Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Day 2013

Ah, let’s celebrate our Work with a Day Off! Paid, that is, and I’m all for it.

We’re planning on driving down the Jersey shore to stay overnight with my dad-in-law. He and the girls will go spend hours and hours and hours sweltering in the heat on the Atlantic sands. Me, I’ll be cozying up in the AC with a couple of good books (The Wilderness Campaign, The Day Christ Died, plus others). I’ll have my laptop, too, so I’ll do a bit of writing. If there’s an internet connection, I’ll blog; if not, you may not hear back from me until September 2.

Anyway, hope all is well with you. I do. We have Little One fighting a cold, but other than that we’re healthy. Physically that is; mentally, the verdict’s still out. Financially, well, let’s just say I could still use that 1.5 million I mentioned earlier. Spiritually, guess we’re okay. Socially, ay caramba! Too much on the Refrigerator Calendar. But I love you all, even though as an INTP / INTJ I don’t express it!

(Speaking of Briggs-Myers personality types, did you know that INTP / INTJ types represent 1 out of 50 to 1 out of 20 people of the general public? Yep. I’m a real unique character. But you could also say that you, no matter what you’re type, are one, too.)

So, hopefully World War III won’t break out in the Middle East with Pharaoh bumbling his way through an inconsistent and purposeless foreign policy. Read something witty earlier today: if we really wanted to hurt Assad, we’d send ’em Obamacare. My prediction is for a 75 percent chance nothing will happen, 25 percent chance an aspirin factory will be bombed. I honestly don’t think much will come to this. It’s just an attempt of our president to save face (“red line”).

Remember a few days ago when I was searching for something abstruse, complex, etc. at one of my local libraries? Well, I didn’t find it. But here’s what I’m looking for: an ancient language. Specifically, ancient Greek, ancient Hebrew, or Aramaic. A book by Victor David Hanson I’ve skimmed stated that prior to the, oh, 1960s or so, a rigorous education included several years of ancient Greek or Latin so that the Classics could be read in the original tongue. This appeals immensely to me. Also the fact that on the myriad of Catholic websites I peruse there’s always differing interpretations on the meaning of Biblical texts based on the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek. For the longest time I’ve wanted to wade into that argument. So, the radar’s out on a book on the ancient Big Three languages. Though my slugging percentage with language is pretty darn pitiful (some Spanish and a speckling to a smattering of German, Latin, and French plus a few phrases of Russian, Czech, and, uh, uh, uh the Quenyan and Sindarin Elvish languages … )

Alright – enough of this! Have a great weekend! See ya later!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Little Victory

Well, here’s some good news on the personal development front (a front that’s long, long, too long been laying latent):

Passed out about 10 pm last night only to wake up wired around 2:30 am. The noise from the bedroom air conditioner – and, truth be told, anxious worrying over how much money it cost to run it (what, a dollar overnight?) – made me get up and try to resume sleep on the downstairs couch. No dice. Finally went down to the basement writing office to waste a few hours playing freecell and listening to Leonard Nimoy In Search Of youtube clips.

Or so I thought.

Somehow I stumbled across a motivational article written by – of all people – Donald Trump. I read it, then read another article written by someone else. Then another. Then, an epiphany.

I can’t wait until I’m healthy to improve my health. It has to start now.

So …

At 5:30 I went outside into the misty darkness and threw open the creaky garage door. With iPad in hand I did 10 minutes on the exercise bike, then threw around the dumbbells for a couple of sets. Back inside, I stretched the hams, calves, quads and lats while my bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, with half a cut-up apple and cinnamon thrown in, cooled on the counter. I ate reading more motivational stuff, downed some omega-3 and CoQ10 capsules, then tiptoed upstairs, showered, shaved, dressed and headed off to work an hour early. On the way out I made little Patchie some breakfast.

Wow! That’s about five times as many positive things by seven a.m. than I normally do all day.

A little victory. Trick is to string seven of them in a row, then thirty of them, then three-hundred-sixty-five of them, and on and on and on.

The Saddest Thing Ever Written

“Ephemera,” by Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1889)

“Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.”

And then she:
“Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, Passion, falls asleep:
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!”

Pensive they paced along the faded leaves,
While slowly he whose hand held hers replied:
“Passion has often worn our wandering hearts.”

The woods were round them, and the yellow leaves
Fell like faint meteors in the gloom, and once
A rabbit old and lame limped down the path;
Autumn was over him: and now they stood
On the lone border of the lake once more:
Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves
Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes,
In bosom and hair.

“Ah, do not mourn,” he said,
“That we are tired, for other loves await us;
Hate on and love through unrepining hours.
Before us lies eternity; our souls
Are love, and a continual farewell.”

* * * * *

Such sad words, on so many levels! Romantic, spiritual, metaphysical. The cynic in me thought immediately of No Fault Divorce. No matter when or what, though, the sentiment evoked with these beautifully crafted words and lines thrummed a chord within. Actually made a sensitive bastard like myself choke up, but for a moment. Couldn’t share it with anyone, so I am sharing it with you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Never-Ending Quest

I have a sadistic bone in my brain. Or masochistic. Or something like supreme conceit crossed with raging inner-directed anger.

What do you mean, you may be asking.

Well, it never fails, but whenever I find myself in a library or bookstore (which somehow happens to occur 2 to 3 times a week), my first autopilot thought is – what’s the most complex, abstruse, mind-boggling book in the joint? That’s the book I need to read.

Why do you think I subjected myself to Hegel? Kant? Ouspensky? Why do you think I decided to read Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain? Tolstoy’s War and Peace? Why do I gleefully slobber when I find my college Calc III text in some obscure dust-laden corner of a rarely-visited biblioteca?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m more fool than genius. Take Hegel, for instance. I started the Hopper while I was delving through a thick omnibus of his writings: Philosophy of History, History of Philosophy, Philosophy of the Philosophy of History, Philosophy of the History of Philsophy, blah blah blah. The first hundred pages I made a good effort. Then, the glazing-over effect set in: my eyes read the words, my brain interpreted the words, but there was a massive disconnect – followed by an eventual and willful disdain of the material – that overrode my cognitive processes. All done, I probably understood less than 5 percent of what Hegel was writing. I don’t even remember what that 5 percent was. Don’t even remember if I finished the book or not.

Kant – never made it past the first 20 pages of the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason. Mann’s book I ceased reading halfway through. Tolstoy not even that far. My excursions into higher math – i.e., the Calc III textbook I found – I struggled through 20 years ago and keep telling myself I’ll eventually finish it … in my fifties in an effort to thwart Alzheimer’s.

So this morning the wife tells me to stop off at the local library with the little ones to pick up some books for them for our weekend trip. Guess what thought immediately ran through my head?

I’ll let you know what I picked up later …

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mets: I’m Done

So April 1st or thereabouts, on a whim, I watched a Mets baseball game for the first time in something like thirty-five years. I discovered, to my surprise, it was quite an enjoyable and relaxing evening. Plus, having watched and recently read Moneyball, I was digging on the stats and stuff.

Four-and-a-half months later, I’m done with the Mets.

Oh, yeah, there’s the Matt Harvey elbow injury thing. Probably be out all of next year. Then there’s the other pitcher getting the Tommy John surgery. Great.

But when I saw on ESPN today (refilling my liter thermos of water in the company break room) that the Mets traded John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates, I felt like somebody rabbit-punched me in the kidneys.

Marlon Byrd is my guy! For a whole slew of non-baseball and baseball-related reasons, Marlon was my man this season. And he delivered, having a stellar year, leading the Mets in home runs and OBP and ranking in the top six or seven in the league fielding-statistics-wise.

So they trade him! Ay caramba!

Mets: I’m done with you!

Then I listened to sportstalk on the way home.

OK, I realize Byrd is 35, which is ancient, gnarled and decrepit in baseball years. I realize that because of the great year he’s having, his $700,000 salary will go through the roof if they keep him. I realize, now, that he has to go to allow room on the roster for the up and coming stars of, er, the 2020 season, I guess.

So … I’ve written off this year. (Probably root for Pittsburg in the playoffs.)

But … hmmm … I wonder what chess moves the front office is going to pull – and how sophisticated or not those moves will be – in the off-season gearing up for 2014 …

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Zero Stone

© 1968 by Andre Norton

Hmm. It seems like the past two-dozen science fiction paperbacks I’ve read involved survival on a very dangerous jungle planet. Most of PJF’s stuff from the beginning of the year, Omnivore to a certain extent, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and now, The Zero Stone.

It started off well enough. A young lad named Murdoc apprenticing to be a merchant of exotic items; an aloof and powerful father mysteriously murdered; a ring of unknown origin and powers, coveted by many for obscure reasons. The fairly straightforward story of just-what-the-heck-is-this-ring-exactly takes quite a few space-operish turns. An alien being named Eet (born of a cat) suddenly pops in to accompany Murdoc in his quest to find the makers of the ring – the “Zero Stone.” Soon they’re on the jungle planet, pursued by indigenous nasties, captured by pirates after the stone, and in an uneasy alliance with a not-completely-incorruptible Galactic Patrolman.

Not bad for a plotline; I’ve certainly read worse. Yet I found myself unable to really fall into the story, unable to visualize the characters in action. Instead I remained conscious that I was reading a story. Ever happen to you?

[Side note: speaking of “space opera,” I experienced this same disconnect when reading one of Doc Smith’s Lensman books, and I noted this about halfway through The Zero Stone …]

Additionally, Eet’s identity and background are never satisfactorily explained, nor is anything in this “universe” where our hero lives and breathes. What are the sentient races? How many habitable planets are there? How long has the Galactic Patrol existed? Is it a force for good or selfishness in this universe? What are the cultures of the planets in Murdoc’s universe? Their languages, belief systems (okay, that’s interestingly handled in the very first chapter), levels of technology?

So much left out. Now, normally this isn’t a bad thing. The best books I’ve read authors leave a whole lot out, leave a whole lot to the reader’s imagination. But they don’t leave a vacuum – they drop hints. Their characters mention interesting tangents and let them drop. A line of exposition leads in a certain direction. A recollection here, a word spoken in warning there. Suggestions and teases. All these things add up and build a universe in your mind.

I did not experience this in The Zero Stone. It was perhaps the main reason I never made it through one of Norton’s more famous works, Witch World, which I struggled with over a week or two a decade ago. Yeah, I kinda sorta liked Voorloper, but that read was more of “taking care of unfinished business” than a labor of love. So, although the story had potential and I liked the characters, I can’t recommend this book.

Grade: C. It started off very well but then faltered and never regained its promise. Now – a moratorium on jungle planets!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nature’s Best-Kept Secret

Hey, can I let you in on something only a chosen few know?

Did you know that the egg – the run-of-the-mill standard-issue egg – is the most structurally sound object nature has ever devised?

It’s true.

Just ask any engineer or architect you may know.

It’s nature’s best-kept secret.

An egg is designed to withstand concerted uniform pressure from all points at once.

If you apply constant pressure at every single point on the surface of the egg, it will never, ever break. No matter how much pressure you apply. That’s due to the viscous equilibrium balance between the inner fluids of the egg and the shell.

Now, if you crack a corner of an egg against the edge of a pan, it’ll crack. That’s because the pressure you’ve exerted on it is not uniform, that is, on all points at the same time.

Try this experiment.

Hold an egg in your hand, and then wrap your fingers around it so that it’s held tight in your fist.

Now squeeze.

No matter how hard you clench your fist, the egg will never break.

Try it for yourself and see.

Try it.

It’s nature’s best-kept secret, revealed for all for the first time on the Hopper.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Remark You Made

Beauty … sheer beauty …

Especially – particularly – at the 4:30ish to 6:00ish mark. Transcendent, almost …

Never fails to raise the follicles on my arms.


Love that phat slide bass – hey, Mikey, are you listening (reading)? Reminds me so so much of the icing you put on the cake of a stupid song called “Lonely” …

Napoleon Sentenced to 35 Years

From the “In the News” section of Wikipedia’s home page:

U.S. soldier Napoleon Bonaparte (formerly Bradley Manning, pictured) is sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing classified information to WikiLeaks.

From the Wikipedia article on Bradley Manning:

Napoleon Bonaparte (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of several violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after releasing the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. His Majesty was sentenced to 35 years in prison and dishonorably discharged. The Royal Emperor will be eligible for parole after serving one third of his sentence, and together with credits for time served and good behavior could be released eight years after sentencing.


Well, because he says it, it must be true!

I feel like a college philosophy class just Big Banged into the world we live in – and what a messed up world it is. And it’s only going to get messier, and a whole lot more dangerous.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

OK, I’m Officially Old

The woman who works at the cubicle in front of me was chatting about her daughter, who just turned seventeen and just passed her driver’s test (in torrential rain, nonetheless!). Apparently, the daughter woke up and called asking to take mom for breakfast – at 10:30 in the morning. “Honey,” my coworker said to her daughter, “I had breakfast four hours ago. How about lunch?” “Mmmmm. No thanks. I’m too tired. I’m going back to bed.” And she did.

“She’s so crazy,” the woman added. “She has no clue how lucky she has it.” The daughter spent most of her summer on day trips down to the beach, hanging out with her friends to all hours of the night, coming and going as she pleases. Acting like a normal sixteen/seventeen year old.

“I wish I was seventeen again,” I said. She echoed the sentiment.

“It’s too bad youth is wasted on the young,” I pontificated, quoting an often-cited aphorism I’ve come across often.


Did I just say that??

Did I ???

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hebrews 12:1, 4

“Why then, since we are watched from above by such a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of all that weighs us down, of the sinful habit that clings so closely, and run, with all endurance, the race for which we are entered ...Your battle against sin has not yet called for bloodshed … ”

or, as I prefer:

Ideoque et nos tantam habentes impositam nubem testium, deponentes omne pondus, et circumstans nos peccatum, per patientiam curramus ad propositum nobis certamen: Nondum enim usque ad sanguinem restitistis, adversus peccatum repugnantes.

That’s some heavy, powerful stuff. Would that I heard a sermon on that line and that line only instead of all the puppies and unicorns love-let’s-talk-about-love stuff I hear preached ineffectually every Sunday.

It gives me shivers, and should for you to, if you really think about. Really think about it.

I think I’m about negative five percent of the way toward that goal. (If it is even a goal I can fully understand.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Insomni Maniac

Hi.  I'm going to take today off as a mental health day.

Lots on my plate, none of which I particularly want to do.  But have to do.

Hopefully tonight I'll get a better night's sleep.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scenes from an American Business

Scene 1:

Mr. Robertson, three-piece-suited and driving a large mahogany desk, punches an intercom button, asking his receptionist to send Bob in. Bob enters nervously and Mr. Robertson gestures him to a chair across the desk. “Bob,” he says, “you’re just not hitting the new sales numbers we projected these past few months. We need to make some changes. I’m afraid your services will no longer be needed here.” He leans forward, honestly believing what he is about to say: “Nothing personal, Bob, it’s just business.”

Scene 2:

Mr. Robertson is discussing the current financial statement with some department managers in the conference room. “Payroll expense is just through the roof. We stopped the overtime hours and instituted a hiring freeze, right?” Nervous nods and grunts of affirmation. “I can’t explain it,” he says. “I think we’re carrying too many people.” There’s a tense pause, and Mr. Robertson makes up his mind. “Go back to your departments and let one person go. Least productive preferably, last in if you got union people,” he orders. “And if they ask why, just tell ’em it’s nothing personal, just business.”

Scene 3:

Mr. Robertson’s body is lying in the morgue, having died in bed late last night. Camera slowly drifts in, focusing in on his unblinking eye. Fade to black, then fade in on what appears to be an ill-lit reddish and smoky cave. A naked Mr. Robertson suddenly caroms into view. He’s visibly nervous, shaking, uncertain. He keeps looking upward, panting, as he keeps running but goes nowhere. Finally, an ominous dolby-stereo laughter crescendos and Mr. Robertson covers his ears in pain. “Lord, Lord,” he cries out, “help me!” And after a few seconds of absolute silence, a soft yet strong voice says, “Nothing personal, just business,” and Mr. Robertson falls through a hole in the floor of the cave.

Some quick visuals which flashed through my mind while, of all things, I was washing an apple in the company break room. Oh, and we just let go someone from my department who just got back from taking three unpaid days moving into her new house. In fairness, though, her situation was not quite as unjustly dramatic as the one faced by Mr. Robertson’s unfortunate employees.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


SCENE: The Impala, driving back from church this morning, me driving and Patch, age four, and Little One, age eight, in the backseat.

PATCH: (makes a series of weird rambling semi-animal noises)

ME: Little One, did you ever think, then when you were asking for a baby sister, God would have sent this to us?

LITTLE ONE: Well, actually, I wanted a brother.

PATCH: (after a moment’s thought) … You get what you get and you don’t get upset!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Incredible Shrinking Weekend

“I was continuing to shrink, to become ... what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends in man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”

- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), closing soliloquy

Watched it during my Saturday matinee with Little One, part twenty-six or seven of her scientifiction education. Oh, and while the big hairy spider scenes freak me out to this day, she reminded me several times that she touched a tarantula and let it walk on her arm just a few months ago at school. Yeesh.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Sumthin’s gonna happen this weekend. I can feel it in my bones.

What exactly, not sure, don’t know. But there’s that crackling in the air, that blue-white arm-hair-raising electricity in the air, that tells the lizard brain in the center of our skulls that something’s afoot. The metaphysical two-by-four is poised and waiting to smack the back of my head like Yasiel Puig wailing on a strike zone fastball. *

Will it be something I read –

No. That avenue was closed in 1992, despite my continual fevered readings.

Will it be something I hear –

Maybe, but I think not. Everything’s too loud around me to hear anything above quieter than a freight train.

Will it be something I see –

Nah. My eyes are so crappy I can’t see eighteen inches past my nose without my glasses. And not too good with my glasses on anyway.

Will it be something I dream –

Unfortunately, no. The Great Other doesn’t communicate that way with me. I do dream, but they’re usually stupid mazelike encounters with people from my past paraphrasing awkward social interactions of years ago.

Will it be something I do –

Ehhh, my weekend’s planned out, pretty much. But you never know, do you?

All I know is I can feel it! Yahoo! I can feel it, like that bald-headed singer from that 90s band Live growls, I can feel it, yeah!

Follow up to follow, following the following two days.

* = I watched the Met-Dodgers series this past week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Okay, not much of a blog post today … busy at work, busy at home. But here’s what’s front and center in the nous of Hopper –

What will be my next book to be read / listened to on audio CD with book?

Very nervous about this since, after a string of successful reads / listens, I have just got a stinker with Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love. So I need to think really careful about this.

The candidates:

1. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

2. Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian

3. The American Civil War, by John Keegan

Three different books, three different experiences.

How to decide?

Probably …

… on a whim come Saturday morning.

(That’s when I hit the library with the little ones in tow after me finish Andre Norton’s The Zero Stone.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Metaphysically Enforced Nonviolence

Had an odd thought today.

(cue Rod Serling voiceover)

Imagine a world where nonviolence is enforced – metaphysically. On a twenty-four hour delay system. That is, you punch someone in the nose, twenty-four hours later you yourself feel the pain in the center of your face. A criminal intentionally shoots and kills a man … and dies the same way, by some mysterious phantom bullet, exactly one day later. Whenever you inflict some type of bodily pain on someone in the mindset of wanting to do such a thing, you’ll feel the exact same pain, to the exact same extent, up to and including death, twenty-four hours later.

How will this metaphysically enforced nonviolence change the world?

Let’s watch, shall we, as we enter …

… the Hopper Zone.

(end voiceover, began theme music, etc)

Strangely enough, not once in my musings did I think this to be a good thing. Oh, sure, I suppose, in the short run (i.e., the first forty-eight to seventy-two hours or so, after a brief and brutally steep learning curve), it’d be good. Deaths from violence would shrink exponentially to zero in probably a week. Hospitals would have to lay off doctors and nurses in that same time, too, as demand for their services would drop rapidly. A good thing, right?

Then I got to thinking.

Ultimately, every law in this country is enforced by a gun. Right? Refuse to pay your taxes and you’ll be sentenced to a prison term. Refuse to go to prison and the Man will send an armed escort out to ensure your cooperation. Fail to cooperate, and – well, you know.

But what if violence was metaphysically prohibited?

How would laws be enforced?

By “shunning,” I guess, like they do in some religions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or in some ancient cultures, such as what was done to those afflicted with leprosy. Would this be, ultimately, a “better” or a “worse” way to establish a baseline to running the world? Hmmm. Sounds like a major plot point for a future novel.

Also, how would someone channel his anger if the option to lash out and hurt someone is forbidden under potential pain of death? I can envision some weird mind meld thing that develops over time to soak up the psychic detritus that the vice anger produces in far too many of us. That, or we evolve into a society of meditating Zen Buddhists by Christmas.

And I have no doubt, being the fallen creatures that we are, an extensive program of experimentation would commence. For example, would I experience pain if I paid someone else to punch you in the nose? Would the puncher? Would both of us? How about if I created some sort of computer that randomly chose a “victim” by lot to slug? What if I was hypnotized to punch you? Would I feel pain? Would the hypnotist? What if – what if – what if?

Well, it’d turn out that we can’t elude the Metaphysic Nonviolence Enforcer, try as we might. And we will try.

Just some random musings as I punch numbers in and out of spreadsheets all day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


All that we are is the result of all that we have thought. It is founded on thought. It is based on thought.

- Buddha, The Dhammapada

Ignoramic Comments:

(1) I once thought, I think, that thinkers who thought thoughts about thinking thought that thinkers thought thoughts thinking thoughtfully. Or not.

(2) What would the most highly advanced computer “think” about the Buddha’s statement? Or an alien? Or an ape who communicates via sign language (do such creatures exist, or is that merely a literary / cinematic sci-fi staple?)?

(3) Thautons! Thautons! Thautons!


Sung slowly a cappella in that high register only second grade schoolchildren can attain:

Where is Patrushka,
I went asking
Near and far.
All up and down the town
In the hope I’d track her down
All up and down the town
In the hope I’d track her down.

Then my table-mate Patty threw up purple candy and milk all over her desk and the janitor had to come in with a mop while all twenty-five of us seven-year-olds were evacuated in a gross-out panic.

- Scenes from Mrs. Torgeson’s second grade class c. 1975.

Monday, August 12, 2013


A whirlwind weekend – I’m still tired from it. In a few sentences, we drove down to Baltimore (about 180 miles, three hours driving time) immediately after feeding the girls Friday night, checked into a hotel, got the little ones asleep, fell asleep ourselves. Wife worked on Saturday down there, dragging us in tow to a couple of malls. Went to my sister-in-law’s wedding engagement party, quite to ritzy vogue affair, seven to eleven pm. Returned the following morning for a pool party, headed back up north around three. Arrived at seven, unpacked, got girls fed/showered/in bed. Enjoyed a few beers together and a burrito and then the wife and I passed out.

That’s the ephemera.

Me, I read half of a Civil War trivia book and finally – finally! – got an inkling of how I can parlay all this War-’tween-the-States stuff into a novel. Also read about a third of a slim Andre Norton paperback. Didn’t get but a fifth of the required solitude Hopper needs to survive, so that’ll all be forthcoming throughout the week. Starting with tonight.

I did have fun at the party, particularly seeing my four-year-old manifest herself for the first time as a dancing party animal. Funny, and, truthfully, a tiny bit disturbing. I still think she’ll be the one I’m going to be handing over to the church as she joins a convent, a certainty to which my wife simply laughs hysterically. I merely say that the greatest saints were often the greatest sinners. Patch, the female Jim Morrison of four-year-olds.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Off the Air

Hi. Won’t be posting this weekend. Gonna be off the air. Off the grid, as they say.

There’s a big engagement party being held for my sister-in-law down in Washington DC. The Hoppers will be traveling down there in our new used Pilot (we’re probably on the road as this is being posted), staying over two nights at a clean & nifty Holiday Inn Express. The wife’ll have to work Saturday (DC is part of her new turf), so I’ll have the girls for either sightseeing or hotel pool swimming. Later tomorrow night is the big party itself (90+ guests) followed by a poolside brunch Sunday morning. Then the long drive home.

The girls will love it, seeing their aunts and Grandpa, all of whom they see all too infrequently. Me, I’ll hate it. Cuz I hate crowds of strangers and cocktail party chitchat. Have to find somewhere to hole up with a good book. Have to find a good book, first.

So, no posting until Monday.

Have a great weekend and check back soon!

Fruits of Manhattan

Still remain overwhelmingly ambivalent regarding the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a strange and deeply unsatisfying way I empathize with both sides of the issue, agreeing to varying degrees with each argument. Yet I also freely acknowledge the drawbacks to each position. The extreme statements of both positions can be, it seems to me, declared thusly:

a) the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to end the war

b) the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an unmitigated war crime

Can both positions be correct? They are not mutually exclusive. So I tend to go with a “both / and” approach here rather than an “either / or.” I have read a bit about World War II, especially last summer, and I do know a bit about Just War theory from my exploration of Catholicism. In light of this admittedly limited and non-expert personal knowledge base, I tend to think that

(a) is partially correct in that the bombs needed to be dropped to win the war, but I’m not convinced that they needed to be dropped on population centers.

Because of this, (b) is also correct, to a certain degree in which lessening factors may be applied.

I dunno. My gut still tells me that dropping Little Boy in Tokyo Bay and Fat Man on the largest active Japanese aircraft carrier group would be just as effective and less morally repugnant. Though I’m sure there are experts by the dozen to tell me why this couldn’t be done.

I read The Making of the Atomic Bomb this past spring and was aghast at the eyewitness accounts of those on the ground in those two Japanese cities. O that such a fate never ever befalls me or my loved ones, especially my little girls. I would have hated to be the one sitting in the oval office in the summer of 1945.

I wrote a nice post about the dropping of the A-bomb a few years back that I like to link to every anniversary. Here it is if you’re interested in my two cents.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Time Enough for Love

Well, after listening / reading Heinlein’s 1973 novel over the course of six days, investing nearly four hours into it and reaching page 89 (a glacial pace set by the “performer” of the audio book), I had to, just had to, give it up.


Simple. It was excruciatingly agonizingly boring.

Nothing happened. Nothing except two guys talking in a room. There was a short segue where two other people talked (and we were told they did something else, wink-wink). There was a loooooonnnnnng passage about one guy telling us about another guy who liked to do as little as possible in everything possible. And more talking, talking, talking. When I gave it up, they were talking to a computer.

I just can’t do any more of this. I’m not that stoical. Or sado-masochistical. Whatever. The book has close to 600 pages, so that would entail a little over twenty more hours of listening / reading. Too much. Too too much.

Mr. Heinlein, I loved all the “juvenile” SF you’ve written (read as both a juvenile and adult myself). I loved The Puppet Masters, which is aimed at adults, I guess. But I just can’t get through Time Enough for Love. Just like I couldn’t get through Stranger in a Strange Land and I Will Fear No Evil.

Sensing a trend here, but that’s a subject for another post, after some rumination.

Anyway, off to my next reading project. Not sure what that’ll be, but be assured I will let you all know once I do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

E and Pi

I have a new trick to determine the mathematical savvy of anyone who, for example, claims at a dinner party to have an exceptional grasp of mathematics. (What, this doesn’t happen to you all the time at dinner parties?)


Which is greater:

e to the power of pi


pi to the power of e


Someone with even just the old run-of-the-mill proper-type grasp of mathematics should be able to answer this correctly in fifteen seconds or less. (And explain his reasoning, as there is a 50% chance of guessing the right answer.)


OK, but this stupid little trick stumped me:

Add one line to make the equation 5 + 5 + 5 = 550 true.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Body and Soul

“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”

- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

N.B. My soul is fat and sleep-deprived and could use a heavy-duty colonic and a seaweed wrap.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


OK, I’m not an expert on Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who just won some type of assylum in Russia. But a thought popped up in the gray matter I think sums up, at least, what I know about the man and what he did.

A simple analogy, if you will.

Let’s say you’re in high school, and you stumble across a grand plan by half a dozen of your friends to cheat on the upcoming SAT exam. That’s bad, right? So in an effort to thwart this evil scheme you burn down the school so the SAT can’t be administered that day.

Are you a hero?

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Realists

Hope that you may understand!
What can books of men that wive
In a dragon-guarded land,
Paintings of the dolphin-drawn
Sea-nymphs in their pearly waggons
Do, but awake a hope to live
That had gone
With the dragons?

- W. B. Yeats, c. 1916


- Me, c. 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Invisible Hand

Moseyed on over to the library website yesterday and discovered that both audiobooks of Richard Adams’s Watership Down were checked out! Drat and damnation! What to do, what to do?

Fortunately, a few months ago, I made a list of the half-dozen or so unread books I own that had companion audiobooks out and available at my local libraries. Two were at a library I pass on the way home from work. They were –

Time Enough for Love, by Robert Heinlein

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

Argh. What to do, what to do.

This whole read-along-with-a-book-while-listening-to-the-audio-version works best with epics, I’ve discovered. Watership Down would have been superbly epic. Certainly Steinbeck’s work is epic. And I enjoy him as a writer (seek him out on that list of Hundred Best Reads over to the left there). But …

Two things. First, even though Grapes is undoubtedly an epic tale, it’s also kind of a dreary one, no? I mean, I don’t know if I’m being paranoid here, but I can actually envision Future Me and family living a similar lifestyle as the Joads do, especially if more economic illiterates continue to occupy the White House. So that’s depressing, and I’m not sure an active and somewhat negative imagination as mine needs that right about now.

And second, I’ve really been enjoying my recent string of quick science fiction reads.

Yeah, I know that Heinlein’s novel is extremely long. But might that also make it “epic”? (Note: I have no knowledge of the book’s plot, characters, etc.) I also have problems with Heinlein’s non-juvenile works – I particularly find his amorality objectionable. However, the dude was a superior writer, part of the triumvirate of Greatest Science Fiction Writers Who Ever Wrote. So I think I owe him a fair reading. There. That’s settled. The Invisible Hand has thrust Time Enough for Love out to me, and I shall partake.

If anything derails this project, rest assured I will complain immediately to your willing ear.