Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Comet I Came In On

I've been watching an infinity of science shows on TV. I'm becoming something of a groupie for the greats in science. If so many of them weren't dead long ago, I'd be at their dressing room door.

It's refreshing to me, being able to see my Fellow Brains exploring things and explaining it so others can finally understand what's going on. If I knew how exciting it was in school, I would've been fascinated by the recesses of the past. Instead, all I can look back on are the recesses of the past.

I have to nod every time Neil deGrasse Tyson says something, or Michio Kaku, or when Stephen Hawking's narrator voice speaks. I friend-love each of these guys (h.t. to Yumi Sakugawa). Tyson, I frankly never heard of till the Cosmos show, now I find he's been famous all this time. Proving once again, the talk at the barber show is strictly lowbrow. I definitely think Tyson's cool. If we could do a brain switch, it'd be me flying in space, and him writing these trifles.

As for flying in space, actually we all are! Ultimately, at these speeds, the Milky Way galaxy flying a million miles an hour, you'd think it'd at least mess your hair. But somehow we don't notice it that much, especially when we stay inside. The fact is it's all very big, millions of miles across, big like Greenland on the Mercator map.

Some of the shows I've seen lately have touched on comets and the theory that earth's water came from outer space. The way time works is if you have enough of it, anything's possible. It might take 100 million years for the earth to form, then another 100 million for comets to create the oceans, maybe a thousand gallons at a pop. Very weird stuff, but perfectly timed. Unless you're worried about all the comets that missed us before earth was here. Someone else has our water!

Naturally, 100 million years, not to mention 13.8 billion years, takes us rather far afield of 4004 BC, and that glorious day when, after a restful weekend, God smiled and created the heavens and the earth. It's getting tougher to hold to the "one swell foop" doctrine, especially when we can still look and see the light from 13.8 billion years ago. But to each his own. I actually haven't yet given up on the theory that we won't be created for another 100 years, and our apparent presence now is only meant to eventually test our faith in the Doctrine of Postponed Reality.

You can't deny the attractiveness of the doctrine. None of my mistakes have yet happened. I can still be Tyson and Tyson me. And someday I'll miraculously "write" all the Beatles' songs at the age of 5. Coincidentally, at this moment I'm listening to Mozart's 40th symphony, another of my future originals.

OK, the comets are theorized not just to have brought water but the beginnings of life on earth. Which makes sense, if the earth was previously nothing but dry asteroids colliding and erupting in fire. We know comets have ice. I posit that a million of them put out the fires and the rest filled the ocean basins. Surely among 500 million comets there'd have to be at least two living germs hot to trot.

It's all been so long ago, of course we don't know which comet it was. It's the stuff of Cold Case. But we know how it turned out. A germ, various mutations, the dinosaur, more mutations, the gerbil, the cockatiel, more mutations, a monkey in a tree, Darwin, the rest of us, Devo, and finally Neil deGrasse Tyson and me. O the regrets! He was a friends with Carl Sagan and became a great astrophysicist. I had a tough time making friends, but could spell 'encyclopedia' in 5th grade and understood the distinctions between 'from' and 'form' when they stumped the other kids. The glory years!

Remember the cult a few years ago -- in the '90s -- waiting for a comet to pick them up? They didn't get it. The comet you came in on dropped you off for a reason, then crashed somewhere. It ain't coming back.

REDRUM, He Wrote

The paper had an interesting story today -- and photo -- of a guy charged with murder. That's everyday stuff, of course, but what made this interesting was the tattoo on his neck. Looking at him straight on, he had REDRUM tattooed, reversed to see it better in a mirror. And it was huge, estimating it to be a 1000 pt outline font. Counsel has moved to allow him to cover it or have it removed, lest the jury find him YTLIUG and he's YAWA TUP.

Whatever happens to that guy, I'm sure you'll join me in wishing for him a completely fair trial, with the prosecution prevailing only if they prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that he has REDRUM on his neck, in my opinion, doesn't say anything incriminating necessarily.

There could be lots of reasons -- from an artistic bent to sheer antisocial cussedness -- for his tattoo. I know a lady with a pretty flower on the back of her leg, and that doesn't mean she's good at gardening. In fact, she lacks a green thumb.

I've always been that way about fair trials. As an average citizen, I read the paper and form opinions. But these accounts are always lacking some of, usually most of the evidence. In a different case, this other guy charged with murder, who is allegedly a hothead, went with some folks on a pleasant outing in the country. Apparently something turned sour, as everyone but him was brutally murdered, including a toddler whose body was found in a creek. Of course my first thought is Bigfoot. Then I start considering this guy. But if I'm on the jury, or I'm the judge, I go for the reasonable doubt conclusion.

I think I would've made a great judge. We've got a pesky defender or prosecutor, moving for a bathroom break. I go, "I'm the judge, I'll say when we have a bathroom break ... bathroom break! 10 minute recess. Be back in 9. If you take 11, you'll spend the rest of the trial in stocks. And anytime I see a juror even start to nod, it'll be one lash of the cat 'o nine tails for you. OK, sorry, I went long, be back in 8."

Other than messing with them like that, I'd be impartial and good. Soaking it in, proud when the bailiff calls out, "All rise! The honorable Tobias G. Slump presiding!" I look out, nod, have everyone be seated, wink at the cute bailiff, which whom I've just been in quarters, and admire the defendant's interesting tattoo, a guy sneaking a canoe out of Walmart, coincidentally the same crime he's charged with. The final verdict: Innocent! (I believe the defense, that the canoe was put in his truck by person or persons unknown, invisible to video surveillance.)

It's my prayer -- which I expect to be answered -- that someday soon we shall get past all this. For you see, I fervently believe in the perfectibility of man. Call it the new heaven and new earth, call it the Millennium, or just call it the pink-starred la la land I'm favored to live in. But I see a day when there's no REDRUM, drug-dealing, bank robberies (even by bankers), or the stealing of canoes.

In my new world, every person is so content in their being and Ultimate Being, in fact we're One! Each of us will follow -- by a redeemed nature and social setting -- the Golden Rule. Or, to refine that statement, our will won't will evil, our wont won't be toward evil. All mankind will possess their own person in peace, dwelling peaceably under the communal fruit tree, nothing really their own except maybe a nice shirt, a pair of pants, suspenders, and shoes that shall never wear out.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How Are Things in the Ukraine?

Pictured above is one of the very helpful reports my blog receives from my exclusive partnership with Google. It shows my pageviews by country. I'm not going to say if it's daily, weekly, yearly, or all time. But it's one of those.

I happen to be in the United States, so of course I'm heartened that most of my pageviews are from home. This is the audience I frankly prefer, since most of them know English and are not located so far away as to be mucho foreign. As an aside, I'd like there to be a few United Kingdom visitors for the same reason, instead of all these other screwball places. But you know what they say about begging and choosing.

Still, look at what I'm dealing with! Canada, a measly 8? I can see France coming in at 11; I never speak Canadian, but once in a while I use French, like raison d'etre and savoir faire, so they like to see that. Turkey, I don't get, probably something to do with my Thanksgiving posts. Then there's the complete inscrutability of the others, excluding Germany, since I do on occasion say something about the war. Then Taiwan! Russia! China! Give me a break. All that's crazy, but the very craziest is Ukraine coming in just after the United States! It's the rabbit and hare all over; if America slept a mere 20 minutes, Ukraine would pass us and win!

My actual theory on what's going on sounds very dark, I know, even conspiratorial, but I'm going to say it anyway. Who's more into hacking, gambling, the black market, the sale of body parts, bootlegging, illicit drugs, and dropping out in the 8th grade than these countries? Over there, if you live to be 5 you've beaten the odds. So they're doing something with otherwise neglected websites like mine. Let's say it's like this: I have zero contact with any of them, making my blog the perfect decider for bets. They could look up a post, deciding that X number of characters from a particular line settles something. Web blackjack, roulette, vault combinations, longitudes and latitudes for mumble-peg tournaments, etc.

Going through the possibilities, I'm halfway afraid to ever quit writing. They might set my house on fire. And with global warming and a foolish thatch roof, that's nothing to joke about. I sometimes don't blog for a week at a time, then I get nervous I'm going to see a foreign head pop up on my screen making threats in a tongue I don't understand ... But I would understand the finger cocked like a gun. ... It's scary, the freaking Ukraine!?

If any Ukraine-ites do contact me, I'll try my best to mollify them, such as expressing solidarity with them against Putin, if that's how they swing. Solidarity with Putin if otherwise. Maybe they'll comment on my blog what they might otherwise tweet if Twitter goes down and they need a functioning outlet. For example, I'll say, "Ukraine, how are things?" They'll say, "Could be better," "There's shortages," or, "Tell your NRA patriots, send ammo."

That's important stuff, making it critical -- essential -- that I keep posting. I'm sure one of them is thinking right now, "There are shortages. For example, Putin has a short fuse, and who knows what else? He's willing to show his upper half, why not the lower?"

I'd absolutely love to get a tribute like so: "We need more Grandma Slump posts. It's the only thing that gets us through these tough nights. What with the Army rock 'n' rolling all night and partying every day." That's vivid, a slice of life under siege, and a decent compliment for me.

Conquer the Darkness! -- Light Bulb Hoarding

I think I've about got this light bulb hoarding thing whipped. At the present moment, barring looters and greedy relatives, I have enough light bulbs to last me ... forever ... using them at a typical rate of three a week, not accounting for decreased longevity of said bulbs with the passing of time. I've never seen an expiration date on a light bulb pack.

For any fellow Ayn Rand fans out there, you might say I've gone Full Galt when it comes to light bulbs. I've cornered as much of the market as I need, and I'll be stingy with my stash. The only way I'll even think of disposing of any is if, say, blackberry jelly, which I love, is suddenly in short supply and there's a fellow Galter with a warehouse full of jars. Or, say, they come up with an iPhone battery that miraculously breaks the hour barrier.

That doesn't mean I can't say how I did it, which was secret till now. I've got so many bulbs now, nothing can stop me! I talked to a wholesaler, who shared with me some insider forms. (He helped me in exchange for three jars of jelly.) I rented a mailbox in Arkansas, pretended to be a member of the Walmart family, Sam Walmart, in fact, and started making contacts. Light bulb companies got right back to me, of course, kissing my ass in ways I didn't know existed, extremely pleasurable. It took about a week and in no time my half acre was piled high with bulbs, 45s, 60s, 75s, 100s, and even a few thousand votive candles, which I like for my devotions.

I cashed in some of Grandpa's old AT&T stock, basically emptying one of the mattresses, so now everything's taken care of. Then it was a simple matter of renting a few dozen semi trucks, buying out a local storage company, evicting all the previous tenants, and getting the bulbs and candles neatly arranged. Naturally, I did some spreading around; not everything went to the storage facility, in case of sinkholes or thieves. I also got several thousand safety deposit boxes, and bought the rights to a massive climate-controlled cave, previously only housing classic Hollywood films and TV shows. Let 'em crumble!

Of course I don't have a perfect count on how many bulbs I ended up with, but it has to be over a million. (Wholesalers give you bonuses). That's how much I hate the new squiggly light bulbs! I tried one a few years ago. I had it in my bathroom. You'd go in in the dark, click on the light. There'd be a faint glow -- dismally faint -- that would be nearing its cycle of powering up, around 65%, by the time you were all done and searching for the roll of toilet paper, loose since I hate wasting time putting it on the thing and prefer to have it lying about. That's terrible, my family says, and I say the same goes for the squiggly light bulb's performance.


See also: How Many Light Bulbs Will I Need to Hoard?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What If I Had to Save the Kitesurfer?

The other day in my endless peregrinations in life, a fifty cent word meaning travels, I found myself down at the lake. I had a full tank of gas, so I threw caution to the wind.

Speaking of wind, it was the windiest day the world has ever seen. At least where I was. I'm actually convinced that I was somehow led to the headwaters of wind, the treasury of wind not yet released.

But I wasn't the only one. There was another. A mysterious figure, whom, as far as I knew, was an immortal, possibly the overseer of the treasury, out testing his wares. I crouched behind a bush, although no doubt he saw me on one of his bold flights.

His method of flight, however, was one of worldly origins -- kitesurfing -- so I was able to relax on that account and return to my fully-exposed car. His truck was just up the hill a piece.

There I was, then, completely free to watch this fabulous spectacle, the daring young man on the flying board and kite. I was this close to losing myself in wonder, when -- in my mentality I quickly crashed to earth. I thought, trying to hide the resentment with a false smile: "He's so fit, so athletic, so carefree, at such peace and oneness with his equipment and the elements. And so strong in the arms -- a strength I've never known -- to withstand 45 mph winds driving and pulling him. Awesome! He flies like a bird, probably 40 feet in the air and sees the kite drop toward the water. What masterful coordination not to fall flat on his----- face, while pulling it to bring the kite above himself once again! A young man marvelous in every way! And solitary, with confidence that he can do anything and remain safe. Probably.

"Then here I sit, weak in the arms, a pain in my legs, a touch of despondency, and afraid of my own shadow. Hell," I thought, "When have I ever done anything? I used to go sledding, which was how to broke my arm. I also broke my leg in a teeter-totter incident. It's been all downhill since then. I might yet take up knitting -- these days the old gender standards are relaxed, especially as more and more men like me look for tried and true activities that won't overtax their failing bodies. Plus, the newer plastic knitting needles are invaluable for safety, I hear."

My self-pitying reverie was broken as the kitesurfer flew over my car, then cut an amazing turn and back-flip to return to the lake. The Wright brothers could've used him!

My reverie picked up again about that time. I started worrying, "He's out here by himself. Not another person in the area but me. What if he has trouble and needs rescued? If he's out there 100 feet, with these waves to boot, I wouldn't be able to swim that far. I tried one of those 12 foot endless wave pools and about drowned." I saw enough -- and definitely worried enough -- so I left.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Shell-Shocked -- The Easter Craft Sale

It's ironic that, after the Army couldn't save from destruction the shopping center, where we've always had the Easter craft sale, this year we had it at the VFW hall. Of course if you lose the battle you shouldn't reap the spoils, but I'm only one voice.

Right away, I saw this one local character, Terry, a shell-shocked Vietnam vet, handling everyone's stuff roughly. He left some of the ears on my bunnies bent, then was oblivious to it. I was using psych tactics on him, busying myself with unnecessary rearranging when he was around, trying to get him to leave. So he didn't do too much actual damage.

The place was a terrible place for a sale. They have their bar right there in the next room with an open door between us. You get the secondhand smell of drinks and smoke, pretty intense. Terrible. I saw the pool table, untouched, with the casual light above bearing down on it. There was a quarter in one of the corners, like someone called next game, but was then was so shell-shocked he forgot.

In our room, the sale area, there was a similar bad vibe. The walls were lined with huge black and white portraits of past commanders, trim looking old guys, mostly from the Greatest Generation. Then there's a number of more modern pictures, some in fading color from the '60s. The '70s pictures are more casual, showing the breakdown that started after Nam. And I believe Ronald Reagan allowed much more breakdown, then, in the '80s. You see it in the '80s pix, hair over ears, bushier mustaches, and darker glasses, in what might be called the military's Mr. Potato Head years.

None of this was good. Because the whole point of a craft sale is to get women in. And women don't want to come to a revolting man-cave like this. You'd be afraid to bring your kids. They'd catch one glimpse of Terry and swear off war altogether. So the sale sucked.

I had plenty of time to look around. I and some of the other crafters -- we're usually complaining about something -- could do nothing but shake our heads and laugh. Once you see you're not going to make money no matter what, that's when you laugh. It was different at the shopping center; you didn't always make a lot of money, but the potential was there. That's why we were always bitching.

This place, though, with the beer/smoke/old carpet odor, the odd stacks of chairs against the walls, the old nicked-up wooden coat racks, the dim lighting, and those godawful leering pictures, killed us. And the flickering fluorescent lights! They made my bunnies look frail and sickly. And their purple ears don't need help! And the Styrofoam, my God! I was afraid it was softening up, maybe even subtly melting from the alcohol (actual and from guys' breath) in the air. They say Styrofoam lasts forever in the landfill. Maybe all they need is the VFW to go and break it down!

On the positive side -- just to be fair -- the tables were definitely cheaper. Although, to be negative again, if you're not making money, what's the use? I felt like a crafts sadist sitting there. You have to have some traffic, besides these shell-shocked guys bending things and breathing on  you. As I was hauling my unsold bunnies out, I saw Terry one more time: hat on backwards, food on his mustache, saluting the jukebox, in a word, shell-shocked.

So, unfortunately, I ended up with bad results today, no big surprise, I know. At this rate -- money being what it is -- I might be able to afford a medium Easter ham. But that'll be it. No sides, no bread, no glaze on the ham. Just one dry naked bare ham. But, I'm happy ... Keep repeating, I'm happy; better than an empty table.

Never again! Seriously, this is my vow before God and man, and please, someone, mark it down! We will never again have the craft sale at the V-freaking-FW, or I'll know why!


Previous Easter Bunny Craft Sales:

Local Man Makes and Sells Easter Bunnies
Selling Easter Bunnies at the Shopping Center
Last Call for Easter Bunnies
Boxing Up My Bunnies

The Easter Craft Sale

I'm Selling Easter Bunnies at the Craft Sale

Easter Bunnies -- Is This The End of Crafts?
The Easter Craft Sale -- Post-Mortem

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Army Couldn't Save the Shopping Center


The Army had a new man on duty, newly in charge of recruiting at the shopping center. He figured he could do it well, having the trust of the entire United States government.

The old man was retiring. He walked with a leg that had a limp in it, which would likely only get worse. The old man limped in after the welcome party and charged the new man with keeping the office safe. Such vows aren't necessary in the military, but the new man vowed it anyway.

Years passed, and recruitment activities were extremely successful, to the point it was ridiculous. The new man recruited just fine, helped by keen macho advertising, various psychological techniques of persuasion, and a bad economy. Every time the new man -- who was aging all the time -- saw his success he'd feel a warm glow. He'd do celebratory things, as we all do, like throwing a dart at the dartboard or polishing an apple. He was the cream of the crop.

Time continued to pass, until the shopping center was showing its age, wear and tear. Plus, demographics took their toll, the bad economy he depended on cutting both ways. Shoppers took their meager dollars elsewhere, Walmart. Stores closed, traffic slowed. Rentals hit rock bottom and the shopping center management had no choice but to throw up their hands and throw in the towel.

But until the bitter end, the Army office was open. The officer was faithful, still hoping to make a go of it, even making deals with dope-heads in the vacant parking lot. "If we give them something to knock 'em out, we can shanghai them and they won't wake up till they find themselves in basic." That was a great idea, but there was still the matter of the shopping center's sad owners tearing their hair out. The place had to close.

The officer, of course, had no choice then but to order the flag lowered and vacate the post. A couple days later and the place was rubble. The officer stood looking at it. When who should show up but the old man, his limp totally gone as now he was in a wheelchair. The two met, and immediately the younger man was overcome with terrific shame as the old man surveyed the area. Who, without so much as a handshake, rolled away, tears in his eyes, shaking his head.

The new man got the message. He had been charged with only one thing, to guard that shopping center at all costs ... a charge he had neglected and failed at. His 30-year career -- try to take this in -- which normally would've been considered stellar, was ... What would you call it? ... Botched, ruined, total crap ...

The new man, now the old man, put his hand to his heart: "A few weeks and I'll be in a new office. Then soon afterward I'll retire and a new man will take my place. The first thing I must do is have him make a similar vow."

*There was an Army office in a shopping center that was eventually torn down.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gravity Rocks For Sale

I'm in the rock business! I've been selling them on eBay for a few weeks, as a scientific item, so people can prove the theory of gravity for themselves. And I would count it a privilege to have you as a customer.

I saw it on Neil deGrasse Tyson's program how Aristotle -- back in the day -- thought that a larger rock and a smaller rock would fall to the ground at different speeds. It reminds me of my own crazy theories as a kid, and only recently given up, that trees are responsible for the wind, and that steering faster makes the car go faster. Back then it never occurred to me to sell trees and steering wheels, so people had to take it by faith.

Anyway, back when Aristotle said something, that settled it. So no one tried to prove him wrong for around 1,000 years. Until one guy -- Galileo -- dropped some rocks from the Tower of Pisa and saw that they fell at the same speed. The problem turned out to be something simple: There was no one around to sell them gravity-proving rocks, so they didn't know what to do. Making Galileo, I guess, the guy to discover gravity-proving rocks. I claim him, anyway, as my forebear.

And so, now today, I'm making gravity-proving rocks available to the general public. You've heard of Civil War reenacting? And Nazi reenacting? This is Galileo reenacting, much like we've all done chemistry reenacting with our own little chemistry sets. So look for "Ye Olde Gravity-Proving Rock Shoppe," and, thanks to the postman willing to do the backbreaking work of carrying them, you will have these very valuable rocks soon in the convenience of your own home!

The basic package is this: One larger rock and one smaller. These are good sized rocks, with the heft you know they need to fall reliably. Then as a bonus, I include a smaller rock and two rocks smaller yet. Lest you think two rocks competing with one rock might make a difference. Which stands to reason, by the principle of ganging up. You might be surprised!

Of course any enterprise like this, with all of science at stake, has to have good equipment. That's why I personally handpick my rocks, with great care. Once handpicked, I eyeball them to make sure that, to all appearances, one is larger than the other. Once chosen, I clunk them. And if they're not hollow -- none has been so far -- they pass the test, they're good to go. Plus, I can affirm, without equivocation, that each rock is thoroughly gravity-tested, having been subject to gravity for decades and even centuries.

I'm like the guys who sell telescopes and test tubes, all good for up and coming scientists. Both they and I are not in it just for the money, but for the thrill of discovery. I personally think about little kids out there, any one of which might be the next Aristotle, and I want them to be dispelled of their errors early on. Why waste a thousand years? Maybe they'll need Dad to help them get their rocks to the top of the water tower -- one's heavier than the other -- but once propelled toward the ground, Junior Aristotle will be able to gauge quickly, both landed safely.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Prisoner Who Learned Bad Vocabulary

I think having a good vocabulary is very important. That's the way I was brought up. So it shocks me to hear people cussing a blue streak. It was just in the news today, some lady calling another lady a bitch.* How terrible! I'd never vote for her, not just for that, but because she's a Republican. Much worse.

Anyway, to me good vocabulary is essential, making me different, overall, from most criminal types.

OK, there was this one criminal, who was pretty well governed when it came to good language. He hadn't forgotten what his Mother taught him, that you're known by your character. He kept her teaching as it concerned vocabulary, although he didn't keep it when it came to crime. His argument was crime was what he did to keep his mouth well-fed, then a well-fed mouth can keep itself in check.

But, even though crime sometimes pays for a while, keeping your mouth well-fed, in the end, many times, maybe 7 out of 10 times, it ultimately doesn't pay. And even if you get away with every crime in your life you've left behind so much damage for others that overall it doesn't really pay.

Long story short, he was guilty and went to prison. It was one of those deals where you're in there for three consecutive life sentences. A very optimistic outlook, I admit, except it turns out to be nothing but a legal fiction.

There in prison, this guy, who for the shame of it shall remain nameless, met every species of lowlife and scum that the human experience has engendered. Big burly hairy guys with a lower jaw coming up like a bulldog. Skinny guys with that creepy paranoid, schizo look. Even basically nice guys who can suddenly turn evil and knife you. There were others, what you might call sexual animals, always on the prowl, be it the prison library or even the chapel. It's the kind of life that toughens you up, no matter your background.

Right there, if we go no farther, I am personally scared straight. I mean, sexual animals, give me a break! Regardless of him being scared straight or not, however, there he was for three consecutive life sentences, a very long time no matter how legally fictional it is.

The pattern, then, as I understand it, is that a tough crowd does tough things, extending of course to vocabulary. His went to pot. All the usual stuff that we've all heard, and some have perhaps said. "Shit, fuck, goddammit, you cockbite, bastard, turd," etc. That's what he fell into, and I'm sure it only got worse from then on out, with three consecutive life sentences (a lot of time) to perfect his delivery and even intensify the negative feelings behind the words.

It's sad -- to me it's sad -- what crime can do. Not only to society, but to the life of a person -- whether it's three consecutive life sentences or only one. You don't say something like this very often, but fortunately his mother was dead. She never had to know all the crap he did, let alone what it did to his vocabulary.

*Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does That Make Sense?

I hate to say it, but I'm addicted to the phrase, "Does that make sense?" Which is crazy, I know, since I usually have pretty good control. I don't smoke, drink, or sleep with people who eat crackers in bed; obviously I'm not just careful, I have high standards. Sometimes I do think I could be easily addicted to stuff, but it's also balanced out with an ability to go cold turkey. But this "Does that make sense?" phrase might be too much for even me. Does that make sense?

Of course it isn't new to me. I've heard it a number of times in the last few years, but those times it was in one ear and out the other. I didn't toy with it. And that's the key thing to getting addicted, for me, picking up something and toying with it. Like a new, fascinating toy. I allowed it to get the best of me, as it turned out simply through foolishly toying with it. Does that make sense?

It happened at a conference I attended, "Public Affairs." I was hoping for some cool gossip on people caught in affairs, but it turned out to be a dry as dust give-and-take on public policy, "The Role of Women in Society -- Keep Them on a Short Leash or Let Them Go?" A senator was there briefly, long enough to swoop in and make some pronouncements on the ignorance of women (I'm in a Republican district), then it was up to us to break into groups and come up with our findings. By and large, the Democrats, including me, insisted that we loved, respected, and valued women. While the Republicans thought we needed more restrictions on them, GPS tracking devices around their legs, etc.

Then there was this one bastard, who didn't know what he thought, pro or con. He was the lone voice trying to hew a middle path. He went into a big old convoluted speech, all off the cuff, where he went this direction, then that. Hard to follow. On the one hand, he respected women; his mother was a woman. On the other, he pointed out we've never had a woman president and none of the five star generals of the World War II era was a woman. Then he was back to being pro woman, then anti, finally ending with the reiterated fact that his mom was a woman, and most of his aunts. At the end of it, in a higher pitched voice, he asked, "Does that make sense?"

Here's what happened next. It was 10 minutes till the lunch break, at which point I dashed out the back door, never to return. Then I ran into a woman I know, very smart as most of them are, with no crackers on her breath, and I was telling her the whole thing, focusing in on the phrase "Does that make sense?" I started saying it in jest -- toying with it -- but ended up saying it the rest of the day, and I'm still saying it two weeks later! Beware what you ridicule, there might be some gene in you -- operating sort of like the phenomenon of projection -- that means you're drawn to it! Meaning you need that very crutch! Does that make sense?

And another thing. The phrase always does involve a step up in pitch, and delineates a clear end of a train of thought, so that might be why it's so addictive. We crave not just variety but finality. The higher pitch is like singing (1), and (2) it's a natural end to one subject, giving time to think what's next. With one other key quality, keeping others on your side. Because if they're not, they could always answer with a resounding "No!" The fact that they don't, while not being conclusive as to their agreement, gives you some assurance (perhaps false), that you might be right. Does that make sense?

Yes, of course I know it's annoying. But you can't tell me you don't do one single annoying thing yourself. At least I know what I'm doing, especially if I see someone rolling their eyes. I'm intuitive like that. They can tell me to stop if they want. They just haven't yet.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Guy Made That Piano Sing!

It was a wild time in church today. All kinds of wildness. Thanks to the substitute piano player. Where we got him, I don't know, maybe Borneo. He had me rockin' out. It was a great time!

The thing about this Borneo guy was this: He was bouncing on the seat and playing the piano so hard, so feverishly hard, that it was literally moving around the room, even with such force as to push chairs and the people on them out of the way. He blazed a path right through the midsection, turned and bowled over the first couple rows, and toppled the pulpit. The pastor in a robe of black was white as a sheet.

It's hard to believe, I know, but every word of this is true. If you can picture in your mind's eye a guy, the combination of Jo Ann Castle, Big Tiny Little, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Waller, with the hair of Doc Brown, and completely full of the Holy Ghost, you'll have a great idea of what this guy was like. He took off on his instrument, and I gotta tell you, I was wide awake! He made it sing!

And this was from the very first song, an instrumental for gathering, "Jesus, Love of My Soul / Like a River Glorious." We needed a mosh pit! I caught it out of the corner of my eye, the piano in quick motion; that's when I looked up and paid attention. He was making definite, ever greater, movement from the piano's usual spot! The first thing that popped in my mind -- the very first thing -- was Putin gobbling up territory. You don't expect it, then wham, you've lost Alaska.

He ran over a couple older ladies' feet, who simply out of an old sense of propriety stifled a cry of bloody murder. The fierce look of great pain on their faces was a genuine expression of something primal, great pain. I had to wince, then quickly turned my attention back to Borneo's thrilling performance. The pounding of his hands was crazy, his fingers a blur, with even some blood. As the instrument came closer, I was shocked to see keys from the edges coming loose and flying through the air.

Much later, at the close of the service, I heard that one guy's hearing aid had blown up, apparently doing him a lot of harm when it comes to ears. He was staggering around, clutching the air. More evident in real time were the organ pipes on the wall toppling over from the pounding vibrations. I recalled Jericho, whose walls were breached by a series of trumpets, when all they needed was a rampaging pianist.

One totally strange moment came when the floor opened up and swallowed three or four of the church's worst heretics, proponents of the so-called New Thought. Since there's no basement, it's anyone's guess where they ended up. Wherever, no doubt it's giving them something new to think about. I was happy to escape, having been to only one of their New Thought meetings. Looked like I shunned them in the nick of time.

The minister threw up his hands and made a throat-cutting gesture to the sound guy, who threw up his hands in despair. He cut the mics but the piano itself, with Borneo's jackhammer fingers, was its own source of power. I noticed terrific phenomena in the light fixtures above as they swayed back and forth. They alternated bright and dark, like angelic visitations, then demonic irruptions. Which once you've had troubles with, I can personally attest, everything in life's harder to deal with.

Anyway, so much of the stuff of the sanctuary was totally demolished, there's no telling what'll happen next week. Certainly the usual pianist will be there, but whether there's anything left for her to play, that's another matter. The church wasn't doing that great on money as it was; now what we'll do is hard to predict. I see a sausage and pancake supper in our future.

I'll tell you what I'd love to see, and we could make some money on the beer. I'd love to get Borneo back, and make him wear gloves, and everyone hook arms together while singing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord," with everyone sloshing beer steins in time. We did that at youth camp once and it was a lot of fun.

Friday, April 4, 2014

This Putin Thing Is Good News After All

I know everyone's up in arms about Putin invading the Crimea, then next, perhaps, Ukraine, and then the vorld! I am, too, since it's always been my belief that a guy ought to live a humble, peaceable life, for the greatest personal happiness and also for the good of the community. On this point, apparently I and the ex-KGB agent, for unknown reasons, disagree.

I actually sensed all along that the guy was bad news. There was his background, right away a red flag, so to speak. Then there was all that business of him having the actual control of the country even after they had elected a president. Then the macho pose he was striking for the last several years, killing bars with his bare hands like Daniel Boone, and shirtless to boot.

And when you get me going on this stuff -- stuff I'd much rather ignore -- it can be very unsettling. Because, being an old guy, I have clear memories of the old Soviet Union and the way they haunted my childhood. There was always talk of us being blown off the map, etc., which never happened, as it turns out, but as a child I didn't know it'd have a happy ending. I was also a child in Sunday School every week, so I went to bed each night with two terrors: a literal Hell and a literal Soviet Union. They vied for which might be worse. It wasn't till I was an adult that I realized they were people very much like us and not big raving monsters. And that was just Hell. As for the Soviets, the thought of Brezhnev's ugly blockhead and shadowy features still creeps me out.

Now, looking back over all that, except for my grief and that of millions of other kids, the key thing is it did have a happy ending. Despite Ronald Reagan's best efforts to keep the grief going, the Soviets finally crumbled on their own. And we thought we were home free.

Now all our enemies would be pipsqueaks we could swat like flies, our industrial might would transition to fulfill domestic and global peacetime plenty, and we would be free of Republican warmongering. Instead, we got brazen terrorism on the home front, industrialism shipped abroad, and Republicans up the ass, not only with warmongering but every other evil. This is not the world I signed up for when Gorbachev and Yeltsin were doing the right thing by committing national suicide.

So Putin's forays, gobbling up his neighbors and making feints at a larger global hegemony, might be good news after all. If it means we become more insular, nationally and industrially, we can have jobs and a better standard of living. If we're focused again on mutually assured destruction, hallelujah, because we know it's only a fiction. (And if it turns out not to be, at least we'll die heroically, not with a whimper as it'll be with global warming.) Speaking of global warming, troubles with the Russians is something the Republicans won't deny, so we'll be in it together. We can heal our divided nation, bringing reasonable people and these others, the crazies, back together.

I honestly think the best thing after this would be to give up the Internet to hackers, then at the height of their reverie, destroy the whole thing. Again, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, insularity and the fever of fearful nationalism is our only hope. And without computers and the Internet, we'll have an even better jobs outlook. Phone operators will be back, we'll be building filing cabinets once again, and getting to know our neighbors in a friendly way over coffee, not berating them in anonymous chat rooms and shocking them in endless sexting sessions.

Viva le Putin!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Death Year 2038 -- Living to 85

OK, as we all know, I'm going to live till I'm 85 years old. And we all know what year it is now. Which means, by the simple calculations I'm able to do, that my death year is 2038. (Depending on when my birthday is, it could go a certain extent into 2039, but you wouldn't really think I'd wait till the very last possible day, but who knows?)

I wonder what 2038 will be like for me, knowing what I know. It's a weird thing to contemplate, but I do believe it's still better to know. Because it frees me up in all the other years so I don't have to worry about it. It's a blessing knowing no random diseases are going to kill me till then -- very freeing. And I promise not to pray for an extension beyond 85, so 2038 (or into 2039) will be it.

I can't guarantee, though, that I won't be a little weird if it does come down to the very last day of my 85th year. Because I can't picture it just being a minute after midnight when I turn 85. Since I'd likely be in bed, and I fully expect to be conscious for death.  How about right after morning coffee? I make coffee around 5:40. I might tarry a little longer and enjoy my last cup. But what's the use of just one cup, when I have a full pot? It could be I'll drink it to the last drop, then go.

Or, it could be I'll live through lunch. But why eat if I'm going to die? I don't eat just for the enjoyment of it, but for sustenance, which implies a future. I've always thought the stupidest thing they do on Death Row is give the prisoners a last meal. It's a waste of food and time, watching the guy sop up the last bits of gravy.

That day, if I linger, I might make it till mid-afternoon. It actually makes sense that I would. My baby book says I was born around 3:30 p.m., so what time for my death would be more logical than that? It's probably encoded in my DNA. Still, there's no guarantee.

It could be the good Logos field will want me to have the beauty of a nice evening. I always love evenings -- a beautiful sunset, then the first appearing of the stars, the very last stars I'll ever behold in this present body. We came from the stars; that's also in my DNA. I can see my old withered body reaching for them, then die and mysteriously wing my upward flight, just a slow purposeful flapping upwards, mounting ever up, past the highest church steeples, and vanish in the great beyond.

Or, as we get later, maybe I will yet linger while time presses on. Between 8 and midnight, I see no reason to sleep. I'll probably go to my bookcase and say farewell to some old friends. I love the great authors. You know the ones. I can see me touching the spines of those great books, saying goodbye to each one and "See ya soon!" By now I'm wiping away a tear or two, thinking, "Today my precious treasures on the shelf, tomorrow 5 for a dollar at Goodwill."

If I make it to 10 or 11 -- I know I'll be tired, and yet surely I'll be easily revived. It can't be long now. Between 11 and 12, if it comes to that, I can see myself deep in prayer, and maybe even singing the old spiritual song I used to sing in church:
"Build me a cabin in the corner of gloryland,
In the shade of the tree of life that it may ever stand
Where I can hear the angels sing and shake Jesus' hand,
Build me a cabin in the corner of gloryland."
If I'm still here as it nears 12, I'm reaching out my arms. Old feeble arms I could barely lift at 80. Now they're sturdy and strong, as if iron, as I await my deliverance. Just before midnight, then, I ascend, my body falling gently, in slow motion, to my couch.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating My 85-Year Lifespan

I'm really glad I'm going to live another 24 years, having recently discovered that I won't die till I'm 85. It's better than I expected, frankly, since I've been somewhat lethargic, tired, and feeling dragged down. But this news has really perked me up, big time!

Of course my resolution is really to live it up and make the most of my remaining time. Especially now that I know it's so much; I've been worried for nothing, but that's all over. I've changed my attitudes completely. No more wishing it was yesterday or tomorrow or next week and unnecessarily worrying over the challenges of the day. What are they gonna do, kill me? Not if I'm guaranteed another 24 years! I actually should've lived smarter all along, since wishing your life away only spoils the now.

So from now on, I won't even celebrate holidays till they're here. Christmas tree up on Christmas. Like that. Even boring things I will enjoy -- although I won't allow them to go any longer than I can absolutely stomach. I will enjoy everything. If people are singing to me "Happy Birthday," I will look from person to person, making meaningful, soulful eye contact. And so on. I will not make a bucket list, because it wastes too much time. My bucket list will be everything cool I can get to, not rushing one thing for another.

I will only do good in life, because I don't want to be known for bad, and because if I did bad I would waste precious time regretting it. But as for the credit of doing good, I will allow some quiet savoring, but not too much. If people want to pat me on the back for something good, I will allow it until it seems like overkill. And I will be the judge on what constitutes overkill, and the judge's decision will be final. There's really no reason to dwell on the past to the point of overkill.

I guess you could say I'm going to live the next 24 years like a Zen Buddhist. Which I understand to be like this: Appreciating everything to such a mind-boggling appreciative extent that some would say goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Picking up a handful of sand and arranging each tiny rock, or something ... I can do some of that. The key thing is to enjoy it, then not grasp as if to cling to it.

I think this really applies to flowers. All my previous 61 years, I've taken a glance at flowers and said, "Next!" But now will be different. In my remaining 24 years, each flower will be precious to me, like children of God. And grandchildren. Everything will be precious. I will even encourage people to catch and release fish. Or to not even catch them at all, just release them.

OK, I think you get the point. This is a "No Overkill Zone." I've no time to waste. I'm off to buy the prize turkey in the butcher's window. Then after a delicious meal I'll spend a little time seeking out newborn kittens.