Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Never a Dull Moment

The place where I work sits adjacent to a diner on a major highway. There’s about ten feet of grass sloping downward toward the diner between our parking lot and theirs with 20-foot high metal lamp posts spaced evenly along this stretch of land. Employees for my company park in our lot facing the diner.

Today I spent a half-hour in my car, in the rain, eating my sandwich and reading about a dozen pages of Prelude to Foundation. I enjoy the solitude and peace and quiet from my normally very frenetic work environment. Ten minutes after I got back from lunch, however, I get a page to report to the receptionist’s desk. It appears a delivery box truck for the diner somehow struck one of the lamp posts dead-on, knocking it over onto the hood of my Impala, where it rolled over off the driver’s side and slammed into the car parked next to mine.

Our customer relations manager happened to be walking in the parking lot and heard the loud bang. She rushed to my car and spotted the driver of the truck running into the diner, leaving his vehicle idling loudly. She had the receptionist called 911 and the police arrived about ten minutes later after I and the co-worker who owned the car next to mine inspected the debris field.

The damage was a little worse than first glance, because the Impala is black and it was raining. But there is a foot-long dent in the front hood, red scratches from the post along the front of the hood, scratches and dents on the driver's side door post and mirror, and numerous hairline cracks running from the sides of my front windshield inward. My car was covered in shattered glass from the light post, which had come to rest like a pinball on the grass in front of the cars. Electrical wiring still connected to its shattered body and the concrete base served as a warning to us all to keep away from it.

The police came and took our information and eventually hunted down the dude in the truck. Don’t know his story – yet, but I should have the police report either by Friday or Monday. Then comes the long, tiresome business of getting the car fixed. There’s a body shop next to my company which does business with us and gives our employees breaks.

Oh! I have the whole thing caught on camera – cameras that monitor what goes on in our parking lots. My IT guy is going to burn a copy of it for me, so when I call truck driver’s insurance company, they know for certain they’ll be paying for repairs. It’s a crazy video – he must’ve hit the gas instead of the brake, because the truck accelerates over a curb, up five feet of incline grass, and smashes straight into the concrete base of the lamp.

Man, am I glad this day only comes about once every quadrennial!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I’ve reached the halfway point of Prelude to Foundation and guess what – the ancient Book our hero finds is somehow related to events on the planet Aurora – a.k.a. Dawn – linking this novel with last Saturday’s acquisition, The Robots of Dawn. Synchronicity alert! Synchronicity alert! May I present you the sound of a thousand Keanu Reeveses simultaneously going whoa in an echo chamber the size of my skull ...

The Thing – the remake of the remake – excuse me, the prequel to the remake – is on my agenda tonight. Very excited, because at the very worst it will be me and my pal watching SF. Me and my pal watching SF – bad or good – is still better than most things I can think of (except me and the wife watching SF). Especially when you toss in a bag of pistachios and a couple of beers! Look for my vivisection of the film in coming days ...

Why am I reading all this Civil War stuff ... why am I reading all this Civil War stuff ... why am I reading all this Civil War stuff ... well, I finally figured it out, but it’s kinda complex to fit into a three-sentence paragraph. May do a post about it in the near-future. I think it will be a worthy one, regardless of whether you find fascination in the four-year conflagration our nation underwent ...

It’s been five days now since one of us has been in the Emergency Room. Good sign, knock on wood or otherwise nearest woodlike surface. Got the bill from the plastic surgeon though - $1,600! That’s like a $9,600-an-hour labor rate! Works out to a $160 a stitch. Yikes! The wife’s submitting it to the insurance company, but I’m certain we’ll be paying something for this (in addition to the $100 emergency room co-pay) ...

Been thinking about the phrase-slash-cliché the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Not sure if it’s true or not or is. Might be worth a skewed and highly weirdous post. Maybe in in the next few days …

All right, nuff of this. Gotta cook my famous slammin’ salmon …

Monday, February 27, 2012

Psalm 8:5

May I just remind everyone how I hate “gender inclusive language”? Not from a misogynistic perspective mind you; I think women are wonderful. I firmly believe the tenet of my religion that holds a certain woman named Mary the mother of Jesus to be the most perfect human being to walk the earth.

No, my main objection is the ugliness and artificiality of “gender inclusive language.”

Case in point:

This Lent I’m slowly working my way through the Psalms. The two Bibles I’m using are the New American Bible (1970), still in my possession from my high school religion days, and the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (1989), a Christmas gift from my parents.

Guess which version never heard of “gender inclusion”?

Now, the NRSV-CE is normally a good, faithful, problem-free translation. I never had any “problems” with it, until I stumbled across something a few nights ago that made me shake my head at the tin-eared ineptitude of man. “Man,” in this case, referring to translators of either gender.

Psalm 8:5, NAB

What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?

Psalm 8:5, NRSV-CE

What are humans that you are mindful of them,
mere mortals that you care for them?


What is God, a Vulcan?

We are sacrificing beauty at the altar of political correctness.

[Though I see in a bit of internet searching that the NAB has been infected with “rampant liberalism”, though “modernism” as it was understood in the late 19th century, may be more to blame: Too tired to read it now, but perhaps I’ll give it a go at lunch tomorrow. I offer it here with the caveat that I have not read it so I may or may not agree with it.]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Four Hours Sleep

I’ve been up for about twelve hours now, my body running on empty on four hours’ sleep. Why I got only four hours’ sleep is not important. What I find interesting is what I’ve accomplished today by sheer force of will. Makes me think I can survive one of the special forces hell week training thingies. Well, at least not die during one.

Anyway, ahem.

What I Did On Four Hours Sleep

Cleaned the basement
Bought $193.55 worth of groceries with two children in tow
Picked up my daughter from her first sleepover
Chatted up parents at said sleepover
Read 25 pages of a brain power book (/irony)
Read 18 pages of Prelude to Foundation (/awesome)
Chased the little ones outside in the backyard (for five minutes)
Took a hot bath reading a pictorial history of the Civil War
Filed away all the bills and receipts on my desk
Watched The UFO Incident on youtube
Organized my books and CDs on the shelf behind me
Remembered to take omega 3 and B vitamin pills
Brought in dry cleaning from trunk of car
Assembled my daughter’s lava lamp
Reviewed my GOALS2005.xls for the heck of it
Figured out how to play Peaches on my acoustic
Dropped off Patch’s Super Kitty Princess in the library bin
Drew a picture of a cat for Patch
Fed daughters apples, cheese sticks, and mini-muffins for lunch
Left a couple of political comments on Facebook
Added a long-forgotten idea to my WritingAgenda.doc

And I still have eight hours to go!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pie and Pi

I’m driving Little One to her first sleep-over, when she asks me, “Daddy, what’s your favorite number?”

Ah! Now there’s a question I can dig into. However, I always like to keep her on her toes, so I never answer her questions in a way she can expect. After a moment’s pause, I say,


“Pie?” She crinkles her nose. “That’s not a number!”

I clear my throat. “Indeed it is. It’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, represented by the Greek letter pi. It appears in all sorts of mathematical relationships in the physical world. It’s three-point-one-four-one-five-nine and it continues on for millions and millions of digits.”

Ten seconds go by in silence.

“Pick another number.”

The Bicentennial Man

© 1976 by Isaac Asimov

What a great read!

I was a little hesitant about revisiting Asimov. If you’ve stopped by here with any regularity, you know that I grew up reading his works. One Christmas I got a five-pack of his novels, which included this one. After I broke my arm a year later, my mom bought me I, Robot. I read each novel at least twice. Of the collections, each short story three or four times. By age 12 I probably read 300,000 words of Dr. Asimov’s.

Fond memories, some of my first reading science fiction, and no doubt highly instrumental in growing that massive neuro-physiological neural network that gives me enjoyment to this day. I reread The Gods Themselves, Pebble in the Sky, and The Caves of Steel sometime in the mid-nineties, but of the classic short story collections, I was a little leery.

Why? Probably the fear of being let down. Give me the name of an Asimovian short story and I can supply a visual memory – a scene, a character, a name, something – that still lasts in my mind, three decades later. Often I remember the hook, the literary punch-line – and there’s one at the conclusion of every one of the master’s tales. So over the years the possibility that these fond memories of mine might be a little exaggerated by the distance of time and the inexperience or innocence of youth weighed heavily on me.

Brave reader that I am, I had no choice but to plunge straight ahead. That, plus the fact that I think I’m re-reading all these potent books from my youth as a weird sort of mid-life crisis. I’m still working that one out.

Anyway, The Bicentennial Man floored me. Absolutely floored me. A+ overall, with stories ranging from A-double-pluses to high B’s, if I may be so bold as to assign grades to Dr. Asimov’s transcendental tales.

About half the collection are his classic robot stories. In my memories these stories did not leave as strong an impression, but upon re-reading, they are the more powerful. Perhaps because as an adult I am very well-read in the question, What does it mean to be a man?, a question that Asimov’s robots often ponder themselves. Indeed, the eponymous story, especially the closing paragraph, with Andrew’s final thoughts, brings chills to me even now, a full week later.

The other tales are classic SF adventure. An underwater city facing extermination. Two astronauts fighting a black hole. A man struggling against the tyranny of a global computer dictator. A scientist with morals facing a demanding military political complex with none. Some action, but most of the adventure comes in considering impossible alternatives, and the mental gymnastics of overcoming the enemy, much better and much much more interesting that the physical gymnastics you see on the big and small screens, conceived by even smaller minds.

I can’t recommend this collection enough. If you consider yourself a science fiction aficionado and have not read it, you are at best ill-informed, at worst a liar. Read it! Don’t let the Robin Williams bastardization of the title story dissuade you. Each story can be read in a day (or two a day, even), if your schedule is tight like mine. And each passed the Hellish Reality test, meaning it made me completely forget about the Hellish Reality of my existence (okay, I’m being a tad bit dramatic here). Two months in to 2012 I’ve read nine books; so far this is the best, and probably will be a candidate for Best Read at the end of December.

For those who know the book by heart, here are my “grades” –

“Feminine Intuition” – A
“Waterclap” – A+
“That Thou Art Mindful of Him” – A
“Stranger in Paradise” – B+
“The Life and Times of Multivac” – A++
“The Winnowing” – A
“The Bicentennial Man” – A++
“Marching In” – B
“Old-fashioned” – B+
“The Tercentenary Incident” – B
“Birth of a Notion” – B+

Because of my experience reading this book, I’m currently reading Prelude to Foundation by Asimov. Never read his “Foundation” series, though I do recall starting it in the late-80s, but partying and music and whatnot kept my focus elsewhere and I gave up. I also picked up The Robots of Dawn for a few dollars today during errands. Call this my Asimovian phase, as I’ll probably be reading the good doctor way into springtime.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Okay, this is getting old very fast.

Got a frantic call at work from the day care center around 11 am: Patch, her first morning back since her three-day hospitalization for pneumonia last weekend, fell in the playground. Not only did she fall, she fell into a giant ceramic turtle, causing a one-inch gash halfway up her forehead over her right eye. The day care owner called me, saying that while the bleeding has stopped, she may have to go get stitches.

Immediately, I thought of this ...

Fortunately, the wife was home; she immediately drove up to get poor little Patch. Stitches were necessary, so they went to the local Emergency Room for the second time in six days. This time around, though, they were only there two hours. A plastic surgeon on call came in, numbed the area around the wound, stitched it up with as little trauma as possible, and they were discharged after lunch.

Suffice it to say that this time around Patch has learned how to work it. Mommy bought her some Maggie Moos ice cream, and Daddy got her a sugar cookie, chocolate milk, and a gigantic gumball.

How can you say “no” to a face like this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eight Percenter

Book nerd that I am, I have determined through strenuous though fun exertion of a mental nature, that I have re-read 8 percent of the books that have crossed my path and gained my attention. A fair number of these have been over the past five years. And a lot of those re-reads were books that I read as a youngling, in those crazy hazy days we call the Seventies. More often than not I only recall a few scenes, a few characters, a few plot points, so I’m re-reading to discover anew what it once was that captivated me. More often than not I am … not disappointed, that’s too strong a word, for I’ve enjoyed all these returns immensely. Perhaps as a seeker I am slightly let down, but only for a moment as I leap back on the path and pursue the prey once again. The prey being, primarily, and not to sound too stuffy, nirvana on the written page.

It could be worse, I suppose. Some men lash out during their mid-life crises with younger babes, faster cars, a return to hard-core partying. Me, I just go to a used book store with my Acquisitions List.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sure Bet

While watching some teevee together last night, the wife mentions that the Oscars will be on this weekend. I’m no fan of the “You’re so great! Yes I am! You are too! Thanks I know!” vibe the whole event gives off, especially when so many people are hurting due to the man Hollywood helped put in power. But she watches such shows, in part because she’s in the fashion industry and these people, like it or not, are trendsetters.

Anyway, she says that the heavy lady from Mike and Molly might upset the black actress from The Help for the supporting actress Oscar. (Were there any politically incorrect words in that previous sentence? I honestly can’t tell anymore.) I disagree. I think The Help will sweep the awards. It’ll even take home Best Special Effects, I predict.

The wife disagrees. “Listen,” I say, “that movie is the kinda story Hollywood 2012 loves.”

I elaborate: “If I really wanted to lift us – our family – out of this economic malaise, make some real money, like millions-of-dollars type of money, I’d write a story about the first female black judge. Publishers would be clawing and scratching each other, climbing over each other to publish my book. Especially if I can show how she triumphed over some form of white racism. Hollywood would be throwing all kinds of cash at me to buy the rights to such a book.”

“So why don’t you?” she shoots back.

“Cuz I have absolutely no interest in the subject. I want to write about spaceships and aliens and the future and whatnot, and somehow throw God into the mix. “

Wife (thought, not spoken, since I can read her thoughts after a decade of marriage): We’re gonna be poor for the rest of our lives.

Monday, February 20, 2012

National Beard Day

OK, it’s really Presidents Day, but for some reason I had beards on my mind. I finished a small picture book on the Civil War while Patch was sleeping in her hospital bed this weekend, and darn it, every single man who fought in that conflict had a beard! Well, almost. But those beards … some were a might fine example of the dazzling and luxurious variety.

Anyway, let me ask you this –

Why don’t Americans trust a president with a beard? Is he hiding something?

How many presidents have had beards? Who was the first and who was the last?

Well, according to my five-minute research of the online pages of the National Portrait Gallery, by my count we’ve had five bearded leaders.

The first, of course, was Lincoln. He assumed the office of the presidency in 1861.

He was followed by the beardless Andrew Johnson.

Then, America was treated to eight years of the powerful beard of Ulysses S. Grant, a man who was as mediocre as president as he was brilliant as a general.

Grant kept the beard thing alive by passing the baton to a scruffy Rutherford B. Hayes.

And Hayes honored his forebear by crumbling in defeat to a shaggy James Garfield. A trifecta of bearded executives!

However, to keep the cosmic scales in balance, America in the 80s was run by two baby-faced gentlemen, last names of Arthur and Cleveland.

Then – a return to beards! Benjamin Harrison brought his furry mug into the Oval Office in 1889. For four more years bearded men of the United States chanted, “Four more years!”

And that was the last beard to rule America.

For a span of 32 years, five bearded men were the most powerful men on the face of the earth. Well, maybe they were the fourth most powerful men. England, maybe France, maybe another European country were still happenin’ at the end of the 19th century.

So the answers to my Presidents Day Beard Quiz are –

Yes; five; Lincoln; Harrison.

And the answer to the question you’re thinking right now:

Yes, I am fatigued to the point of extreme stupor. Or stupidity. Pick one.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Best Banana Phone Call

We were reminiscing today about one of the funniest things Little One ever did. It happened about two years ago, when she was in kindergarten. I kept picking up a banana from the fruit dish in our kitchen, pretending it a ringing phone. I’d dramatically have a one-sided conversation with a monkey on the other line.

After a half-dozen times, I again answered an imaginary ringing banana. “It’s for you,” I said, handing the fruit over to my daughter. “It’s that monkey again.”

She puts her snack down on the table, grabs the banana from my hand and places it to her ear. “Stop calling our house!” she says matter-of-factly, but with authority, placing the banana back on the imaginary receiver. Then she goes back to her snack.

I still laugh to this day.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Emergency Room

What a crazy twenty-four hours it’s been.

My last post was of me and my Patch, driving post-rush-hour to the local Meefeetoe place, grabbing burritos for the wife and I, gettin’ home. I posted whilst eating said burrito.

Well, Patch and Little One went down at 8:15. Little One slept blissfully. Patch did not.

By 9 it seemed evident (to my wife that is, God bless her; I have thick lunkhead ears of stone) that our youngest was not sleeping. A deep, hacking, non-stop cough had developed over the past few days, and came in ferocious-like that evening. My better half got Patch, took a hot shower with her (steam tends to help our little ’uns sleep), rubbed Vick’s on her tiny torso, the works. Nothing helped.

Finally, my wife notifies me she’s taking Patch to the Emergency Room.

This is at 10:30. Feeling guilty and stupid, I let her know I’ll hold the fort back home (how brave of me, but we do have a blissfully sleeping child upstairs). So I stay up until 2:30. The wife and I exchange a few cell calls during that period.

The pre-diagnosis is pre-pneumonia. Rather, first-stage pneumonia. Either that or a nasty viral infection. In goes the IV needle, out goes any ounce of cooperation from my three-year-old. The IV drips antibiotics and steroids into her tiny veins. They keep an oxygen mask on her since her blood oxygenation levels are falling. Nebulizer treatments with albuterol continue, with the respiratory therapist pounding her back afterwards for 3-5 minutes to loosen up the congestion in her tiny lungs.

Little One wakens me the next morning at 7. Reluctantly I get up, feed her and myself, get showered and dressed, run a couple necessary errands with my oldest. We’re at the hospital at 10:30 am, where it’s now my turn to sit with Patch. My wife leaves with Little One to return home for a couple hours of sleep. She’s been up most of the night at the hospital.

My vigil with Patch lasted for a little over ten hours today. And there was never a dull moment. Two more respiratory treatments. Periodic blood pressure and temperature checks. Hospital food. All ensuring that my overtired sleep-deprived toddler remains so. And this results in fighting and tantrums over keeping that O2 mask on her face.

The nurses, as usual, were wonderful. Lots of TLC for my littlest girl. And bonus of bonuses, she actually improved over the course of the day. No more wheezing, though the coughing is still present. Plus her blood levels are staying oxygenated, so by 4 pm no more oxygen mask.

The wife returned at 8 to relieve me. I took Little One home, stopping at the grocery store for a chocolate chip muffin as a treat for her behaving so well since we basically neglected her in favor of her younger sister all day. I’m probably going to crash shortly after I post this. First thing tomorrow morning we’re heading back over to the hospital. With crossed fingers our family GP will have stopped by to give Patch the thumbs-up to come home. The nurses seemed hopeful of this as I left earlier.

A lost weekend in the worse sense of the phrase, though things seem to be looking optimistic at this time of writing.

PS – strange synergistic occurrence: walking with Little One down to the hospital gift shop I noted a rack of about thirty used paperbacks advertised for $1.25 apiece. Scanning – as I must – I find – wow! – Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation, the first book (though not first written) of the master’s classic series that I’ve never read. Since I’ve been raving to everyone I know (well, just the wife, really) how well I enjoyed Asimov’s Bicentennial Man short story anthology, surely this is a sign, no?

Friday, February 17, 2012


I took Patch with me tonight on our weekly Friday night burrito run (burritoes are coming! burritoes are coming!), so conversation was adjusted to communicate with the developing mind of a three-year-old. Which means we spent some time singing songs, making funny noises, arguing about what names she wants to call herself (Muck - rhymes with look, and Squib, for some reason). We also turned, naturally, to Sesame Street.

When we inevitably turned to Grover, I suddenly remembered a horrible memory I had not thought of in years. Perhaps it was one of my earliest traumatic memories - and it in turn triggered remembrance of my first nightmare.

First off - and I did not mention this to Patch - I remember a scene on Sesame Street where Grover was eating some peanut butter. Who as a three- or four-year-old can't relate to this? With a mouthful of peanut butter, poor Grover's lips stuck shut! He couldn't open his mouth! I recall being riveted to the teevee screen. Possibly I had a PB&J sandwich in my hand at the time; can't remember that fact (it was forty some odd years ago). "How can he breathe!" my silent scream ... er, screamed.

Then, another muppet came along and helped Grover open his mouth. Phew! Salvation! Grover thanks his friend profusely, and the friend left. So what does Grover do? No, Grover, no! He takes another bite of the peanut butter and his mouth seals shut again. His frantic muffled wailing haunt me to this day!

Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But it does recall my first nightmare.

I'm my four-year-old self, playing in my grandparent's backyard. Two cartoonish looking characters walk up, both dressed as cowboys. They say stuff and do stuff that make me laugh. I like this dream.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, a sinister looking cartoon comes out through the bushes. It's like the giant Kool-Aid pitcher character, only it's white and has no handle. I feel an immediate sense of dread as it nears.

Suddenly, it envelopes one of the cowboys. I don't know how it did it, but I can distinctly see the little fellow hazily in the body of this creature. His arms are flailing about, searching for a way out, and his mouth is puffing open and shut like a goldfish out of water.

"Let him out!" the other cowboy shrieks. "He can't breathe in there!"

And then I woke up.

Of course I mentioned none of this to my little Patch-o. A few nights ago, around two or three in the morning, she cried out from her bedroom, "I'll be a good girl!" Then, all was silent.

Must've had a bad dream, I thought at the time through my semi-conscious slumber. I just only hope she wasn't visited by that sinister white blobby dream-thing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Every year this time of year, this time of year specifically referring to Lent, which technically doesn't really begin until Ash Wednesday next week, I like to read a spiritual book. Been doing this since my hospitalization three years ago. Usually I try to focus on something written about the Passion of Our Lord. One year it was Death on a Friday Afternoon by Father Robert Neuhaus. Another time it was The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Bl. Anna Katherina Emmerich, the book on which Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ was based. I also put away Jim Bishop's excellent The Day Christ Died. All worthy reads, all of enormous spiritual benefit.

For a while now I've been thinking about what I should read this Lent. Then, a few weeks ago and quite out of the blue, this thought resonated throughout my gray matter: read the Psalms. Huh? The Psalms? What has that got to do with the Passion of Jesus?

Before I answer that, may I first comment on this thought resonation? Basically, any time something "pops" into my mind completely unexpectedly and with an astounding amount of force, I don't cast it aside lightly. I may be a hopper, hopping to this topic and that subject, often in midstream, but when I'm metaphysically hit with a two-by-four I do occasionally take notice. And when it pertains to spiritual matters, I take action.

So, Psalms it is, Lent 2012.

What have the Psalms to do with the Passion of Jesus? Well, I'm no biblical scholar, just an armchair theologian of the most amateur stripe. Christ as Messiah is prefigured in numerous places, I'm told, particularly Psalm 22. Christ quotes liberally from the Psalms; indeed, as a 1st century Jew, He knew them intimately. Plus, the Psalms run the whole gamut of emotions, from adoration of God to repentance to calls for justice to suffering and despair. Though most are traditionally attributed to David, modern scholars believe them to be written by several authors (no doubt divinely inspired) over the course of several centuries. So you have the whole Israel experience contained within the Psalms, and Israel, I have heard it posited, is the Old Testament analog of the seeker of God (Christ).

Last week I planned it out. There are 150 Psalms. If I alternate reading 3 one night and 4 the next, I will get through them all by Good Friday. This includes one night to focus slowly and solely on the mammoth Psalm 119, and a day or two at the end to review or reread a few of my favorites - the ones that left the heaviest mark upon me. To help me along the way I read a small booklet on the Psalms by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and am currently making my way through a book of Psalmic reflections by C. S. Lewis.

During my first conversion in the winter of 1992, I read through the Bible in its entirety - with the exception of the Psalms. Twenty years later, a little voice in my head is now urging me to finish the task. I'll try to post weekly on my progress and what I've learned during the journey.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cor mundum crea in me

Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo munda me. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper. Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci; ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris. Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in peccatis concepit me mater mea. Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti; incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi. Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor. Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam, et exsultabunt ossa humiliata. Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis, et omnes iniquitates meas dele. Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis. Ne projicias me a facie tua, et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me. Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui, et spiritu principali confirma me. Docebo iniquos vias tuas, et impii ad te convertentur. Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae, et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam. Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam. Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique; holocaustis non delectaberis. Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

[Note: this will be the language of our thoughts in our next sphere of existence ...]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Junior Executive

Just passed my 90th day mark at the new job, and attended my first weekly manager's meeting. I am technically not a manager - or rather, I am the manager of a one-man department. Anyway, last Thursday the owner came up to me and said that he wanted me to start attending these pow-wow sessions, where grievances are aired, problems are anticipated and solved, and business strategy is plotted.

This is a good place to work.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Even after 23 years, this is probably my favorite song of all time, from a band that’s been on my short list of a half-dozen greatest for just as long.

Yes, this post means I am exhausted, defeated by work, commute, worry, and children. Now – off to read some Asimov.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sasquatch Block

Just read on that Romney lost the Sasquatch vote. Not sure where, when or how I read this, possibly around 4 am this morning, sweating out my sleep-deprived cold chills. Also not sure where, when or how Romney lost the bigfoot faction, but lost it he did.

Apparently Gingrich is a more favorable candidate for the shy hairy hominids, estimated to be between 12,000 and 16,000 in number in the Pacific Northwest. I told this to my wife, who never seems to believe me when I mention such things. With numbers such as that, I said, our sasquatch friends could right the Left Coast.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Morning Catch

Ah, Saturday morning errands. My favorite time of the week.

Usually, I spend the first hour paying bills and balancing the checkbook in Quicken (not my favorite time of the week). Then I shower, get dressed, grab a child, and load up the car for my weekly errand run. We hit the post office to drop bills off in the mail, then we stop at the dry cleaners. Normally, we hit the recycling center next, but a light dusting of snow made me decide against breaking down boxes in the driveway. A library visit follows (that’s the highlight of the trip for me), then a stop at our favorite local pizzeria (the highlight of the trip for the little one with me).

Got a half-dozen fairly strange and substantially amusing books from the library this morning. Now, I won’t read through them all. But I’ve already skimmed through one and discovered a pair of blog posts, hidden gems, buried in its pages. What, you’re itching to inquire of me (I can tell these things), did I pick up?

All right. I’ll take that bait.

First, I got The Paradoxicon by Nicholas Falleta. An older book, kind of an everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-paradoxes (but-were-afraid-to-ask). This is the one I read through in the doctor’s waiting room this afternoon. Good, meaty stuff, stuff that makes me tap my palm against my temple and murmur holy cows and good lords while goose bumps raise on my arms. More to follow from this one.

Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait. This guy has an excellent website that basically educates us against our inherent stupidity when it comes to astronomy (and physics), primarily in the media, focusing on blockbuster summer movies. Good book, especially the section on debunking believers in an Apollo moon landing hoax. Don’t read much of his online stuff anymore, though, since his blog takes a particularly rabid stance toward believers in the Faith. Oh well. Still like him when he focuses strictly on science.

Time: A Traveler’s Guide by Clifford Pickover. Don’t know much about this one ’cept that it explores time, time travel, music, philosophy, and physics. He tends to write books that I like to read. In fact, I read his book on black holes a few years back, and that deserves a re-read. This too could be a good source of bloggage.

The Secret Message of Jules Verne by Michel Lamy. This was too delicious to pass up. Apparently Jules encoded all sorts of conspiratorial gunk in his writings, awaiting decipherage by 21st century fringe writers. I’ll skim it, and if it passes my shifting and variably varying litmus tests of credulosity, I’ll dig deeper into it. Go ahead, convince me, Michel!

Isaac Asimov by William F. Touponce. A short literary analysis of the master’s work. Since I’m halfway through Asimov’s Bicentennial Man collection and am enjoying the trip immensely, I figgered a bit of thematic study might be of interest. Read a chapter while Patch played in the children’s room at the library, nodding the head and petting the beard. Decent stuff of interest.

The Critique of Criminal Reason by Michael Gregorio. What do you get when you cross the dense philosophic thought of Immanuel Kant and CSI: Miami? This book! There’s a serial killer in 1804 Prussia (when hasn’t there been a serial killer somewhere sometime, according to our precious media?), and the local constable needs to enlist the aid of dying, 80-plus-year-old Professor Kant to discover the monster’s identity. It’s non-fiction, obviously, so I may squeeze it in after my Asimov book’s done, give it a trial run of a chapter or two. Let you know.

Good Reading, all!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hopper's Law of Cereal Box Disposal

Prop: On any given trash pickup day, ten minutes after said trash is picked up by the outside service vehicle which does such things, every cereal box which one will tip to pour crunchy nuggets into a bowl of milk will contain only a smattering of flakes.

Addend: If you check the cereal boxes before bagging up the trash, said boxes will always all be full.

Happened to me today, this morning. Happened last Friday morning, and the Friday morning ere that. But not the Friday before that last Friday, because I had the foresight to check the cereal boxes. Ergo the addendum.

Cereal boxes really tick me off. I mean, really. The boxes we buy for our family of heavy duty, no-nonsense cereal consumers (I’m looking at you, Patch and Little One) hold 648 cubic inches (3 in x 12 in x 18 in), equivalent to 2.8 gallons of granola (at least according to the online unit converter I consulted). Now, envision 2.8 gallon jugs filled with water. Now, empty each jug about two-thirds. Now, observe the result. That’s about how full the box of dry cereal is.

Which is picking nits, except when you consider how outrageously overpriced a box of cereal is. They say you’re paying for the marketing on the box, which is why the box has to be so darn big. I say, give me my cereal in a brown paper bag, then!

It’s not like I haven’t tried alternatives. I used to cook myself a half-cup of oatmeal with half a sliced apple, a handful of raisins, and a teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled on top. But that was so labor intensive for a kitchenphobe like me it was only practical when I was outta work. Now that I’m working full-time, and have to get Patch to day care and Little One to grammar school, too, first thing in the morning, time-wise we can only afford that bowl of cereal. Unless we get up a half-hour earlier. Which I ain’ t doing, cuz I’m a night-owl.

So, beware Hopper’s Law of Cereal Box Disposal. Learn it, respect it, accept it.

It is completely and utterly true.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Icelandic Thing

This has been making the rounds over the past couple of days …

Is it –

(1) A tear in the time-space continuum

(2) Bigfoot swimming for a yummy salmon

(3) Yorgen Snurdsgul’s new robotic radio-controlled lake monster

(4) A plastic garbage bag reeled in by a fishing pole

(5) Thirty-foot worms from the center of the earth

(6) Melting river ice

(7) Kiranagua: the first sign of the Mayan Apocalypse

(8) Ice gators from that new History Channel show

(9) The oil-blob-thing Stephen King wrote about

(10) A rare video of Gaia’s mitochondria

You know what I think it is!

[Hint: it’s the first Fermat prime as well as the first Mersenne prime]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jeff Davis and Baseball

Not much to say today. Got some good sleep last night, little ones cooperated during the breakfast rush, and had a productive day at work. For lunch, I scarfed down a sandwich in my car and thumbed through a Civil War illustrated encyclopedia. Two bits of trivia have been floating about my consciousness ever since.

First, General Grant named one of his horses, “Jeff Davis.” I absolutely love that fact, and I’ve read it before. I don’t know what part of it tickles my fancy. Not only does he name an animal he rides after the (civilian) leader of the forces he’s fighting, but he uses the familiar “Jeff” instead of the formal “Jefferson.” Love it.

Second, and this is a new one to me: Did you know the man who fired the Union’s first cannon response after the Confederate forces opened up on Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war? No? Well, it was a Captain named Abner Doubleday. Yes, that Abner Doubleday, the man who later tradition ascribes as the founder of the sport of baseball. Amazing, huh? The coincidences I’ve learned reading a few books on the Civil War simply amaze me.

Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. And by “regularly”, I mean “weird.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Island of Lost Books


I’m forty-five pages into Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Escape on Venus. I’m not that into it, but I read one of his Venus books as a kid and I want to see what I remember, in addition to a few pieces of Venusian linguistics. The story is so-so, the science nonexistant, but I’m a willing participant. I put in about two hours to date. Then, last night, I feel like reading a bit before bed when –

I can’t find it!

Where did my book go to? This is a travesty! My wife was chuckling as I went tearing through the house – is it in this pile? That pile? Downstairs at the writing desk? Is it in my car? My wife’s? Where did I see it last? Did Patch hide it under the sofa? Nowhere is it to be found. More humorous noises from my Better Half, until I silence her with: “Imagine you went to Starbucks and came back with a big grande of coffee. Then, you go to another room for a moment, and when you come back – it’s gone!” If that did indeed happen, heaven help anyone who gets between her and her caffeine.

Anyway, I’ve given up the search. Escape on Venus has fled – or been abducted – to the Island of Lost Books. My life was oddly incomplete last night. I could not go to sleep. I went back to the basement and fished around the On Deck Circle, and managed to draw up some enthusiasm for Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur. True, I read twenty-five pages of that book last night, but when I cracked it at lunchtime, any zeal for it had long fled.

What do I do now? What do I read next?

I think this calls for some drastic action.

I’ve been reading a lot of epic books, big books, lengthy books. Why not try something different? How about a return to short stories?

Okay, my right brain says to the left. The first choice – first meaning it pops into my mind before the left brain can analyze it to bloody death – is Asimov’s The Bicentennial Man. Eleven short stories, last read thirty-plus years ago. Lots of vivid images still in my mind. Why not?

Think I’ll start on it tonight.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gasoline Blues

Wanna know what occupied my thoughts during this morning’s commute?

How it takes $45 to fill the *&!#@!* gas tank in my 2008 Chevy Impala!

I mean, I remember when it used to take $25 to fill it. How long ago was that? Two years? Three? At least as long as the amateur president has been in office.

A few weeks back I read a statistic that when the One took office a gallon of gas cost $1.80. Now it’s hovering around $3.30 or so. But you know that, right? Because of the ticker that the media runs on a daily, no hourly, basis. It’s the lead during the morning shows and the lead during the evening news. Been that way every since gas prices rose during the Bush presidency –

Oh. Yeah. Their guy’s in, so we’re all hush-hush about the price of gas.

Now, I remember clearly three-and-a-half years ago, when gas prices rose near the tail end of Bush’s term. Forget that ABC NBC CBS PBS CNN MSNBC et. al. used the rising price to discredit the Bush administration and, by extension, the Republican Party and, by extension, the conservative philosophical movement. Forget that.

Let’s talk about solutions. Some of which the media was even clamoring for back before the Obama Recession went full swing.

Why won’t the president release some of the strategic oil reserves, flooding the market, so to speak, with additional supply and lowering the price?

Why won’t the president allow drilling in Alaska? The Gulf? Off the coasts? Drill, baby, drill!

Why won’t the president demand legislation to reduce or eliminate the burdensome taxes that are slapped on to the price of a gallon of gas, one atop the other?

Mr. President, I demand to know why you care so little for the little guy!

I mean, the difference in price to fill my car’s tank once a week is $20. Multiply that over the course of a year and it’s a cool $1,000. Hey, I could stimulate the economy with that much money. In lot’s of ways, like – food! Clothing! Education expenses for my two younglings! Paying down my credit card debt!

C’mon, Mr. Obama, why do you hate the middle class?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Guns of Avalon

Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading Roger Zelazny. Back in those days, there were a couple of books, but the one I remember most was To Die in Italbar. I read it at least three times, and I have it on the shelf behind me to re-read as an adult. I’ve read a few of his short stories, read his award-winning Lord of Light and This Immortal. This book, The Guns of Avalon, has been sitting behind me for over four years before I cracked it. And once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Naturally.

I found it in a used book store and almost didn’t buy it, it being the second of a four or five book series. Normally I don’t like starting any series of books except at the beginning. I carried it around the store with me, weighing my indecision, and finally bought it. The ninety-nine cent price tag was the deciding factor. Brought it home, put it on the on-deck shelf, where it sat for four-and-a-half years.

Oh, I tried it two or three years ago. On the long drive down to Hilton Head, South Carolina. While the toddlers were sleeping and the wife was taking her turn behind the wheel, I opened the book and read a few pages. It seemed horribly banal and amateurish, and, shocked, I put it down in favor of some sight-seeing.

The question I know ask myself is, what was that book I attempted to read?

Because a week ago I read the opening lines of The Guns of Avalon and simply had to find out how it ended. What a great, pleasant read! A pageturner in the best sense of that word!

Normally I’m quite wary of these sword ’n’ sorcery tales. Only one – and I mean, only one – was done the right way, and that was the first one, Tolkien’s masterpiece. What elevates this story is that it’s chock-full of Zelaznian characters. It also reminded me lots of George R. R. Martin’s epic Song of Fire and Ice novels (themselves a fantasized version more like the War of the Roses than the Arthurian legends). The Guns of Avalon had elements of Martin and Tolkien in it for me. Picture it as a Cliff Notes version of the Song of Fire and Ice, if that series focused on a family of Tolkien elves well-versed in Nietzsche. Or even better, it was much like a fleshed-out version of a Michael Moorcock novel – except written by a writer who knows how to give characters multi-dimensional character.

It’s a tough novel to summarize. Remember, it’s book two of five, so you’re immediately thrust into the action. But to back up, the tale takes place – now, or millennia ago, or nevermore, because we follow a family of immortals who are able to negotiate a multiverse of parallel universes, all independent of time. They can even manipulate and create universes for themselves, in additional to hopping back and forth between well-known worlds. We follow Corwin, one of the younger brothers, who had been blinded and imprisoned by an older sibling who usurped their father’s throne. Now Corwin’s escaped, and he’s out for vengeance. Meets up with men who wanted to kill him but don’t recognize him, wins their respect, then their allegiance. Battles demons, zombies, mythical creatures, mysterious women, the “black road” holding the multiverse together – and his own brothers. Gets within reaching distance of the crown he believes rightfully his, and then –

Well, there are three more books to read to find out what finally happens.

Think I’ll put them on the Acquisitions List for my next foray into the dusty underworld of the used book scene.

Grade: solid A.

Friday, February 3, 2012


[minor spoilers]

My friend came over with Contagion the other day, and I watched it with some trepidation. Normally I’m not a fan of these killer epidemic movies. Take my mild hypochondria out of the equation. Films like these tend to be negative, nihilistic, and anti-human. You know, there-is-no-god-but-Darwin and we’re all just frightened animals below the surface, who claw at each others throats when “civilization” collapses all around us.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Contagion is an intelligent treatment of the subject. Made with the full cooperation of the Center for Disease Control, it plays out almost as a police procedural, albeit one with incredibly high stakes, a clock that ticks too fast, and a superstacked deck of cards against mankind. Yes, there is negativity. Yes, there are riots and less-than-noble behavior. But there is also noble behavior, and the movie is not afraid to show it. It gives the viewer about equal doses of the good with the bad.

We start at Day 2 of the MEV-1 epidemic. Gwyneth Paltrow returning home to Wisconsin from a business trip to Hong Kong, unknowingly infected. By Day 4 she’s dead, after infecting her son, who has infected students at his school. Husband Matt Damon is strangely immune. However, Gwyn is a little bit unfaithful, and a brief unannounced stopover in Chicago has infected her old boyfriend. At the end of the week, not only are outbreaks spreading in Hong Kong, but also the Damon’s hometown and the Windy City.

Laurence Fishburne is a top doc at the CDC and tasked with handling the outbreak. He puts a subdued and unhappy Kate Winslet on the ground to start fighting the spread. Unsuccessfully, as we’re only twenty minutes into the movie. We see China’s struggles to contain the MEV-1, as well as a military response from our government.

One motif I noticed is having various characters exposit the death toll and the numbers infected. Through the first hour of the movie, these figures grow at an almost exponential rate. Somewhere towards the end of the movie a news reporter mentions “26 million dead.” Wow. Think about that.

There are brave doctors fighting for a cure (or even to grow the damn thing in a culture, that’s how shifty the virus is), and that’s where the heart of the movie resides. Moral ambiguities are addressed or hinted at, such as –

What do you do if the pharmacy has only 50 doses of vaccine, and you’re 70th on line?

What do you do if you work at the CDC and have access to the vaccine – does your family jump the line?

Do you break into the supermarket for canned goods? Do you return for that flatscreen teevee?

How ethical is the promotion of homeopathic remedies in a situation where there is no official, government-sanctioned vaccine?

Do you let your daughter within a hundred feet of any love-starved boy, knowing how contagious this, er, contagion is?

And lots more you can discuss with your family as you watch civilization die! It’s the feel-good movie of 2011!

No, I kid. I actually enjoyed thinking about the moral quandaries after the movie was over. But then again, they are not quandaries for me, for I have the teachings of Christ to guide me in such situations. (Uh, at least in theory ...) For those of a secular bent, the questions the movie raises may prove more troublesome.

There were some minor problems I had with the flick. Since we’re on religion, not a single man or woman of the cloth was portrayed. Nor were there any instances of prayer. I didn’t like the whole Kate Winslet situation; something just doesn’t sit right about it, though I admit it may work in the movie. And I question whether the power and the Internet would still be available six months into a global crisis such as the one portrayed. Being a film made in Hollywood, there was also the obligatory dig at capitalism.

About the disease itself, the infective ability seemed to fluctuate, depending on the circumstances, i.e., the next plot device required by the film. And how come nobody was draining Matt’s blood to find out why he’s immune? Or at least flying him to a lab with other seeming genetic lottery winners for testing!

However, two scenes made the movie for me. First, the final scene. Though it was discussed in the movie piecemeal, it was strangely satisfying to see it play out on film, how the MEV-1 is born and spreads into humanity. And the final shot, what we see Gwyneth doing, and the subtitle: DAY ONE. Still gives me goosebumps; fine cinematic technique there Mr. Soderbergh.

The penultimate scene, though, turned the flick for me. As a father of two young girls, watching the beautiful gift Matt gives his angst-ridden teenage daughter made me immediately think, “Hey, this is a movie that loves people.” Or, at least, doesn’t despise them enough to kill off the entire species.

Grade: A-minus.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Quick Word of Regret

Apologies – I’m exhausted.

Worked a full day, short lunch, coordinating meetings and solving problems. Left an hour early, grabbed Little One from daycare, took her to dinner, then “Family Math Night” at her elementary school. Fun, it was, playing games and learning math magic tricks. She made me proud, as she always does, and I beamed with pride as she went up to the smart board in front of 50+ parents and peers to solve a magic square. Got home, did some exercise bike and a weight workout (my latest thing), and now I’m going through our tax stuff to get ready for an appointment with H & R this Sunday. It’s a monumental task I somewhat optimistically labeled at three hours’ dedication.

So I’m pretty tired, and when I’m tired, I can’t think of much to write about.

I do have stuff to write about, though. A post on biographies, a review of Contagion. Some other stuff, too, that are just ideas bouncing round billiard-style inside my skull.

So, forgive me. Please do check back tomorrow, and anytime after.

Your Faithful Friend and Servant,


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand –
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep – while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

- “A Dream Within a Dream,” by Edgar Allan Poe

Instead of struggling through dusty and mildewed ancient copies of works by Keats, Shelley, or Byron, should I not instead read through the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe? I admit – just as you, no doubt – that the name Poe does not lead one to tack on the letters t, r, and y. Yet of the half-dozen or so poems of his I’ve read (and I may have posted one or two here), I have never been disappointed. While not a technical genius, he does express a plane of metaphysical angst that I find easy to skate on. It’s not cheap and teenish or French-philosophe-ish, more (yet not) horrorish, more science fictionish, if I be forced to try to plant my finger on that pulse.

Something to put down on the index card, for my library and used book store travels this weekend.