Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Post Dad's Memory / An Experiment With a Path

That reminds me of another of Dad's experiments.  Not that he set out to make an experiment, just that it ended up being one and he told us about the result because it was a valuable thing to know.

I've previously mentioned that Dad was moved around a lot as a child.  I have a vague idea that this might have happened in Rolling Hills, back before there were many houses up there.  Wherever he was located, there was a field along the route between his home and the grocery store.  

As the oldest boy, he was the one sent to the grocery store to get random things.  If he cut across the field it was a shorter route, so that's what he did.

Other people also cut across the field to that store.  There was a meandering pathway through it.  To start with he followed the path.  Then with the inspiration of a kid having to do a chore and wanting to do as little as possible (not his words), he started to wonder why the trail didn't go straight.  It wouldn't be as far to walk if it was straight.  

Perhaps the trail was avoiding rocks or holes.  He explored that idea.  No.  There seemed to be nothing for the trail to avoid.  He considered.

Then he decided that it was better to cut straight across the field, even if he had to push through tall grass, than to meander for no particular reason.  At first, there was no lingering sign that he was doing that.  The grass bounced back.

Then the grass started to be pressed down, so that you could see an impression of a path, if you looked.  Later, it was obvious that the grass had been tramped down.

Within a few weeks, other people had started to use his shortcut.  Additional feet meant that the grass became worn quicker.  The more worn the grass became, the more people would take the new path instead of the old one.  As soon as both paths were worn to bare dirt, the majority of the foot traffic traveled the straight path.

Dad watched as slowly the grass in the meandering path grew and eventually hid it from view.  Now people didn't even think of it as an option.  

Telling the story, you could hear pride in his voice.  Pride for his younger self, and pride at recognizing that this was a memory that was important enough to keep and pass down.  

Post Dad's Memory / An Experiment in Knuckle Cracking

A Youthful Experiment.

My Dad often talked about his memory and how good it was.  He stated that he remembered things back to two years old.  He often complained about how his mother, sister, brother, and other relatives did not remember, or claimed not to remember, things that he remembered clearly.  He resented this because he remembered many times when they had been wrong, or had done something that harmed or upset him, that they did not, themselves remember.  This allowed them to keep presenting themselves as knowledgable and kind people.

Father presented his memory as a beacon into his family's past.  He told us about these old transgressions that everyone else ignored or left behind so that we could see the family illuminated in his memory's light.  

But I was going to talk about his experiment cracking his knuckles.  The warmup paragraphs are here because it is a memory about a time when people were wrong, but it's not an unpleasant memory for him.  

His family had, and still have, for the ones that are left, a standard operating procedure of Stating Things.  Usually these were Things That Everyone Knows.  Sometimes they were Things That I Remember.  Sometimes they were aphorisms.  They would state and counter-state in an ongoing competition to be The Authority In The Room.  Admitting that something you had said might not be totally accurate was just not part of the game.

Dad's mind didn't work that way.  He was introverted and also didn't like arguing.  But most important, he though that things were either true or not, and that when a person made a statement, what counted was wether or not it was true, not how well a person could use it to chin themselves up over anyone listening.

So when his mother and her sisters all told him to stop cracking his knuckles because it would make them grow big and knobby, he decided to test it.  How, you might ask, would a child do that?  If he cracked his knuckles, they could all say that they would have been smaller if he hadn't, no matter what size they were.  And if he used a friend as a control, they could argue that the two were just growing differently.  

What he did was start only cracking the knuckles on one hand.  I don't know if he ever let them know that the experiment was ongoing.  He could have done it completely for his own information and satisfaction.  He did it for years and there was never any difference between the knuckles of his two hands.

This proved that Those So-Called Experts On Everything were simply parroting bad information.  He told us the story so that we would know that he had proved that they were wrong at so basic a level that we should always assume that they were probably wrong, especially if they were sounding particularly sure of themselves.  We didn't need to argue, but  it was good for us to know.

I thought that it was a clever experiment for a child.  I'm still a little pleased with it by proxy.  

Post Dad's Memory / Bee's in Berry Bushes

In my last post I talked about memories my Dad had that were not unpleasant, not harrowing, and that did not cause him to simmer in bile and resentment.  Most of them were about his children (us) growing up.  But one was about his own childhood.

He resented having to move around as much as they did.  And when I say he resented it, that was probably him resenting it as an adult, looking back.  As a child, things were probably more complicated.  But that's a story for another post.  

For this post, the pertinent thing is that there was a mound of overgrown berry canes near one of the places that he lived as a child.  I have no firm idea where that was.  And he would have found when he was exploring a new neighborhood and thought of it as a nice thing that had to be appreciated while it was available.

The nice thing about it, as far as he was concerned, was that when he found it, it was swarming with bees.  These weren't just honey bees:  generic, small, pale, striped things.  These were conglomerations of other species.  Some were large and black and velvety.  Some had shiny blue backs.  Some were tiny.  

He would catch them in an old jam jar.  Turn the jar, lidless, upside down.  And cover the open bottom with his hand.  The bees would explore the jar as he watched, looking for a way out.  They would land on his hand and tickle as they walked around.  

He told us about this as part of his explanation of why there was no reason to be afraid of bees.  Be respectful, yes.  But don't assume that just because you see bees, they're going to come after you.  If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.  

Post Dad's Good Memories Were of Our Childhoods

I've mentioned before that my Dad tended to gunnysack.  That's a pop psychology term for carrying around a bag full of old resentments, for use in the present time.  

So it was unusual for him to share memories that were pleasant ones.  Most of his pleasant memories were of us when we were younger.  He really enjoyed watching us grow up.  It's nice to be able to make someone happy just by being there and being yourself.  

One story he had about my sister, S-2, illustrated what he thought of as her superior attunement to nature.  When she was about 3, she walked up to a fly that was sitting on the wall.  Now flies are skittish.  It's just their nature to flee if they see movement.  So he was surprised when she slowly and calmly held out her finger near it and it crawled off of the wall and onto her finger.  It didn't stay there long, but while it was there, she just calmly observed it.

He had another story that illustrated what he thought of as her emotional intensity.  At probably about the same age, something made her sad or angry and she stood and dried.  The standard response of adults to crying children, in our house, was to politely ignore the trespass until the child regained control.  

Dad was therefore standing nearby while S-2 cried.  I picture him standing with a cup of coffee and a cookie, but he probably didn't describe the scene that thoroughly.  That's just the way I picture him, when I think of him standing around.

Dad watched as she cried.  It hadn't been a big thing that set her off but, being emotionally intense, she was desolated.  The house we lived in at the time was the house that he and Mom had built themselves, with the help of other relatives.  The floors were hardwood, throughout.  As he watched, her tears hit the hardwood floor.

He wasn't paying particular attention.  He was just relaxed and in the area.  (Which is why I think there was a cup of coffee and a cookie involved.)  Slowly he noticed that the tears weren't falling at her feet.  They were jumping out nearly a foot in front of her.  This was mildly amazing to him.

I can picture him sliding quietly to the side for a better view as they arced from the top of her cheeks to the floor ahead.  I'm sure he never said a word to her at the time, but he remembered it and talked about it later.  More than once.  He always told it with fondness.

That was another sign that he enjoyed and loved us.  Because a person can't help being born with emotional intensity, but they need to learn to control it.  Yet I never heard any trace of disapproval in his voice when he told the story.

Post Back Rubs and Toe Popping

Some things my family did right.  Or, at least, they did things that weren't particularly wrong that I'm able to look back to in fondness.

I particularly liked the back rubs.  I think they started out as back scratches and morphed into rubs when Dad decided that scratching was inferior to rubbing because while scratching feels good over an itch, it can sometimes provoke the itch into spreading or remaining.  Rubbing, while feeling less like it's fixing the itch, will slowly soothe it.  So although it takes longer, and you have to be more patient, rubbing will fix the problem more thoroughly, and is therefore the superior method.

Dad made a series of such decisions, expecting them to be the Answer For All Time.  But that isn't what this post is about, I'll let that short note be a reminder to post about that later.  Assuming I read back through the posts, it should work.

I never told Dad, and at the time he was pontificating about rubbing vs. scratching, I might not even have been aware, but when I asked to have my back scratched, it wasn't because I had a particular itch, really.  

Oh, I might have felt a prickling when I saw an adult relative sitting on a couch with space available beside them.  But that would have been a prompt from my subconscious.  What I wanted was the contact.  And rubbing worked as well as scratching did.

In my family, in our family, any kid who sat next to an adult and laid across their lap could ask for a back rub.  Not in the middle of the adults talking, necessarily.  And not when Dad had a cup of coffee.  But in general.  It was a soothing and bonding thing.

Even if there was conversation and coffee, it might be possible to lean over and settle in.  Which might possibly lead to desultory rubbing, without asking, if you were lucky.  The desultory rubs were never as good as the deliberate ones, but they were better than nothing if you were in the mood.

On a more active level, Dad, and a couple of the younger uncles, used to pop our toes.  Sometimes a big play would be made about trapping the bare foot of a sitting child and slowly pulling on each toe, one by one, until each joint cracked.  Of course, sometimes we asked for it, too.  We'd lay on the floor near a seated adult and wave a bare foot.

As we got older, we started doing it to each other.  And to ourselves.  We learned that tipping the joint sideways would often crack the joint with less effort.  But you had to be more careful using that method, because it would hurt if you cranked down too sharply.  

So, back rubs and toe popping.  Two things that my family did right.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Apologies for the delay

Sorry for the delay, but first my computer stopped talking to outside devices, like the screen and keyboard, then I had to prepare for a trip and Christmas at the same time. I'm not sure I'm doing either one well, but they'll both be done after a fashion.

We're not sure what's wrong with the computer, but it works as long as there's nothing plugged into its rear USB ports. So my USB hub and external hard drive are both unplugged.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Post PORAC and Uncle B

Uncle B, my mother's older brother, was president of PORAC, possibly twice.  when I was young, I had no trouble remember what the initials stood for. . . Until U Nicole B told me that the way to remember the initials was to think of poor old raggedy-assed cops.  After he said it, that phrase was the only thing I could remember.  It totally pushed the real title out of my head.

Let's see if I can guess at it now.  Police Officers Research Association of California.  I'll look it up online later, to check.
Going through the things that Mom had in boxes, I found a memorial resolution by the California State Assembly.  I thought it would just say that he'd been president of PORAC, but it went on a good bit.  I'll put it in here, later.  I'm not at home, now, and it's in the file cabinet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Post Girl Scout Camp and Cheesecake

I wrote in another post about the aftereffects of my sister and i going to Girl Scout Camp.  This is possibly something that happened while I was there, or it might have happened another year, when I went, but S-2 didn't.

I suspect that it was the year that I went to the "primitive" camp.  By primitive they meant that we had to pitch tents instead of sleeping in permanent half tents with raised wooden floors and demi-sides. We had to dig our own latrine instead of using the permanent toilets.  We had to rig a camp shower instead of . . . You get the idea.

Oh, and we cooked food over a campfire and prepped at a table we lashed together ourselves.  The camp provided the twine.  It was, you know, camping instead of going to camp.  I had been camping before and was an introvert raised by hermits, so it was right up my alley.

The other campers ate in a mess hall, with the regular amount of Girl Scout singing before and after meals.  The cooks liked us because they didn't have to cook for us.  All they had to do was pack up boxes of food cans and boxes and packets for us to pick up. One night there were a few big, square trays of cheesecake left over from dinner, and they slipped them to out councilors, who were up at the main camp for something.

It was my first experience with cheesecake.  It was probably from a mix. We didn't care. It was grub.

My Dad wouldn't let us buy cheesecake for dessert. He proclaimed that it was too rich, in a voice that implied that therefor people with unjaded taste buds would find it vile. 

Out taste buds were definitely unjaded.  We usually weren't allowed to order dessert at all.  Milk with dinner was compulsory and soda was frowned on. 

The cheesecake that night was sweet and had a nice graham cracker bottom.  I provisionally considered that maybe it wasn't real cheesecake and that maybe it was just impossible for a jello pudding type mix to be too rich. I'd have to test real cheesecake some day.  Meantime, I think I had five pieces. There was enough that everyone could.

Later, after I had gone away to college, I tried real cheesecake.  I went on to try many different types of cheesecake.  I can state definitively that I never found one that was too rich.

But that wasn't what this post was meant to talk about.  It also wasn't meant to share the fact that my father went to his grave never having tasted real maple syrup. 

It was a conscience choice on his part.  We always used home made syrup.  I learned to make it pretty young.  You put a cup of sugar in a pan.  Then add a half cup of brown sugar.  Pour in a cup of water and bring it to a boil.  Stir occasionally as the sugar dissolves, then turn it off and let it cool.

When it's cool, stir in a teaspoon of vanilla and a quarter teaspoon of maple flavoring.  Put it in the Tupperware syrup holder.  Put the extra in a small mason jar.  Or in our house, an old peanut butter jar.

That was the syrup that Dad used. Even Mrs. Butterworths was a corporate trick to fool you into paying more money for an inferior product, just to show off that you used store bought syrup.

Maple syrup, on the other hand, was a different sort of trap. It was a good product, but it wasn't anything that anyone really needed.  If a person were to taste it, and find it to be good, forever after they would remember the taste whenever they used any kind of syrup.  The home made syrup that was sweet and tasty and economical would become that stuff that wasn't quite maple syrup.

So he decided to never taste maple syrup, in case he should like it.  That way his regular syrup would remain a happy treat, complete in itself.

Sorry to digress, but Dad was a pontificator and believed in the efficacy of repeating certain lessons to impress them on young minds.  Must of my memories aren't far from a memory of Dad going on about something, and the generous pontificating is easier on the memory than the angry ranting.

But on to the point of the post.

On some occasion, when I was at camp, I got a letter from home.  Dad was the one who wrote the letters in our family, so it was no surprise that it was from him.  It said, "I'm sitting here with pen and paper. Your mother thinks I'm writing you a letter. She doesn't know, does she?"

He ranted and pontificated, but he also had a sense of humor.

Post Take 5 things in case of zombies

Someone posted a question online.  What 5 things would you grab in the case of a zombie apocalypse.

Me, I have bad knees. But then I don't get far from my van, so I'll just make that one of the things I take. In fairness, I won't stock the van for zombies, so it just has what's in it regularly. Which reminds me that I need to get my gym bag back to the van, so I'll have a towel.

Maybe I shouls also grab a bicycle in case I run out of gas. That's two.

Three would be my dog. Four might be dog food. Nah. I'm going to need a blanket or sleeping bag.

I don't have any typical anti-zombie weapons around. The closest thing I can think of is a shovel. If I get to shop around, I'd look for an old style bung tool. (That name always makes me smile.)

Bung tools are used for opening the bungs on 55 steel gallon barrels. Back in the day, bungs weren't standardized, so the bung tool was this roughly club shaped brass thing with various protrusions on the end, meant to fit different styles of bungs. I had a job once that called for me to use one fairly regularly, and I was never able to pick it up without thinking "blunt instrument." It was a hefty, nasty looking sucker.

More modern ones are streamlined and lighter. The brass is to prevent sparks against the steel, since a good number of 55 gallon drums are used to store various solvents and other flammable things. Sparks would be bad.

Heh. Bung tool.


Damn, I hate it when things pop out of my mind after less than a minute. What was I thinking of? Something about Dad that was to go into the blog Patchwork Riddles. Food related? (The memory popped into my head while I was taking a hamburger out of its bag.)

Not Ichabod. Ah, yes. The stack of napkins. I've been getting cheap hamburgers lately. Why isn't pertinent, but I don't promise not to write about it later. What matters is that lately several different fast food outlets have been putting wads of napkins in the bag, even with a single hamburger. And it's wasteful to just throw them out. And it would fill up the landfill to just throw them out. And several dead people in my life would frown on just throwing them out. Not to mention that they might be useful at some point.

So I have a small stack of them in the car and a growing stack of them in my desk drawer. This reminds me of Dad, one of the disapproving dead people mentioned above. He didn't buy quick hamburgers while driving through to somewhere else. Oh, sometimes he would eat a hamburger or a taco if Mom went and got them and brought them home. But if he was going out for food he wanted to sit down and have someone come to the table to get his order.

While my parents lived in Willow Creek, California, they ate twice a day at a restaurant called The Flame. I do not recall that The Flame handed out multiple napkins. Possibly my father collected them one at a time. He was both a very neat eater and a germophobe, so the napkin probably stayed under his dining utensils to protect them from the non-sterile public table.*

Another possibility is that he would bring partial portions home, and they would put a napkin into the bag with the boxed leftovers. There may also have been napkins put in with the jimmies** that were sometimes purchased from the deli counter at the grocery store.

However they came into his life, they would be stacked on the counter of the kitchen island, on the outside corner to the left of the stove. They were available for use in any situation that warranted it. Mom still bought paper towels, and there was no nagging about using a paper towel that had to be paid for when there was a perfectly good free napkin available. They were just there.

I don't think the stack ever got more than three inches tall. And I seem to remember there being different styles and colors of napkin in it. So either they came from more than one source or The Flame liked to mix things up napkin-wise.

There was never any stated attempt to use them from the bottom of the stack, so the lowest napkin was probably the eldest. I wonder if it was possible to do napkin archeology on them, peering down through the strata and reconstructing a culinary timeline. That would be complicated, I suppose, by the fact that he didn't just collect them, he used them too. That would add erosion to the deposition of the stack. Hmmm.

I also wonder if they packed them and brought them along when they moved.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Post Safety lists are a Daily Dose of Death

An unintended consequence is something unforeseen that happens because of something you did, but which is outside of your strict effort-to-goal plan-line. I started presenting monthy safety meetings for my section at work. Then a few other sections noticed that they hadn't had a safety meeting in a long time, and they asked if they could join ours.  Soon I was presenting to more than half the floor. 

Then my name got on some safety marketing lists. Now I get emailed newsletters that have hook questions like this:

"Employee injury or death while traveling to or from work is usually not covered under workers' compensation insurance, due to the coming and going rule. But what if the employee was killed while on the way to pick up a co-worker to go to an employer-required conference?"

For awhile, I would dutifully read these little newsletters.  They were quick little warm-ups to start the day and once or twice I actually found something that my section should know about, and I'd include it in the next meeting.

But soon they started to affect my mood.  I came to think of them as my daily dose of death, because there were usually one to three little articles about someone dying on the job and the safety violation that caused it. I had expected that taking on the safety meetings would be an odd amount of work that didn't exactly fit in with the other things I was doing.  The unintended consequence was a darkening of my outlook. 

I decided it really wasn't worth it to read the newsletters.  Now I very rarely open them.

If you're curious, the answer to the quoted question is that the widow got workers' comp survivor's benefits, but only after she appealed and then appealed again to the Texas Supreme Court.

The final decision was predicated not on his driving of a company truck and not on his having been assigned to go to the conference and not because he was on his way to pick up another employee (who had also been required to go). Nope, it was because the conference was a multi-day conference, so that what the employee was doing was considered to be "overnight travel".

"Overnight travel" is not covered by the coming and going rule.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Post Small God: Open Source

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.  It's too late to play this year, but check it out to see if you'd be interested next year. 

Many cities have local meet-ups, where you can talk with others who are writing and maybe write with them.  You look for a local meeting on the NaNoWriMo forums.  You can find other support there, too.  One form of support available is a series of Adopt A . . . threads.  The following is something that I posted to an Adopt a god thread. 

If you are writing urban fantasy, I give you Dead Yans Puy. He appears as a very cheerful eight inch tall zombie, with his zombie-tude ranging from just a little dead looking to nearly skeletal, depending on how revered he has been lately. He hides behind things on your desk and chuckles.

For Dead Yans Puy (pronounced: poo-ee) is the god of really good webcomics that update erratically and not nearly often enough. You know the ones. You know there's not going to be an update this week. There hasn't been an update in months, now. But the comic is just sooo good, and the link is right there in your bookmarks. And you'd feel like you had betrayed yourself if you waited and found out later that it had unexpectedly updated.

So you click every day. When you see that un-updated home page, then is the time to worship Dead Yans Puy in the manner that he craves. You must shake both fists over your head, arch your back, screw shut your eyes, and yell heavenward, "Damn you, Dead Yans Puy!" This is music to the giggling little freak's ears.

I know this is going to sound like a chain letter. But the first group that I preached to were skeptical, and drug their feet. But within a month of the Great Call becoming a habit among them (as a joke, I assume- Yans does not care about belief) Erfworld had returned to twice weekly updates. The artist and writer are still limping a bit, but the text fillers are well written and my now-converted worshippers are not going to slide into apostasy. We will get there.

More recently, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage has begun updating three times a week. It's never updated three times a week. And I would have been willing to click daily on that comic for years in the hopes of seeing more of it. I thought our frustration-devouring little deviant (insulting him is also taken as praise - go figure) would never let that one go. It was an unexpected triumph and a shining proof to believers.

Now for the stick part of the chain letter analogy. My little group may have been bellowing benedictions to the malignant and mangy manikin, but the rest of you haven't been. He's getting a little annoyed with how slowly his worship is spreading. He's taken to cutting artists' hands. Both Order of the Stick and Questionable Content have had hiatuses due to hand injuries. Although Questionable Content may have been the work of a mimic deity. I suspect the Shouting Bird.

Please. I beg you. Take up the cry. We had gotten Goblins back up to twice weekly, and last week Thunt's connection refused to upload. I'm scared. I know he's a miniscule jerk of a god, but these are great webcomics. They brighten the day and gladden the heart and uplift the mind. (Fortunately, XKCD seems to be immune. I suspect that's because Randall Munroe is a physicist. They're resistant to small gods.) Don't risk sending more good webcomics into stuttering delay! Curse him today! Curse him often!

We're all counting on you.

(Sorry if I got a little personally involved. This hits me close to home.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Another word war.  Fifteen minutes and how many words can you get into your device within them.  I,m unfettered by subject, since I don' have to connect this to anything else I've written.  It's one of the benefits of a deliberately disjunctive writing style.
On the other hand, since I don't have a story to continue or a subject to follow, I have to make decisions about what I'm writing that the folks with more traditional modes operandi.  Oh, well, I wasn't going to win this anyway.  The last time we did this, I was at half the average word count and much further behind the winner.

So, what can I say?  I Got Dear Son, or rather, Devoted Girlfriend, to wrap and mail a package that had to be mailed today.  I included both of them, in the manner I did, because I'm pretty sure that DS made sure that the errand got done, after I sent them both the email, asking, and he did it by getting DG to actually do it.  Kind of a two-step thing, three if you count my step in asking.

I don't feel bad about asking.  It's a gift that we all three went in on, and there was no particular reason to think of the wrapping and mailing as mine, besides the fact that DS mentioned a few days ago that it was getting to be nearly too late to send it, as if, of course, I was the one who would be doing that and wasn't he responsible and organized for reminding me.

The reason it was getting late is that it's an advent calendar. . . A Lego advent calendar.  So they need to get it before December starts, or they start out behind.  They being his brother, S-2, and his wife.  I didn't take his hint/recommendation/order quickly enough for parcel post, so today I emailed him (and DG) from work and volunteered to spring for priority shipping if they took care of the wrapping and mailing.  As if I wasn't going to be paying for shipping anyway.  This way it sounded like I was making a generous offer instead of fobbing off a chore.  Nifty.  Also appropriate, considering it was turn-about.

So that's one thing done.  And I got three things done at work, and a few other things set up. (Time up at 396 words) So I don't feel too bad.  By which I mean I feel bad, but not about the things done.  I could have gotten more done. 

Since this seems to be current events, what else has happened.  Going from work to Empressa and a nanowirmo meetup leaves me a bit disjointed.  It's hard to remember things from one situation while I'm in another.  It doesn't help that my work computer and work note are at work and therefore not here.  It also doesn't help that I want to relax and not think of work right now.  Also that nothing not work related has happened today . . . Except for getting the package mailed. 

That's why I started the exercise with the package.  If I stretch, I can say that when I cleared my desk at work today, I uncovered some personal printouts that I'm in the process of taking home.  They're in my big, solid basket, which I sometimes half think of as my purse.  But I really and truly think of my van as my purse.  The basket is, figuratively, an insert that I use to transfer things between my purse (van) and other places, mostly the office and home.

I've mentioned having a bad memory, right?  I've set up the van to hold the things that I'm likely to need when out and about, and those things just by default live in the van.

Let's see if I can remember them.  My hairbrush is there, in the glove compartment. The security card to trigger the gate into the parking structure at work (for which I pay $75/mo) is tucked into the corner of the glove compartment with its lanyard hanging out of the compartment door.  There are spare bifocals in the sunglasses compartment on the roof, just above the center rear view mirror.  Even if they are the old prescription, it beats forgetting and not having any glasses at work all hollow. 

The handicapped parking plackard hangs from the center rear view mirror. That's not technically legal, but I know for a fact that if I stowed it, I'd end up forgetting to put it back in place, and the ticket I'd get would not inspire a good time.

I've regained enough mobility that I sometime feel guilty about using the plackard.  When that happens, I'll park normally, rather than in a handicapped slot.  And I'll often do that even when I'm feeling gimpy, if there's only one left.  Truly handicapped trumps gimpy.

What else?  My wallet lives in the slot in the driver's side door.  Well, mostly a wallet.  it's halfway between a wallet and a clutch.  For years I didn't have a purse at all.  I had a wallet and never wore anything but pants with a back pocket or a suit with a jacket with pockets. 

Well, not precisely anything.  I would occasionally wear something pocketless and then I'd have to juggle my wallet and keys and pen or brush or whatever.  It wasn't pretty.

Now I have the clutch and I keep it in the van so that I won't forget to bring it, or to bring it back.  I still have to have a pocket for the keys, and I've recently added a cell phone to the pockets, so I still mostly wear things with pockets.  Although now I keep the pocket stuff in front pockets. 

I once had to return a pair of pants that I'd been given for Christmas because they only had front pockets.  That was back in the late 80s, when I was driving pizzas and really needed to keep the wallet in the back.  The counter woman looked at me like I was growing antlers when I said that I couldn't do a swap, because I had checked and none of their pants had back pockets.  I could tell that she'd never in her life considered, not only that a woman might want to use back pockets, but that anyone could possibly think about clothing as functional, as opposed to decorative.

I got the refund with no argument, though, so no problem.

What else?  See, this is why I don't like people borrowing my van.  It's not that I care about them using the car.  Usually the person asking is DS or DG, and they're offering to leave their own car.  They just want the carrying capacity for something.  But I have the van set up to support my life and mobility and I just know that I won't remember everything that I need to take out of it.  And even if I do, I'm risking not remembering to get it all back.  And as soon as they're gone, I'll remember something that I need to do or was wanting to do, that needs something that I didn't remember to take out of the van.

...second word war....

Oh, yeah.  My gym bag.  One of the reasons I didn't remember that is that it got taken out of the van weeks ago when someone borrowed it and it hasn't been put back yet.  You know that they're not going to remember to put anything back.  Sometimes they take out the back seats and it's weeks before they're put back. 

Don't tell me to be forceful.  You can't be forceful with people when you're forgetful.  It comes too late, for one thing, and sounds like you're being suddenly arbitrary. I mean, if it wasn't important enough for me to remember for half a week, why does it suddenly have to happen now? 

I try to have a book to read or a book on tape or CD to listen to.  I stage errands in the van.  Library books that should go back, bags or boxes of stuff for the thrift store.

I could go through the basket and see what's built up in there.  There's a journal (not up to date, of course) and pens and a to do list or two.  Sodas (the kind I drink are diet and no caffeine, which isn't typically available out and about); a baseball hat, to cut down on glare; one of each morning pill, in case I forget when I leave the house; and a container of baby tomatoes, for healthy snacking.

There's usually a sweater or jacket in the back of the van, in case the weather turns.  There's the sort of music I want to listen to.  There used to be reusable bags for grocery shopping.  I probably ought to restock those.  They kind of shifted slowly to the house when DS&G slowly took over grocery shopping. 

If I was forward thinking, I'd use this entry to make a list of things that (end of second word war - 306 words) I have stationed in the van and then put it in the glove compartment so that I can refer to it when someone wants to borrow the van and I don't have much time to think about it.

The odd thing was that I would always feel put upon when someone asked to borrow the van.  And they'd wonder why getting my stuff out of it was a big deal.  And I'd sulk while they were gone and fume when I didn't get everything switched back from their car.

Then I got diagnosed with ADHD-PI and I started looking at myself differently.  The bad memory and lack of focus was something that I needed to deliberately work around, rather than something to beat myself up over.  And it was ok to ask for help and to explain.  So I sat down and thought it through, then I sat down with DS and DG and explained to them that the van wasn't just a car.  It was my purse and my security blanket and my staging area.  I had explained about the ADHD-PI before, and they had been supportive.  So I explained that it made me really anxious to mess with my support setup and that I was never going to be confident that I had remembered either to get what I needed out, or would remember to get everything back in.

So if they wanted to borrow what was, essentially, my life, they were going to have to help me organize what had to come out and help me remember what had to get back in.    It seemed reasonable to them, and they've been helping. 

Recent times have strained all of our organizational skills.  I may tell you about that and I may not.  This is supposed to be free form.  I may organize it later.  More likely, I'll read through later and add connecting thoughts and hyperlinks.  Maybe some day when it's raining. 

When I bought my house I was planning to make the front room into a library.  There was a fireplace and I though it would be great to have a few shelves full of books and overstuffed furniture and read and write by the fire on cold, rainy days.  

I also planned to live there alone.  It was the smallest house on the market at the time and looked too small for one of my sons to move in.  If i'd been able to find a one bedroom house, i'd have bought that, but they don't make those, i guess.

Still, the two bedrooms were small, and the boys lived with lots of gear.  At about 900 square feet, I though my solitary splendor was assured.  Just me and two cats. Boy, did I get fooled. 

S-2 and his wife were my first sudden roomies.  I had a dog by then, thinking I had enough room for that.  They had a dog and two cats.  And their own furniture.  Fortunately, they also had a determination to move out as soon as possible.  That was a very good thing, because it was tight and the animals didn't get along. 

The dogs were fine with each other, but the cats got into a turf war.  They didn't fight, they just marked things competitively.  The dominant cats from each pair, especially, took to peeing on anything plastic that they could slink on top of.  S-2 lost a couple of jet printers that way.

I salute their independence and motivation.  They live more than halfway across the country, now.  Not that they were trying to put distance between us.  Their first move was twenty minutes up the road. 

Dear Son is more comfortable here, so he's stayed longer.  And he's boomeranged once.  I need to prod the last two credits out of him in 2013.  We would both benefit from that.   

He doesn't think I'd do well on my own, but that's a separate topic.  I may or may not get to it this month.

Speaking of months, last night I bought plane tickets to visit S-2 and wife in December.  I'm pleased with putting that together as far as I have. Further planning and scheduling is necessary.  I'll deal with it. 

Friday, November 23, 2012


There are several books that I've read just because the title caught my fancy.  Two that spring to mind are Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett, and Elvis, Jesus, and Coca Cola by Kinky Friedman.  In both cases I had never heard of the author before, but just had to find out what the mind that came up with that title would come up with to fill the book.
There's only one movie that I watched for a similar reason. The title, Inhaling the Spore, caught my eye in a Netflix search for documentaries about museums.  Calling up the blurb, I saw:

A fascinating look into an obscure institution, this documentary visits the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Calif.
 The Museum of Jurassic Technology.  How wonderfully impossible.  I watched it.  Then I watched it again.  I was entranced.

The prolog takes us through plain LA area streets.  I grew up near similar streets, so this looks familiar to me. Then and accordion starts playing and soon we see a shopfront with that odd name.

If this isn't the first time you've watched, you know that the name gives it all away. The name, like the museum, is impossible and intreaguing. It is a deliberate lie and an invitation to whimsy.

The title of one section of the museum is Tell the Bees, and even at first watching I knew what that meant.  That display is in a section displaying a collection of "vulgar knowledge" or superstitions. Having read Sharyn McCrumb, I know that the bees are supposed to be told when their owner has died to prevent them from thinking themselves abandoned and leaving.
Dark corridors and glass cabinets hold the collections of those who were never rich or famous, but who collected marvels. In one corner phones on the wall explain an arrangement of objects. One tells the story of the natural philosopher who trapped a bat that could pass through solid objects, magnetically freezing it within a rectangular mass of lead as it attempted to flit through.
The Garden of Eden on Wheels display gave me an urge to find something to collect. Perhaps the recorded sounds of dogs that can warble, to match the film of the barking man that was playing.
A display of old nitrocellulose dice, misshapen with age, made me wonder whether there is a Dungeons & Dragons museum somewhere. And I was touched by the curator's story of the crying man who said that the museum was like a church.
I wonder how often the displays change. I would like to study the display titled Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.  Thoughts that the documentary was about a museum that only existed in the documentary were soothed when I looked and found a wiki page and the museums website. 
I'll be watching Inhaling the Spore again.  It's like a poem.  A trip to the museum, itself, is on my geek vacation list. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Post Walk Against Hunger - Thanksgiving Dinner

It's Thanksgiving and things are the same as ever and things are wonderfully different.  As always the day started with Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend going to the Run & Walk Against Hunger event.  Three things were different this year.  For one, the weather was nice.  Even early in the morning, it wasn't that cold and it wasn't windy at all.  For another, I was entered into the 5k Walk.  This is a sign that the knee replacement has made a big improvement in my mobility and quality of life.  And, finally, Friend Stephen came along on the Walk.   

Stephen may have been the reason that I finished with no problem.  Maybe not the only reason.  Since we had three things listed in the previous paragraph, let's see if I can list three reasons.  For symmetry.  One is Stephen.  He kept me talking all through the Walk and lifted my spirits, which took my mind off of the discomfort.   

Two is the scenery.  The Walk circumnavigated the Stockton Channel Promenade, and with the fine weather the view was nice.  Third is the fact that I was pretty close to ready to walk that far.  I've walked slightly more than two miles two or three times in the two months before the race.  No, I didn't walk the exact distance of the race, but I had a long weekend and the Wednesday before the race off, so I was nice and rested.  I was pretty much ready. 

There was stiffness after the Walk, and the muscles that hadn't been used much back when I was limping and not walking much started to complain at about the end of the first block.  That would be in the back of my calves (the right one especially) and the back muscles just above, or at the top of, my butt.  But then they loosened up a bit and only grumbled a bit from then on in. 

Come to think of it, I was never winded or even near it.  That's cool.  And, really, the calves and muscles around the knee were almost as grumpy while standing around in the cold before the Event.   

During the Event, I got to see the area in Weber Point and around the promenade again for the first time in awhile.  I used to walk the area fairly regularly, back when I was on the Water Quality Project, which wasn't about water quality.  But never mind that for now.    There were a couple of new memorial statues on the northern promenade, between City Hall and the old Visitor's Center, now closed.  I don't know what's in that little building now. 

There were new artsy benches at the end of the southern promenade, near Morelli Park, under I-5.  I almost didn't look up and see the cool mobiles on the poles in the landscaping near them.  Stephen saw them, though, and exclaimed. 

The big raft of water hyacinth in the souther fork of the downtown end of the channel is starting to blacken, I presume due to the cold.  The guys with the contract with the City to remove trash from the water took a shot at removing the floating plants, but I assume they concluded that it was outside of the scope of the contract.  They were at it for days before they gave up.  I'm guessing the City is waiting to see if the raft will eventually float back out if they mumble about being out of money long enough. 

It probably will.  This isn't the first raft that's wandered down the channel from the San Joaquin River.  I got to tell Stephen all about the channel's history with water hyacinth and its history with algae overgrowth.  I didn't get too technical with the algae explanation because most people aren't interested.  But I told him that the Water Quality Project did an experiment to produce the background information needed to design a system to keep the algae mats from forming during the summer.  And I told him that those lines of disturbed water indicated the location of the bubbler system that was eventually designed with the information we collected. 

His appreciation of the color of the fall leaves gave me an opening to talk about my time at GMI and the road trips to Frankenmuth for chicken dinners.  He asked and I confirmed that California didn't do Fall Color! the way that the states in the northeast of the country do.  There were other reminiscences about the GM coop college in Michigan and some talk of the SATs and the Campbell Strong Interest Inventory. 

He talked about writing and wanting to do YouTube videos and he asked if I was interested in fewer topics of study now that I'm older.  That answer was pretty much no.  It would be harder to go in a new career-type direction, but I'm still pretty much interested in a boatload of things.
There was some discussion of hats.  Some of the people running or walking come with Thanksgiving themed hats.  Most of them are some kind of stuffed turkey.  Devoted Girlfriend said she'd crochet turkey hats for all of us if he would really eat them.  I suggested a zombie turkey hat for him, since he really likes zombie stories, movies, and video games.  His eyes lit up.  Then he looked down and said 'maybe' sheepishly.  It was cute.

I offered to copy the turkey-plastered logo of next year's Event t-shirt, re-draw it as zombie turkeys, print it on iron-on paper, and iron it on a look-alike shirt.  Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend said that wasn't possible.  The shirts only come out a few days before the event.  I think I should take that as a challenge.  Provided I remember it this time next year.  If I have the day before Thanksgiving off again, that's plenty of time.  Provided I'm mentally ready for it.

But, you know.  Mind like a steel sieve.  (Stephen says he's started to use the phrase.  Heh.)

On the way back to the car, Stephen was checking out people's porches.  He said he was writing a story with a homeless person who lived under someone's porch.  I told him to ask Dear Son, who used to sneak away from the summer recreation program at the park and go hang out with the panhandlers.  Son S-2 did as well.  He's the one who told the the stories of it later, when he was safely grown.  I just assumed that Dear Son was along with him.  He confirmed that as true when we got back to the car.

In the car, I talked about Dr.P, who introduced himself to one of the homeless guys that he was always driving past.  The guy said that the reason he was homeless was that he had an IQ of 152.  He was too intelligent to buy into the bullshit that the world expected you to buy to get along, but he wasn't intelligent enough to transcend the bullshit.

P came home and told his wife the story, seriously considering that that might be an accurate statement.  She said it was bullshit because 152 was her IQ and she had never had trouble finding a job and keeping it.  

I wrote the above at the dinner table after the Thanksgiving dinner plates had been cleared away at Devoted Girlfriend’s family’s place.  Dear Son was writing beside me.  One of Her cousins-in-law twitted him for using an ipad with a keyboard attached.  We were both sitting together writing along with the same basic equipment, but he was a younger guy, and a guy could give him a hard time and I’m an older woman that the family doesn’t know that well yet.  So I just typed along and DS got to twit him back. 

Then there was pie.  I think it’s good for a post to end with pie.  If this one didn’t end in pie, it would have to end when, after we drove home, I made DG take my picture holding up The Event T-Shirt and then posted the picture on Facebook.

Pie is better.


Post had a mention of my Grandma L and "Uncle L and the laying on of hands."  This is a story she told.  She was proud of it.

My Uncle L, Grandma L's son, owned property in southern and northern California.  He still drives up and down the state, keeping up with them.  They're small houses, for the most part, that he rents out.  Over the years, the rents have paid off the mortgages.

Grandma lived in southern California.  Sometimes she'd ride along with Uncle when he went north.  It was a nice little trip and a way to spend time with him.

During one trip, her intuition triggered.  While at a highway rest stop, she became sure that his car was about to have big engine trouble.  It was going to happen far away from any town and would be a severe inconvenience and possibly leave them in an unsafe condition. 

She had, as mentioned in the previous post, "learned to pay attention" to her sudden intuitions.  She told Uncle and told him they should find a mechanic at the next town to look the car over and find out what was about to go.  Uncle just smiled and shook his head.  It was a long drive.  It was tiring even if you didn't slow it down further with crazy side trips. 

There wasn't anything that the car was doing that she could reasonably interpret as a sign that it was having trouble.  He wasn't about to go to a strange mechanic and tell him to find something wrong with the car to fix, when he didn't have anything he could tell him wasn't working. 

Grandma fretted.  Grandma was in a quandary, but she didn't put it like that.  That's my interpretation after listening to the story.  In the story as she told it, she was worried.  She could feel this mechanical failure coming with a sureness that could not be questioned.  But her warnings were being ignored.  What could she do to protect this person that she loved, who was going to have such trouble so soon?

Finally, she thought to pray about it, and it came to her.  Things could be healed by laying on hands.  She had heard that.  So that was what she'd do.  She gathered her certainty and her faith in healing by touch, and she laid her hands on the hood of the car.

She said she could feel the looming breakage, about to happen, just fade away in a glow of love and power.  Now she could relax.  Things would be all right.

And she told the story to show that she could bring that kind of power to bear.  She had saved Uncle L from that breakdown.  She was generous enough with her loved ones, that even though he had pooh-poohed her forecast, and hadn't been willing to do what it took to save himself from the failure, which could have caused an accident, you never knew.  Even then, she would go the extra mile and save him when he wouldn't save himself. 

She quite frankly told the story as evidence that her intuitions were right.  The story was proof.  She had had to call down the power of God to keep that car running.  And she had been beside herself before she had thought of it.  Proof positive.

We didn't know what to say.  Us kids kept quiet and I think Mom said something about being glad that they had had a safe trip.  We didn't hurry to leave.  My sister and I talked about it a little bit later. 

Oh, and the quandary comment I made earlier.  Even when I was hearing the story, I was thinking that the laying on hands bit was meant to be a clever way to keep from being proved wrong.  And once Uncle L refused to get the car looked at, she was going to be proved wrong.

Looking back now, I wonder if she was trying to get her story in before Uncle had a chance to say anything.  He never commented on it, though, unless he was there when she was repeating it.  His only comment even then was "Mom gets these ideas."  So if she had made up the 'healing,' after the trip in order to protect the sanctity of her intuition, it was unnecessary. 


Perhaps the category 5 should be things I've thought about doing but haven't done.  That will include things I've started but haven't finished. 

Once upon a time, having read the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I went through all of the Spenser novels written at the time and copied all of the references to food.  I've been through:

The Godwulf Manuscript (1973)
God Save the Child (1974)
Mortal Stakes (1975)
Promised Land (1976)
The Judas Goat (1978)
Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980)
Early Autumn (1981)
A Savage Place (1981)
Ceremony (1982)
The Widening Gyre (1983)
Valediction (1984)
A Catskill Eagle (1985)
Taming a Sea-Horse (1986)
Pale Kings and Princes (1987)
Crimson Joy (1988)
Playmates (1989)
Stardust (1990)
Pastime (1991)
Double Deuce (1992)
Paper Doll (1993)
Walking Shadow (1994)
Thin Air (1995)
Chance (1996)
Small Vices (1997)
Sudden Mischief (1998)
Hush Money (1999)
Hugger Mugger (2000)
Potshot (2001)
Widow's Walk (2002)
Back Story (2003)
Bad Business (2004)
Cold Service (2005)
School Days (2005)
Hundred-Dollar Baby (2006)

I haven't read:

Now and Then (2007)
Rough Weather (2008)
The Professional (2009)

I still have a three-ring binder filled with the copies.  There are also copies of bits that seemed typical of the main characters.  I don't think I so much as cooked one meal.  I tried to get one of my kids interested in helping with the project, but they just weren't. 

I've learned there is a website called The Unofficial Spenser Cookbook, that is collecting recipes.  Part of me wants to jump in and play along.  It would be doing part of what I had wanted to do.  Another part of me wants to hold on for doing the book.

I haven't flipped through that binder in years, now.  I'd do it now, but everyone in the house is on a different diet.  That may be an excuse to put it off.  Maybe over the holidays.