Sunday, January 15, 2017

An Enormous Icestorm (Or Not)

I swear, I'm starting to think that ice can be downright dangerous! You try to walk on it and if you happen to make a mistake -- in an unguarded moment of carelessness -- you can go right down! Very slick stuff, ice is, a hazard, a public menace. But what can you say? Sure you hate it, but it's as natural as anything else. You get the right combination of moisture and temperature, and similar to those little trays in the freezer, you've got ice! They don't call it "the icebox" for nothing!

And wouldn't you know it, it's winter, and we're prone to experiencing it firsthand, nature at its worst, which has lulled us into a continual confidence vis-à-vis our legs by uprightness from warmer times being the norm, only to upend us when the cold comes to bear. Slip! You're down, with no undo button, and left to survey the possible damage: "Are my legs injured, did my hands get hurt, how's my all-important spine?" I've known people who've been terribly injured on the ice, then others (like myself) who've come through falls with almost miraculous deliverance.

One time I remember clearly was probably 35 years ago, when my feet went out from under me slick as snot, as we used to say. This was split-second stuff, whoosh! And I hit my head with some violence where I stood. It hurt like hell but shocked me worse, shaking me not just by the physical pain but with what it did to my normal breezy confidence. 'If that could happen as fast as that,' I must have thought, 'then, really, what confidence can I have?' The lesson stayed with me and I've been more careful since. The greatest part of it was I wasn't injured beyond the immediate pain. I shake my head and it's the normal rattle.

Today was the day we were dreading, an ice storm for the ages coming in. When I heard there would be ice build-up of a half inch, in my imagination that's the biggest half inch ever; I pictured it as something closer to three times that. Do I have a faulty imagination? I was never great with math. Or is it that I fear the possibilities of enormous ice so much that to be extra safe is to be extra careful, and as a reminder to magnify the predicament? Could be. I do lots of extraneous stuff, and careful redundancy is my middle name. I make backup copies of grocery lists in case the original is lost. Good thing I don't knit sweaters; they'd be so thick they'd last forever and suffocate you.

As it turned out, at least during the day and in town -- and it may have been worse in other places -- the ice storm was nothing much. Once I got out, inching my way to the car, and casting my ice melt upon the frozen waters, I realized it was nothing. I didn't have a problem in the world! The roads were great. I didn't see a single car in the ditch, whereas during a less-dreaded storm a couple weeks ago I saw two cars spin out in three seconds and wisely turned the other way. What it was like on the interstate, though, I can only imagine. Ice is always so much worse there, with maniac truckers flying by at 80 mph and throwing it on your windshield a foot thick if it's an inch!

I also didn't see anyone fall on the ice. Good for them, but bad for me. Couldn't rush over and do my good deed for the day, helping them up and issuing a heartfelt warning, "Be careful next time, stupid. Let me tell you what happened to me 35 years ago, and everything I learned from it..."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will My Cremains Be In Dad's Shaving Mug?

Another birthday has come and gone, this year on January 13. All day long I kept thinking, I'm another year older, IF my Mom told the truth about my birthday being on this unusual schedule. I tried to explain it a couple years ago at this link. (As an aside, I actually liked 2016 better, with it being on Jan. 9, not so long to wait. The next time I get it that good is 2022, a virtual eternity away.)

Of course birthdays make me alternately happy and wistful. Because of death, of course. Which is quickly mitigated by the fact that I know I shall live till 85. Occasionally I run into someone 85, and I always say, "As you are, so I shall be. But once I am as you are, no longer shall I be." It's kind of a riddle, and sometimes when I lay it on them they drop dead on the spot. I put my hands up, all innocent, going, "I don't know what happened, maybe some kind of weird psychic overload!"

Death has changed over the years. There's always something new people have to think about. It used to be old guys and gals would assemble at the funeral parlor and check out the caskets, the various models and colors. The salesman going, "Here you got The Corinthian Emperor, a beautiful model any man'd be proud to stretch out in. Or let's say you're more bargain-minded, there's always our old standby, The Pine Box. Even with the low price, it's a great little casket, guaranteed to keep your body perfectly incorrupt a full 10 years."

But now caskets are out and ash receptacles are in. You can still go to the funeral home and listen to their sales pitch about "this roomy little number." Or you can do it the way I'm going to do, find something around the house or at a store to hold yourself. The graphic above shows some of the containers I'm considering. I have a soft spot in my heart for my dad, who died way back when, the early 2000s. I inherited his shaving mug, over which there's still hard feelings; my four brothers also wanted it, but somehow it found its way into my trunk, and the rest is shaving history.

The other objects are fairly self-explanatory, but I want to highlight the pitcher. My mom's ashes went into a pitcher precisely like this one. Although, and I hope I'm not putting too fine a point on it, her ashes didn't heap over the top like that. She wasn't that big. And the thing with ashes is usually you don't need huge space, since they're compact. Look at me, a guy my size -- average to below average, depending on which parts you're talking about -- could fit in a pitcher like that and have room to grow.

Mom's pitcher looked great at her Memorial Service, The Service of Remembrance, An Assembly of Friends in Solemn Grief, Our Final Goodbye, A Time for Joy, Not Tears. I'm a little sad thinking about it, but also proud of how it all worked out. We kept it reverent enough there were no lightning bolts. But pleasant enough that her pitcher didn't open like Aladdin's Lamp with a monstrous version of a once beautiful mother appearing in wrath. As for her ashes, they were later scattered, and I don't know what happened to the pitcher. Probably sneaked out by my brother like me with Dad's shaving mug. Might be why I have to stand at the door when I go to visit.

So she was scattered. And so it shall be for me, at some indeterminate time after I'm 85. Whatever I choose as a receptacle, I know I will like it. To the extent that dead ashes can like things. I don't smoke or I'd ask a cigarette, just a little joke there. Let's say my spirit's drifting overhead somewhere. I'm sure they'll have my blessing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Does This Picture Nauseate You?

Like all the best blogs, almost everything I post is exhaustively tested for its appeal to the public. I spend a small fortune on focus groups, doing anything I can to present only the finest content, things I know people will like. That's part of the secret of my success; you don't attain the heights I have by leaving things to chance. Making what I do not just a creative effort, but a scientific achievement.

Most of my stuff sails through with flying colors, of course. So imagine my amazement when the reports came back on this stilts graphic! The focus groups experienced every queasy feeling there is, from nausea to outright vertigo. It was actually so dire the focus group center temporarily closed, their employees making any excuse to go home for a long weekend. If they had been kept at work, according to one lower level employee, they would've been restricted to very tame content for a few weeks at least, so as not to rankle them further. Not only that, but because of lost hours, now I've been fined, docked, and blacklisted for a couple weeks. So till I'm reinstated everything you see here will be raw, and I can't be held responsible for any of it being good.

So that's the report. They went from nausea to outright vertigo. Nausea, I've been nauseated, I know how it feels. Lots of things nauseate me. Waiting more than a minute for service in restaurants, reading Facebook posts about pets "Crossing the Rainbow Bridge," commercials for fast lawyers and anything involving insurance and the Statue of Liberty.

Anyway, the big problem with the graphic -- which is simply a man in the wilderness standing on stilts, and perhaps wobbling about, shaky, and about to fall -- so far entail these physical reactions. The focus group people say their groups were getting sick everywhere, with their reactions not limited to direct viewing, but persisting for hours after. Naturally, a person can only do so much of that, but the reports are that they've also had many severe dry heaves, followed by cold sweats, hot flashes, and the heeby jeebies.

I myself am a little sickened by it, perhaps. I had some of the manifestations reported, but I thought it was unrelated to the graphic. I've been listening to some of those brain wave videos on YouTube, most of which are marked "Dangerous" and "Beware," so I figured that was the root of my problems. Either way, I'm bold, charge right in, heeby jeebies or not. I've got my big boy panties on, and they're not in a bunch! That's true grit, which runs in my family, skipping a generation only now and then.

Please, dear reader, give the guy on stilts a chance! Why would something like that get on your nerves? Maybe because he looks very unstable, a fool in the wilderness about to tumble, probably head first. He's dizzy, so you're dizzy! To the point of nausea? Perhaps. If so, please look away, and try to forget it as soon as possible.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Mad Train Passengers of India

This might be India. If it's Pakistan, that'd just go to show I know next to nothing about Pakistan. I'm going to be writing as if it's India, and if it's Pakistan ... it doesn't matter. The message is the same.

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong place, since I think it'd be very cool to live like crazy people, like they do in India. Certainly crazy according to our constant rules of propriety in America, where we're so bogged down by rules and fears, nothing like this would happen. The cops see five guys on a train here, they'd stop the thing and take them in. I don't know if I ever mentioned in on the blog, but I was on a train once and the cops had the whole train stopped and took me to the station. (They let me go, no charges.)

Just let 'em try to stop the train to take these people in. They're on a train like that, do they look like they care? Certainly there can't be a law against it. And if there is, that's the way to circumvent a nasty law, en masse, a law unto yourself! I think it's pretty clear that the rules are different, that the laws, if any, don't matter, and that the people themselves are extremely careless as to the consequences of what could happen.

Imagine that in America! Everything halfway dangerous is a no no. And if you're on a train, even inside a passenger train, if the thing goes around a corner and you fall on your butt in a suite, you've got a good lawsuit against the line. The people in this photo don't look like they're riding with a lawsuit in mind. They probably don't care at all. Their whole psyche's different from ours. They're not living with long boring longevity necessarily in mind. "I need a ride today, up I go, hanging on to something that's already crowded and dangerous. Get me home!"

I'm so reserved, though, I'd see this mess of humanity on the train, and I'd be embarrassed to step up and say "Make room for me." I hate to put anyone out. But obviously you've got to get in there and make your own kind of magic, a place to hang on to, and do your best. If you care!

This picture is not a rarity either. I seem to remember in Slumdog Millionaire a bunch of this. And I've seen documentaries about India, where it's mostly constant like this. The really weird thing about the picture is the apparent orderliness to the chaos. Which naturally is because everyone's clinging to something, like organisms attach themselves to the bottom of a ship and make a life with that environment. It's fascinating.

One of the other things I've seen about India, and you can find it on YouTube, is train surfing. Guys do this other places too, but the Indians look a lot more daring. Moving out, then moving in just in the nick of time to avoid running into a bridge or something. They're quite complacent about danger. Not the way that comes natural to me, of course, but I've lived with American ways all my life. Look at all the money we'd save if we could just glom on to any passing vehicle. Riding on tops of the trains, trucks, whatever.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Next Time You'll Get 'Em!

I hate it when anything goes wrong. You have the best of intentions -- you make New Year's resolutions, let's say -- then real life impinges, to the point that failure is imminent. If this were a science fiction movie, there'd be flashing lights and noises from the panel. "This is your captain. Please hold down all expressions of panic to a dull roar while I try to pull our asses out of the fire."

I'm actually doing OK with New Year's resolutions, because, frankly, I didn't make any. That's one benefit of getting old, you simply give up. Yes, I have lots of aspirations. I was raised to be a responsible person. I look out for my reputation. I have a strong instinct of self-preservation, so I fit in, follow all laws I know about, "Yes sir" all law enforcement officers, and keep my own counsel.

There's certain ambiguities, though, such as in the complicated world of taxes. The big trouble with numbers is they're too precise. You also have to be precise handling them, because you're swearing on the pain of perjury that they're accurate. And if you see a mistake -- which is something that happens easily, you have to investigate it from all angles. It nearly gives me a headache just thinking about it, with the cold sweats not far behind. So far, though, life has been manageable.

Even with innocent mistakes, though, chances are you'll survive. You read in the paper about some guy who's obviously guilty but gets off on a technicality, or a minimal sentence. I don't usually see that as good news. But the positive side of it for us normal people is we've never done anything that bad; any sins we'd do would be sins of omission, not commission. I'm old, I keep my nose clean.

We used to hear the expression from people trying to encourage someone, "Next time you'll get 'em!" It's been years since I've heard that. Seems like it used to crop up when a kid was giving his best at something like baseball, but he strikes out. They say, "Next time you'll get 'em," you'll do better next time. The kid takes it better with encouragement, even though he might be realistic and say, "No, I won't."

My opinion, any problem, the best course is to wriggle out of it as gracefully as possible. If it's impossible, accept responsibility, and do whatever you can to make it right. Of course we're not talking about terrorists. They do their terrible thing and die. We're never that bad!

You've made mistakes, I've made mistakes. So far, though, nothing's made the news. It's all quite containable and anonymous, just normal everyday flubs. In other words, we've got it together!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Going Beyond Common Sense


What is common sense but the lessons learned from common experiences? Everyone beyond a certain low level of awareness, a step up from the turnip, has it. It guides behavior in this, that, and the other situation. If, for example, it's a matter of paper-clipping pages together, common sense says the paperclip goes at one of the corners; it's not thrust through the center of the pages, then bent over. If you disagree, please consult one of the style manuals used in intro college courses, or look it up in any dictionary under "Duh."

Today, I'm thinking of what lies beyond common sense. Which, to be brief about it, is found in two directions: 1) Expertise in a subject (or generally), which comes through interest, discipline, and is laboriously pursued; 2) A terrible trauma, which can happen at any time and is dangerous. Of course, discipline and study build up a person. Trauma commonly makes a shambles of one. But rarely, anyway, there is a positive difference. Didn't Rudolph face trauma being excluded from reindeer games? But didn't he also save Christmas?*

I'm thinking of trauma of a different sort, which cannot be precisely described, since trauma can also immediately kill you. Look at my graphic. Study it reaaaaal good; it'll be on the exam. A guy is kicked in the head by an ass. There are stars, which indicate a nasty blow. His crossed eyes show a physical reaction, probably one of pain and confusion. At this point he isn't looking for the silver lining of the unfortunate incident. If he's thinking at all, it has to do with immediate assessments of what the afterlife entails.

Let's surmise, however, that with this trauma everything in his head was now in perfect alignment. Before, he was what? A dunce? Who else would stand that close to the ass of an ass? Now, however, he could a genius. Probably not, but would it be impossible that a brain that before was good for nothing might through a million and one unlikely internal coincidences now be an honest-to-goodness, certified, Einstein-like specimen? Anything's possible in fiction, just shooting the bull, speculating, "What if?"

I would never (not in a million years or more) wish any trauma on anyone. I myself actually had a head trauma a year ago, and it didn't do me a bit of good, nothing that's manifested itself yet. But if you ever do have a trauma -- anything from falling off the top of a Ferris wheel, all the way down to something more commonplace, like a paper-cut -- you might look for the possible hidden blessing. Are you now a genius? Have you suddenly acquired deep spiritual insight? Or, as you may prefer, but to me is actually an inferior result, are you simply the same simpleton as before? I myself have noticed no positives, only continuing memory loss, which may or may not be psychosomatic.

Note: The title "Going Beyond Common Sense" is only one possible outcome, and not the most likely. May none of your traumas be self-inflicted, only the result of genuine accidents!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Mysteries of Outer Space

I watch a lot of space documentaries, a lot. Basically, if I see a space documentary listed, I turn it on immediately. For lots of reasons, of course, curiosity about what's "out there," about humanity's place in the universe, and even spiritual reasons. To me, there is no division between nature and us, which I think should go without saying, but we so often seem to make a differentiation between ourselves and everything else. The vastness of space is an awesome thing, and, in my opinion, makes any distinction between us and existence itself tenuous.

Ah, who am I kidding? It all has to do with my dog. The biggest reason I watch space documentaries is to give me something to think about when I take my dog out to do her business. We're out in the morning and I see whatever's left of the night, the morning star usually. She also goes out at night, and that's when it's really happening. On a clear night, such as recently, Venus is bright; the other night it was real close in the sky to the waxing moon. So I'm thinking, "You may be bright, but not bright enough for me to see her business." Yes, what I'm saying is my flashlight's brighter than Venus!

Of course Venus can't help it. It's far away, and my flashlight's right in my hand. You can't aim Venus. It's unidirectional, not fit to shed light on anything locally according to your will. It's just reflecting sunlight anyway, which if I want sunlight I can just wait till it's up and use it directly. The distinction is I can stare at Venus all I want, but I can't stare at the sun. You look at the sun long enough and you won't look at anything else! I don't recommend it...

In my own particular neighborhood, there's trees to the north, so I never get a good view of the North Star, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and whatever else is up there. When I see these sights, it reminds me of Grandpa Slump, who, they say, used the stars to help him never get lost. Let's say he was maybe lost, all he had to do was wait till night, and having looked at the stars so long, he knew which way to go. Which obviously would work. If you find the Dippers and the North Star, I guess you just walk that general direction. If you want to go south you need a rear-view mirror.

Wouldn't it be great to learn a language from a civilization on another planet? If they have civilizations like us, that'd be hundreds of languages. I remember in church, back when we had missionaries come around and tell about their work, they were translating the Bible even these days into languages that didn't yet have it. If we landed on other planets, imagine the work missionaries would have! Of course up there they might not care about Abraham, Isaiah, and all the rest. Their loss, because the Bible's great. But they might have someone similar, and that'd be interesting to read too.

As I write this, it's about time to take the dog out. But I'm afraid that tonight it's likely to be cloudy. It's been a royal pain in the ass winter day, which will probably continue to screw up the sky tonight.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Summer As Tickman

I have come to learn that there's a movie about a guy who becomes a tick. Who then, presumably, goes about fighting crime by sucking the blood from every super criminal he happens to meet. If that synopsis, based on nothing more than my guess, is accurate, then I can relate. That is a true adventure I have experienced, and, fortunately, like the Tick of movie fame, I have lived to tell.

We have some nature trails nearby. I think they're about the best place to walk of anywhere I've ever seen. You can walk miles, and because it's so rough and challenging, with lots of rocks and hills and unevenness, it's always interesting. It's not like walking on a flat place and feeling like it's boring and endless. I can go miles and be sad when it's over.

The best times of the year to walk, I've found, are spring and fall, with winter not being half bad, if you can manage not to freeze to death. We've had some fairly mild winters, so it hasn't been terrible. The absolute worst time to walk is summer, which once upon a time used to be my favorite season. Now I hate summer, wish it'd go away and learn to be more pleasant like spring and fall. But of course it lingers, entirely unwelcome.

Why is summer so bad? Let the Tick tell you, because of ticks, that's why. At the crack of summer, this is true, one day after a walk I noticed a bump on my hips/front area, and pulled on it because I feared the black dot might be what it turned out to be, a tick. One big problem was my walk was a couple days before, so this thing had been there all that time, while I'd showered, eaten, and slept. Quietly munching, sucking, and making itself at home!

I got infected a little bit, though the details are hard to remember now. And whatever reddening popped up wasn't going away, meaning eventually I had to go to the doctor. The doctor gave me an antibiotic or something. After a couple weeks (!) it all faded away and was better. At this point I was less eager to go for a walk, but after a sufficient amount of time thinking about it and making a resolution, i.e., that I would check for ticks more diligently, I was off.

I took another walk. Then a couple days later I was on my way for another walk...

I started driving for the nature trails when something virtually imperceptible led me to scratch my back, around the hips. I'd driven a couple miles from home when I felt something. Since it was around back, I used my phone to reach around and take a picture, which was, yes, another tick! I pulled on it but it wouldn't come off, then I gave up on the walk. I went home and had help getting the tick off. That was it for walking in the summer.

Now, though, through the fall and winter I've been back at it and it's a joy. No more ticks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Good Behavior Is Its Own Reward

One of my New Year's resolutions, pretty much like every year, is to stay out of trouble. Because if trouble's looking for me, believe me, I'm not looking for it!

Of course you can never tell when trouble might find you. The police are around and they're looking for someone, anyone. I think it's helpful to be as paranoid as you can. This happened a week or so ago. I was parked in public, reading, messing with my iPod, etc. Getting there I saw two police cars off, parked probably 100 feet away, their red lights flashing. They sat there nearly the whole time I was there, running their lights. I could barely focus, I was so sure they'd come over and razz me.

Let's say they had come over, which they didn't. You have to be careful with the police. Because they appear to think everyone's up to no good. Thank goodness I wasn't! But you still have to take precautions. One precaution being to tell yourself, "No lippiness, no matter what."

Every time I've dealt with police, I try to set them at ease. Which I believe I come by naturally. My father was also soft-spoken, and truly a genuine patriot. He used to explain to me about the 13 stripes on the flag, the 50 stars, and the significance of the colors red, white, and blue. It's fascinating to find out this stuff isn't just arbitrary. But for the grace of God, we might've had an ugly flag, like a lot of other countries. Like Canada, a big red leaf... Hate to break it to you, Canada, in America we burn leaves.

Anyway, I try to set the police at ease. I keep my hands at my side, while engaging them with normal gestures as well as I can. This can be challenging. Mostly because they're trying their best to trip you up. They want you to expose yourself, so they're acting all tough, like they're begging you to get lippy and act out. And the temptation is there. You're thinking, "Look, Bozo, you work for me, I don't work for you. If you know I committed a crime, then out with it! If not, then drag your big flat feet back to the station and spend the next three miserable hours filing a report on this wild goose chase!" Instead, I say, "Yes, sir," "No, sir," and "Thank you for your service," etc., laying it on thick.

Have I ever done anything wrong in my life? I know my rights, I'm not saying. But am I a wrongdoer in any kind of ongoing way, as opposed to stuff like littering gum wrappers when I was a kid? Absolutely not! I truly believe in good behavior, whether there are cops or not. I'm proud to say I'm very well behaved.

And that's my recommendation for everyone: Always do the right thing. Maybe if we all did the right thing all the time we could eventually put the police out of business. Get them doing useful things like the fire department, helping kittens out of trees, etc. That'd be ideal, not so much because we have anything against them, but because it's best for everyone simply to behave.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: Tiny Small Year in Review

Day 2 of the New Year, I'm not worried. What, me worry? And worry's my middle name. It comes off me like sparks, lighting up the night. But this I'm not that worried about. Day 2? What is there left, only 363 days; this isn't a Leap Year or anything.

A fun project today will be to review the posts of 2016. Usually I might generalize the past year, but with such a small number of posts, there's no reason not to make a few points about them individually. What was behind these posts? Particularly when I was gone for months, then reappeared to post again, only to go back apparently into the Witness Protection Program.

1. Number 1 was coincidentally also on January 1, indicating my usual high hopes. It was called "New Year: Circle the Wagons." This was based on actual meditation techniques, but with a humorous edge, visualizing a circle of wagons at the top of my head, for protection and heavenly provision. As it turned out I never actually did that. Plus I recycled the wagon picture from an earlier post.

2. Number 2, from January 19, was also based on self-help techniques. This time thinking of "A Thousand Years from Now." This post makes a good point. Essentially this, you can have confidence and determination for what you do today, because a thousand years from now it's not going to matter. That's a cool thought, which I'd forgotten about. I'm so concerned about what the next 10-15 years of my life's going to be. But let it go: It's not going to matter in a thousand years.

3. For Number 3 we skip a couple months ahead, March 18, on "Mother's Brewing Company." I remember this. I was at a pizza place near here and there was a Mother's Brewing Company truck outside. I was saying to someone that'd make a good blog post, which I sketched out. We drove away, then I wanted to go back and take a picture of the truck. By the time we got back the truck was gone, so I had to go in a liquor store and take a picture of a beer package. The post was on each member of the family having his or her own brewing company, just like Mom.

4. Skipping ahead next to June 8, we come to "I Can Tie My Own Shoes." I woke up and was putting my shoes on in the dark and was reminded that I could tie my shoes without even thinking about it. I claimed I wasn't bragging, but I think I was, just a little anyway.

5. Now all the way to October 7 for Number 5. "It's Incredulous, But I Believe." I had gotten the song "I Believe" in my head, which I generally hate. This post was an attempt to belittle the song so massively that I would drive the song from my head. That song's a damned curse, and now I'm thinking of it again.

6. The last post was Number 6, "Ug and Craythur, That Old Time Religion." Even looking at it I can't think what the point was. I just thought of the words and was making a big deal of it around the house, and thought I'd put it down and see how it looked. Seemed like it was funny for that one day.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

It's Me Again, Your Holiness

All things are holy to whomsoever they are holy. That's what January 1 meaneth to me, a wholly new chance to make a fresh start. I look at the calendar and I say, Yes, I can do it; that is what I shall do! 

In that case, I resolve that, having neglected this blog for, lo, so many days and months in 2016 -- a wretched year in that regard -- January 1 of a different year shall be the time to let the past be the past, and old bygones forgotten (or n'er brought to mind). I shall once again be productive!

That doesn't mean everyday, of course. Life is full of surprises and many setbacks; you never know what's going to happen. Even lepers at one time were optimists. They were kneading their bread, feathering their nest, and giving it a go, until -- bam! -- leprosy. Now relegated to a pitiful existence outside the city gates, their family, themselves ritually cleansed, make arrangements with a cleaning service to remove all soiled things, bread, nest feathers, and whatever "go" they had going.

What a day, January 1! Reminds me how I used to get diaries for Christmas as a kid. Then how I'd write in them for a few days, until it was all forgotten. Other stuff got in the way -- school, play, sleeping, lack of interest. How depressing it was, then, to pick the thing up, say, on March 3, and try to continue after missing the first two months of the year! As far as I know, it can't be done. Nor, probably, should it be attempted.

That's the way I felt about 2016 -- somewhat -- except, as these things go, the Spirit hit me a few times, those blank dates, blank pages in the middle be damned! I'm going to write in a day or so about my posts of 2016. This will be in lieu of my usual year-in-review post. Since it's only a handful of posts, I'm going to treat them more as Spirit irruptions, similar to huge bubbles that rise out of a particularly nasty and very thick bog. You see them coming to the surface, pushing their way up, then the roundness of them rises, and in a few minutes they pop. The bog, being extremely viscous, doesn't allow ripples to approach the bank; it's just a dirty pop and it's over. Irruptions of the Spirit, yes, but more hidden than revelatory.

Did I not have ideas? Is that the problem? No, the ideas are always there, but fleeting. If I don't write them down, they're gone. If my computer's hidden amidst rubble in my room, which happens more often than I like, I can't get to it, and all is lost. I desire to flesh out the ideas, but the opportunity passes.

That's probably enough said for today. The picture represents me, dressed in one of my nicest ephods, working at my holy task. Wish me luck, wish me blessing. And if I see any luck or blessing, rest assured, you'll be the first to know.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ug and Craythur -- That Old Time Religion

Everyone probably knows I'm heavily into religion, with a slight difference from your everyday fundamentalist; to me, it's all good, with a few caveats, a big one, that it be life-affirming. There's nothing like a little transcendentalism to start your day. That's the way I get going, with a big difference being that now that I'm losing my memory, I have a hard time remembering later in the day what spiritual stuff I did. I only hope it's still cumulative in my various spiritual centers without me having to consciously recall it!

That's not my idea today, though, although that would be a great one someday. Today, I'm thinking of a time way back, way back before any of us were alive, in fact even before Cain and Abel were around, when there was another pair of first brothers, Ug and Craythur. (Look in any good encyclopedia of religion for more on that particular dynamic duo. My picture of Ug or Craythur -- scholars on divided on which one it is -- has him tapping out a message, presumably a message of affection for the other.)

I mentioned religion. This memory hit me today: Ug and Craythur, like Cain and Abel, loved whichever deity was current in their time. There's an old song we used to sing in Sunday School, "Give Me That Old Time Religion," that had a interesting (and revealing) verse:
Give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion, it's good enough for me.
It was good for Ug and Craythur, it was good for Ug and Craythur, it was good for Ug and Craythur, it's good enough for me.
But enough about that. I feel the need to riff on their names. Ug and Craythur go into a comedy sketch, centering on their names:
I'm Ug.
I'm Craythur.
Craythur is craythur than Ug.
But Ug is pretty crayth.

How'd you get to be Ug?
My mom looked at me and said Ug.
How'd you get to be Craythur?
After Ug, anyone would be Craythur!

Friday, October 7, 2016

It's Incredulous, But I Believe

I made the mistake the other day of allowing the old song "I Believe" to strike my sense of hearing. It just happened. I was messing with my phone, then before I could stop it, it was playing this song. I heard the first few words -- which actually is all it takes -- before ripping the earbuds from the thing. It was too late. So since then, it's been with me. "I believe that every time I hear this song, there's no escape!"

Well, since I'm infected, let me invite you in. You must remember it anyway: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower blooms..." And it goes from there, rising in intensity till the heavens are swaying in agreement; this one guy's wondrous belief makes the planets spin, the various rings that are their motions through space happen, and in the end all is right with existence. Starting with just a single drop of rain.

Now I'm singing it. The past few days I've been singing it, the bits I remember. And all day today. I've only come out of retirement at this blog to write this post and hope that it helps break the song's curse. It's got hold of me and bad. I don't make graphics anymore -- to tell the truth -- but I went back to it today to make the crummy pelican graphic above. Also part of what I hope helps break the curse. I think the song mentions birds, maybe it does; let's say it does; I'm not listening to it to find out. If you write in, don't give me the lyrics or the context, just a "Yes it does" or "No it doesn't" will suffice.

Today while singing it I went into variations on the theme. Such as, "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, it makes me pee." A little juvenile, I know, but everyone does it. I haven't got to the point that rain makes me automatically pee, but I suppose it could happen in a few years. Everyone's getting older. Then, continuing this version, it seems I was going, "Ladies, drop your pants, men your flies, and join me in this urinous song with a steady stream to show that all of us, today and evermore, simply BELIEEEEVVVE!" Then, magically, it quit raining and that was that; my pants were still dry.

That wasn't the end of the song and its curse. I'm hoping that comes tonight. Working through curses is not something I've perfected, so we shall see. But "I believe it can be done, the race is run, the peeing's done, so that's why I -- yes, I, that's why I, little old I -- I believe!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I Can Tie My Own Shoes

Some of my handiwork

As I get older, I've been more appreciative of the lessons of the past that really "took." I'm the first to admit that I didn't learn everything they taught. It probably wouldn't be too far off the mark to say, in fact, that most of it ("whoosh!") ... went over my head. Even so, I can balance my checking account, change channels on the TV, and sit up and take nourishment. Life is good.

Everyday I get out of bed. And my dog Roughage is sleeping in the crate by my dresser. Because I want her to stay asleep -- which she usually does -- I dress in the dark. Which is harder than it sounds, because with the least lack of attention I'll get my shirt on backwards. Every time that happens, say I need to reach to get my phone, it looks like I'm scratching my armpits. Embarrassing when someone sees.

Part of dressing is putting on your shoes and tying them. OK, so there I am in the dark, literally tying my shoes without seeing them. It's amazing, but the lesson learned in school of tying my shoes really "took," since I can do it without the slightest difficulty. At least you'd have to admit they're tied good enough for a guy to pad around the house in the early morning hours, although, I'd still claim it's a good enough job even for public display!

In the photo, I believe that's a shoe I bought once when I was on an exercise kick. I seem to recall it was a Tuesday, after a long weekend of eating myself sick (probably a holiday), and resolving, "I'm gonna die if I don't do something." I bought the shoes secondhand, and who knew they had shoelaces long enough to make a sturdy noose. So I had to double-tie them. You can see the lump in the middle is twice the normal girth. Which I never actually learned, but I was still able to improvise and accomplish it.

My usual shoes, which I have on my feet even now, are tied in the classic single tie manner. I'm not tooting my own horn -- not much, anyway - but they're tied beautifully! And all done in the dark, again, so as not to disturb Roughage in her dreams. With me thinking, literally as they're being tied, "Wow! I"m very good at this! They taught me, perhaps someone said I'd never get it, I don't know ... But I did!"

I don't know what else to say about it, except maybe just to repeat as sincerely as I can, I'm not bragging, that's not what this is about. Maybe I'm encouraging someone. Say you're someone who had trouble learning, and now you wear only slip-ons, and you're afraid someone will find out your secret, that you just didn't get it about the shoelaces. The encouragement would be -- it'd about have to be this -- that you'd figure out how to tie your own shoes, too, and do it completely on your own. It doesn't have to be in the dark, unless you want your dog to stay in bed.