" started, I thought it was exactly the water supplies that were most in danger, much more than are nuclear power plants, because there must be thousands of such reservoirs all over the country, open to a strong arm. Does this mean that the terrorists are not as terrible as was originally thought, since nothing of the kind has happened yet? Or that reservoirs are not as easy to contaminate as one might think? Or that we're not supposed to mention such possibilities, for fear of giving people ideas? The information is that gooping a reservoir is much easier said than done.

Maybe the McMillan Reservoir was one of the things on my mind when I moved here to the countryside in Virginia, where I could become my own water company. I haven't yet become my own electric company, as I very much wanted also to do, but it did work out in the case of the water, as I was able to drill my own well, and install the pump, the pressure tank, and the other apparatus myself, and pipe it up to the house myself. All our water arrives from underground, though I am sure the various wild life has had things to say about what's in it, and instead of pharmaceuticals we daily imbibe a good share of bacteria. But by now, hopefully, and evolution being what it is and a fast worker when it wants to be, those microscopic beings have become good friends of our systems.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tagged by a Lady

Though I haven't been acquainted with her that long, Left-Leaning Lady over at My Musings, thought well enough of me to "tag" me, along with Andante, after she herself had been tagged. And now I'm supposed to answer, as well as to tag four other people in turn.

I used to do that sort of thing now and then, but my mind no longer runs in those channels. I've come to see it as being too much like skipping stones across a pond. That's fun for the person throwing but not for the fish peacefully gliding around just under the surface of the still waters.

So I won't be tagging others, though my mind, all on its own as so often, insisted on going through the list anyway, as follows:

10 years ago:
Right there I'm in a big discomfort zone (one of those fish that I spoke of), because I can only wonder what presentiments I had about two of the most severe personal tragedies that were already shaping up before arriving in just three more years. Otherwise that was the halfway point between the year when I finished the most paintings, 1996, and 2000. the last year that I actually finished one.

5 Things to do Today:
1. Mail off a year's payment for our fire insurance.
1 thru 4. Do all the other stuff that I do every day, such as eating right (not an easy thing to do), trying to stay warm, washing the dishes, checking out what's on the Internet and on my BUD (Big Ugly Satellite Dish), writing things, and walking around outside tending to things while being glad that Spring is almost at hand.

If Suddenly I Had a Billion Dollars:

I would do all the normal stuff that would occur to any decent person and then hide. But actually that is too appalling to think about, for a bookful of reasons. All my fantasies are much classier than that. For instance I would love to have a meteorite the size of a softball to plop down in my garden. I believe it would be illegal not to report that.. I wouldn't tell the authorities a damn thing about it. But not a stone one. I want a nice, shiny, metallic one. Now that would be something to have, a true gift from the Heavens!

Three of My Faults.
1. I put off far too many things.
2. I don't do enough to ward off things that could be injurious to me.
3. I keep honing my memories and speculations to such a sharpness that harrowing events affect me just as if they were happening right now, though they may have already have been done with years ago, and though they are things that could happen in the future but probably won't, and though I myself and my situation are such that they're not happening right now either.

Jobs I've Had
1. Delivering newspapers.
2. Grocery store worker.
3. Throwing mail.
4. Gas Station attendant.
5. Maintaining aircraft radios (Air Force).
6. Specifications writer (ostensibly).
7. Technical editor.
8. Beekeeper (self-employed).

Things that People Don't Know About Me
1. I thought that sending men to the Moon was a big crock, in a lot of respects.
2. I think I got a much better deal in life than Elvis Presley did.
3. I have never had any desire to visit Hawaii or Las Vegas.
4. I am suspicious of all the charges leveled against Caligula. I think it's possible that he got a bum rap.
5. I could've been an outstanding President of the United States, though I'm perfectly aware that I could never have been elected even to clean the spit off the sidewalks.
6. I know how Cuba could easily have been taken out of Castro's hands and gathered safely back into the American bosom 45 years ago.
7. I turn cold and shudder uncontrollably whenever I hear cloth tearing.

...Well, my wife does know that last one.