Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flower Girls

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


So the family and I flew down to southern Texas for four days to celebrate and participate in my wife’s sister’s wedding.  I still haven’t looked at a map, so I remain non-blissfully ignorant (shame on me!) about the geography of the visit.  All I know is we flew in to Austin, drove in our rented VW Beetle to the San Antonio area, partied at a ranch for two whole days, drove back to Austin, flew to Dallas, and flew back home.

The mini-vacation was really for the wife and our girls.  The girls, especially.  The first day, after six hours of travel, after locating and checking into our hotel, they spent the entire afternoon gallivanting in the pool under that hot Texas sun.  Me, I stayed under shade and continued devouring my book.  When I returned with them to our room, the two Coronas I drank (of the six pack the wife bought while I was on lifeguard duty) were the most deliciously refreshing beverages I ever had up to that point in my life.

That night we dined at a local eatery per my sister-in-law’s recommendation.  O! the awesome lobster tacos!  Plus, I quaffed a super tasty dark microbrew beer.  Forgot the name, unfortunately, but as I’m not normally a partaker of dark ales and lagers and whatnot, this struck a strong chord within me.  Within my liver, I mean.

The next day, Friday, we drove out to the ranch where the wedding was to take place.  When I say “ranch,” I know you’re thinking, like, dude ranch, with images of Hopper roping a calf and shearing sheep.  Well, that may be the case when we entered the first gate.  But a mile’s drive to the second gate and the ranch transformed itself into a lush, fertile paradise.

Two quick observations – there’s a lot of open space out in Texas – a lot.  More than I’m used to at least.  The ranch itself seemed to be ten square miles, and that was just the winding dirt road we took to get to the oasis of paradise.  Also, I kinda dug that both gates automatically opened at the approach of a vehicle (the outermost after you keyed in a code, of course).  Made it seem like the entire ten square miles – or a hundred square miles, hard to tell – was under secret observation, like the guvment allegedly does out in Nevada near those secret air bases.

That first day at the ranch was probably my favorite day of the trip.  Certainly it was the girls’.  There was a playground of a merry-go-round, an in-ground trampoline, swings, a treehouse, a slide and a teeter-totter.  Adjacent was a basketball court and peacock cages.  A main house in classic southwestern Tex Mex décor held a game room and a teevee room.  Two hammocks hung off to one side in the shade.  Down the hill was a partially roofed-in dock on a … lagoon? lake? pond?  I had trouble defining it all weekend; whatever it was it was three football fields long and one wide, a few feet deep at the shores and maybe ten feet deep in the center, surrounded by stone slabs the ranchers put in place.  Along the far shore was a waterfall and a small cave, and a small island sat in the middle.  Fish and aquatic vegetation called it home.

That body of water was the girls’ main focus that day, although they were conscientious enough to sample every item in the playground, more than once.

Me, I spent most of the day with one eyeball on the girls, the other on my book, and made a valiant effort to remain in that hammock as long as possible.

The girls, Indian Jones style, explored every nook and cranny of the lake, canoeing all about, wading in the shallow ends, picking flowers for the wedding on the far shores, oblivious to my worries over rattlesnakes and tarantulas.  (Didn’t see any of those critters, but did see four-inch lizards that moved quicker than squirrels.)  They spent six whole hours there, pausing only for sandwiches around 1 o’clock.

We went back to our hotel but returned in the evening for the rehearsal and dinner.  The girls were in the wedding procession and carried a hand-made sign Here Comes the Bride.  I had a bunch of beers that night, but mostly in situations like these (a hundred strangers chit-chatting away), I’m never one to wanna stick around in the thick of things. 

Saturday morning after a breakfast buffet at our hotel, the wife and girls went to get their hair and makeup done with the bridal party.  They let me stay at the room where I put away another third of my book.  Truth be told I did get a slightly-more-than-minor-but-not-exactly-major sunburn on my lower arms, knees, and calves, so I soaked in a lukewarm bath for an hour.  Then a shower and into my suit, and they whisked me up and brought me to the wedding.

While not my cup of tea, the wedding seemed to go off without a hitch.  Everyone seemed to have a good time.  Chairs were set up off to the side of the main house under a large willow-y tree where vows were pronounced.  The actual party a short hop away, over the dirt road and under a large tent.  I had some spicy food which later repeated on me, but overall the eating experience down in Texas was pretty darn good.  I danced with Little One briefly, but that was the extent of my wedding activities.  The girls hit the playground with the other little children there, and Patch nearly rumbled with a boy and a girl twice her age. 

All in all, a great introduction to the Lone Star State for me.  Who knows? – maybe Hopper might find himself full-timing it down in a cubicle in a San Antonio / Austin / Dallas / Houston suburb sometime in the near future.  The wife has the infrastructure down there, family-wise.  You never know, and you never say never.

Oh, and the book I read while down there: John Derbyshire’s Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, a wonderful book, which has now led me to my latest obsession – the Riemann Hypothesis.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Automobiles, Planes, and Trains

We spent all day yesterday – fifteen-point-five hours – getting back home from our four-day trip to San Antonio, Texas.  1,600 miles or so, which averages to a little over a hundred miles an hour.  Not bad, except for the fact we were in a pair of airplanes for six of them.

Fourth grade math aside, it was a hectic day.  For all you who commute for a living, you’ll just have to excuse me.  I’m comfortably a creature of habit, so anything outside my routine, outside my control, tends to stress me out on the continuum from mildly irked to completely freaked out.  I drive to and from work, every day, twelve miles there, twelve miles back, five days a week in my trusty Impala.  So, to write that the day was hectic, at least for me, is an understatement.

We spent the past four days outside of San Antonio at a ranch to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding.  Sunday we rose at 7, showered, packed up all our things in our rented VW Beetle, had breakfast, and hit the trail by 8:30, only a half-hour behind schedule due to some last minute good-byes and such.  We had an 80-mile trip northeast to the Austin airport, and had to get there, get the rental checked in, get through TSA security and to our gate by 12:30 to make our flight.  

It was a relaxing, scenic drive through Texas Hill Country, and we arrived at the airport in Austin in time to check in and get situated.  Then the fun began.  We had a connecting flight to Dallas to make with no time to spare, so naturally they announced this flight was packed and would be somewhat delayed.  Would we reach our connecting flight home in time?  Yes, but only after sprinting OJ-like at the airport in Dallas and negotiating their rickety skyline tram … only to find that that flight, too, would be delayed.  By two-and-a-half hours. 

So we had lunch in Dallas and watched CNN fomenting race riots on the big screen teevees.  The girls were alternating between antsy-ness and supreme fatigue.  Soon enough we boarded, rolled onto the runway … and sat in a line of a dozen aircraft awaiting takeoff.  At a rate of one plane every three minutes, we eventually got in the air about forty minutes after getting in line.

The flight itself to Newark, thankfully like the original flight to Austin three days prior and the earlier flight to Dallas, was uneventful.  I finished John Derbyshire’s excellent, moving, and touching Prime Obsession.  Little One wrote a five-page story.  (The wife sat with Patch, three rows up.)  Two-thirds into the flight we entered Night and the cabin darkened.  On descent my ears bugged me as they did on the descent three days earlier; blessed Little One helped out, generously sharing her stash of gum with me.

Fortunately our luggage survived the connection and made it to the Newark carousel.  Unfortunately the airline dropped us off at the wrong terminal, necessitating a trip on Newark’s rickety skyline tram.  Fortunately, our car was waiting for us in Long Term parking, fairly close to the airport entrance.  Unfortunately, the cost was $6 more a day than advertised, so there goes my B&N allowance for the week.  Fortunately, we got home before midnight on Sunday night.  Unfortunately, we got home before midnight on Sunday night.

So, we hoofed it, we drove, we rode the rails, we flew the friendly skies.  We got home after a full day of traveling, and now I’m back busy as a bee at work.

Tomorrow: highlights – and lowlights, I guess – from the actual Texas trip itself.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Parent's Prayer

… to foster vocations:

[posted here without comment!]

O Merciful God, fulfill our desire that our home become the nursery of a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life, that our home be a seminary or novitiate filled with the Holy Spirit and productive of Christian virtue, and that we may be God-fearing and pious parents to whom our child can after Thee trace his vocation. Grant that we may never fail to utter the encouraging word influencing our children toward a consecrated life, thus cooperating in Thy Divine plan. Thou hast promised to reward a hundred fold and with everlasting life those who leave father and mother, brothers and sisters for Thy sake and shalt also remember us who have given one of ours unto Thee.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Garage Philosopher

Just a quick note on PKD’s Exegesis (I’m up to page 75 – a little over 8 percent done – as I write this): one of the editors, a teacher of philosophy by trade, calls Dick a “garage philosopher”, i.e., one whose not concerned so much with rigorous proof and development of systems, but one who makes great leaps through a powerful imagination and iconoclastic use of lateral associations.

I immediately liked that; didn’t have to think myself into it.  I can only hope one day I may be legitimately called a “garage philosopher.”  I think it’d be the penultimate compliment.

Friday, April 25, 2014


Maybe when I get back from Texas the Western bug will bite me again.  Which is okay with me.  Haven’t read anything authentically Western since last summer’s Warlock and anything stylistically Western since last fall’s Gothic The Hawkline Monster (Hopper’s Novel of the Year last year).  Still have a bunch of unread paperbacks on the shelves, such as The Big Sky, Little Big Man, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Deerslayer.  Lotta pages there. 

We’ll see what Texas does to me.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Well, those of you who know the Hopper know the Hopper does not like to fly.  As you read this there is a good chance I am 30,000 feet somewhere over the skies of the southeast United States, heading in to the Lone Star State.  You see, my sister-in-law is getting married down there, so there really wasn’t any way I could get out of this flight.

How am I handling it?  Pretty good, I imagine.  I have my Rosary beads, which help keep the plane airborne.  I also have a pair of paperbacks that I feel certain will keep me preoccupied, plus pen and paper.  And the little ones and the wife, who are all seasoned air travelers.

The wedding will take place on Saturday, with a rehearsal and dinner tomorrow.  Not counting my immediate family and the bride and groom, I will know four people.  All told, nine out of one or two hundred.  Now, those of you who know the Hopper know the Hopper doesn’t “mingle”, doesn’t do “cocktails.”  So I will sneak a paperback in my jacket inner pocket and find a nice secluded spot to disappear into.  You know, and do some research for this blog.

I queued up a couple of short blog entries over the next couple of days and will follow up with a no-doubt eccentric wrap-up of my Texas trip Monday evening.  After that, it’s business as usual.

See ya later!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Martial Interest

Just why did a gentle lamb like Hopper begin reading about the Civil War, followed by World War II, to the tune of two dozen books and two hundred hours of reading?

There’s a simple answer to this.

A few years ago I was strolling through an unfamiliar library, browsing along until my eyes fell upon a seemingly random title – and stopped dead in my tracks:

An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War

Never read it (yet), but that juxtapositioning of Homer’s Iliad with the American Civil War made some little metal ratchet in my cerebellum go click and I haven’t forgotten it since.

(One day I’m going to compile a list of a hundred words that I find, for lack of a better term, “neat.”  Then I’ll plug them into a simple BASIC program that will spit two out at a time.  What odd, unusual, and eclectic ideas will those word pairs spawn in my mind?  Adrenaline is literally shooting through my veins as I type this …)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Neo K. Platonism

Neoplatonism: “the intellectualist reply to the … yearning for personal salvation.”  (Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, p. 216)

I like this definition a lot.  A lot.  Know just the bare skeletal framework of Neoplatonism, this mystical philosophy that thrived for about three centuries (c. 250-550 AD), but figured I should bone up on it since it seems to play such a big part of The Exegesis of Phillip K. Dick, the mammoth tome I’ve now sunk my teeth in.

I’m keeping notes so anything supra-revelatory or chill-inducing I’ll post here under weirdities.

Seven Random Things

I don’t know a single thing about

1.        Needlepoint
2.       Burundi
3.       Simone Beauvoir
4.       Elk
5.       Qualitative Easing
6.       Every Danielle Steele book ever written
7.       The difference between Gypsum and Feldspar

I expect to go to my grave tabula rasa concerning five of those seven.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

Couldn’t have been better.  Combine that with the fact that my parents had the little ones for the past week and it was my wedding anniversary, it was a surprisingly low-key, relaxing affair.

Friday night we went down to an old haunt for the anniversary dinner.  I had me a fluke special – no, the special wasn’t a fluke, it was a fish – two glasses of some micro-brewed ale I enjoyed (“pony” something or other), and a glass of medium-priced port.  Ah, good times.

Saturday I drove halfway to PA to meet my parents and pick up the little ones.  Then we did the routine errands: dry cleaners, post office, library, B&N, Blimpies.  Didn’t find anything at B&N but got the girls each a small book.  The wife took them out to see the bunny and get photos taken; I did all our laundry and finished reading my Civil War book.  Later than night we reheated some leftover spaghetti and meatballs.  Put the little ones down and the wife and I watched – of all things – The Expendables.  Well, I did, as she fell asleep about 45 minutes in.

Oh, and I also started reading The Exegesis of Philip K Dick.  More – much more – on that, later.

Yesterday we got up leisurely.  The girls hunted Easter eggs the bunny left in our house.  I made us all scrambled eggs with a three-Italian-cheese mix tossed in.  We all got ready and went to 10:30 mass to see Little One as an altar server.  My father-in-law and my parents were there, too.  Excellent mass, lots of incense, good sermon by our young priest, a packed house.  Only complaint was the music director decided to take us to Dixieland for the Gloria and a few other interludes, which is never appropriate in a mass setting.  But that, though ear-splitting loud, was relatively minor. 

We took some pics outside the church, in front of a statue of Mary.  Then we headed to my parents’ favorite restaurant for an early, early dinner.  I had a couple of Heinekens and lobster ravioli, then we all toasted Great Grandma’s memory with a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  The girls were well-behaved and very entertaining.  We all said our goodbyes around 2:30 and were home by 3.

For the next four hours we indulged in what has become a Hopper tradition: we watch Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  The girls love the movie, and we love that they love it.  We allowed them some chocolate and jelly beans, and we were all so filled from early dinner that we had apples and cheese for an evening snack.  Put the exhausted girls to bed by 8 and then watched an episode of Impractical Jokers and – Star Trek (the original series). 

Who could ask for anything more on a beautiful holiday weekend?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Details and recap of the events of the weekend to follow ...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scared the Heck Outta Little Me

… circa mid-70s …

The Blob

Son of the Blob

Invasion of the Saucer Men

The Brain Eaters

It’s Alive


… and thus none of these flicks shall be part of “Monster Movie Saturday Matinee” at the Hopper House with my little ones …

Note: these movies each – terrified me, grossed me out, kept me up at nights (sheets up to the neck, eyes staring out in the darkness), gave me the chills, nauseated me, made me question the presence of a loving God in this universe, froze me solid with fright, caused inner turmoil as my mind cried “change the channel” while my body cried, “can’t!”, panicked me, dropped my blood ten degrees, stood my then-blonde hairs on end, and scared any remaining photons of daylight out of me, all before the age of ten.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Day in the Life

About six times a year by my reckoning I am left completely alone at home.  Completely.  No wife, no children, no nothing except me, my books, a teevee, a refrigerator, and, of course, work the next day.  Now don’t get me wrong – I love my wife and children.  But I am by nature an introvert, and introverts by nature need about two to three hours of solitary isolation for every hour spent in contact with extroverts.  My wife and children are all extroverts.  Extreme extroverts.  Though there’s some hope for Little One.

So six times a year I am by myself.  Four or five of those times occur during the week sandwiching the Fourth of July the wife takes the little ones to South Carolina to visit her parents.  I work that week (’cuz we need the money; I actually love South Carolina – and everyone lets me disappear to do my own thing). During the nights I feed myself, read, watch some movies, maybe a baseball game or two, drink a few beers, and chill.  Last summer I painted Patch’s room pink.

The other night or two of those half-dozen are scattered randomly and unpredictably throughout the year.

Such a night is tonight.

The children have been spending their Spring Break at my mother’s house in PA.  The wife is working down in Delaware all day, then visiting her friend in central NJ for dinner, and will probably be home by midnight or so.  That means me on his own for six hours.

What to do – what to do …

Well, I just finished a brutal half-week at work.  Thursday and Friday should be easier.  So I might celebrate that fact with a Foster’s oil can.

But I have to make dinner.  The wife thoughtfully stuffed a frozen pizza in the freezer for me, but I think I’d like to share that with her.  So I will fall back on Bachelor Default: cook some pasta and throw a can of soup in it.

Then the $64,000 Question: To read or watch a movie?

The $64,000 Answer: Both!

I’m nearing the end to Why the South Lost the Civil War, a more-scholarly-than-I-intended-to-read book on the meta-reasons why the Confederacy, er, lost.  A little more erudite and sociological for my amateur tastes in the conflict.  (Maybe 20 percent of the book deals with actual soldiers and battle; the remainder deals with Southern culture, guilt, religion, honor, and, of course, the institution of slavery.)  Less than a hundred pages of this five-hundred-pager left, so I want to get that under my belt before I start one of Bruce Catton’s works sitting patiently on deck.

I also DVR’d Predators, starring Adrian Brody’s voice, for tonight.  I reviewed that surprisingly neat flick here.  So I’ll watch some sci fi carnage while eating steak soup and pasta, then read for an hour or so before turning in early to bed.

Because … brace for it … I’ve been lifting the weights at the crack of dawn the past couple of weeks!  More on that, later.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today’s Fatty Fat Fat

So, we have a policy for salesmen – you don’t hand in your time sheet, you don’t get paid until you do, and it’s on the next payroll.

Fatty Fat Fat is a chronic timesheet forgetter.  So he hands in his sheet to me today, two days late, saying

“If you want, you can be a hero and put that in this payroll.”

To which I replied,

“You can be a hero and just do your job as you’re supposed to!”

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Thought That Wandered Past Today

Was I a man dreaming he was a cubicle,

or a cubicle dreaming he was a man?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

American Hustle

Watched this with the wife last night; it was her idea.  Me, I don’t trust Hollywood to deliver a good movie, though I am more than willing to be surprised.  (And as a result, more than usually disappointed.) 

So what did I think?

Surprise: I didn’t like it.  I know I’m going against the grain here, but I can give four specific reasons why.

First, it was too long.  It’s my humble opinion that – historical or literary epics aside – no movie needs to be over 105 minutes long.  That’s an hour and 45 minutes.  Earlier in the day we watched Rocky Balboa with the girls, and that clocked in perfectly (1:42), which only added to the pleasantly astonishing goodness of that flick.  American Hustle ran on and on and on for 138 minutes – two hours and 18 minutes, 33 minutes longer than my rule of thumb. 

Second, the movie tried too hard to be a period piece.  Every scene had something – or a couple of somethings – crying out, “Hey, it’s the late Seventies!!!”  Look at the bad hair!  See the disco ball!   Hey, everyone knows all the lyrics to the obscure “classic” rock songs!  Wow – that guy’s doing coke!  Ooh, the loud clothes!  Every single scene.

Third, everyone overacts.  Everyone.  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence.  I mean, how do these people live with their Constant and Never-ending Personal Public Crises?  Oh, it’s so tiresome.  The actor who overacted the least is Robert DeNiro, who plays a role he’s played so many times he could do it in his sleep – the malevolent mobster.  Though I will admit that he steals the scene he’s in and the menace he brings made me actually physically nervous.  DeNiro aside, this seriously annoyed me.

Fourth, Hollywood has to think everyone in the world uses the F-bomb.  Everything is F-this and F-that.  And they think women can only be strong and tough if they pepper their dialogue with Fs.  That’s not been my experience in real life. I had the wife cracking up doing my “Hollywood” version of a day in the life at my job – if everyone used the F-word in every sentence.  The kindly old lady, for instance, who monitors the bank accounts, F’ing this and F’ing that.  Oh, and I threw in some American Hustle-style overacting too.

However – and it’s the essential however here – I do like movies that deal with this subject.  Scamming.  Scammers nabbed and scamming to save themselves.  You never know who’s scamming who, who’s being played, who’s real and who’s fake, how the antiheroes are going to get out of the mile-deep hole they find themselves in.  I enjoy the second-guessing and the Big Surprise at the end, which the movie, it must be said, did have.  So I can’t totally pan the movie for style when the substance was indeed interesting.  

Grade: C+

A Pair of Weirdities

When I go to the library (once, twice a week), I must confess half the time I have no pre-conceived idea of what I’m going to pick up.  I go to browse, and it’s a great way, I’ve found, to relax and shed off the concerns of the world for a while.

What do I browse for?

Unless I’m fixated on a certain topic du jour (like the Civil War, or mathematics, or ancient civilizations, etc), I usually try to find something that will blow a fuse or two in my brain.  Something eye-opening, world-shattering, goosebump-inducing, head-smacking weird.  A different way of looking at the world, or part of it.  A new set of glasses, so to speak.

Which is why I spend such a large amount of time in the philosophy, alternative religion, and history’s mysteries sections that I pretty much know each and every spine on the shelves by its color and font.  Read half of ’em, and skimmed through the other half.  But I still look, and will keep on doing so.

Yesterday I was rewarded.  Took the little ones with me to the library more for them, as I am in the thick of two hefty tomes myself and was not actively seeking new reading material.  But that is when the magic happens.

I found two very, very interesting books, books that qualify for the qualities aforementioned in paragraph three of this post:

Emanuel Swedenborg: Visionary Savant in the Age of Reason.  Don’t know much about this 18th-century European mystic, save that he had some visions of heaven and the afterlife that, while maybe not enthusiastically endorsed by the Church, at least are not outright condemned by her.  At least, so I think, though I claim ignorance.  A bit more research is involved here on my part.  But, man, I’d love to read what this man saw, see how it fits in with my world- and after-world-view.  Read thirty pages yesterday and it held my interest.  (536 pages)

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.  Don’t know too much about this, either.  Went through a heavy PKD phase in the second half of 2005 (read a couple of novels, an anthology of his short stories, and a biography of the man), came away with a glimpse of his tortured, crazy, drug-exacerbated genius.  While not a True Believer in the wackiness PKD believed, I always approach him with an open mind.  From what I understand about this book is that it is the work of a team of editors sorting through and making sense of a few thousand pages of stream-of-consciousness Dickian “exegesis” on reality, philosophy, and out-and-out weirdness the man began jotting down after commencing with – perhaps – Swedenborgian visions. (944 pages)

Should be a great pair of weird readings. 

And I will report further on any weirdnesses witnessed within them.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Ah!  Got a full, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep, woke a few minutes before my alarm went off at six, did a brisk workout followed by a healthy breakfast and a protein shake, then hopped into the shower.  While scrubbing myself clean and shaving in the hot spray, a bird just outside the open bathroom window serenaded me … a hauntingly but familiar melody from my youth …

NAH, Nah, nah – Na-nuh Na-nuh Nah! Nah!

Over and over again:

NAH, Nah, nah – Na-nuh Na-nuh Nah! Nah!

NAH, Nah, nah – Na-nuh Na-nuh Nah! Nah!

As I got out and toweled off, it suddenly came to me.  Could it really be?  Yes!  It is!  The theme from Fat Albert!  “Nah, nah, nah, gonna have a good time!  Hey hey hey!

Needless to say, that damn bird brought a smile to my face, and to my wife’s, when I related the incident to her.

* * * * *

However, after giving it a generous amount of thought, I don’t think that little creature really was singing the theme song of Fat Albert to me.  I think, that if we had a sparrow-to-English translation device (perhaps on Google), that song’s lyrics would go something like this:

I must
Confess that I am only dust.
But once a rose within me grew;
Its rootlets shot, its flowerets flew;
And all the rose’s sweetness rolled
Throughout the texture of my mould;
And so it is that I impart
Perfume to them, whoever thou art.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Daily Recap

Here’s a nice recap of my day today:

Déjà vu, man, déjà vu.

Except, you could throw a little bit – well, a lot – of this in:

That is all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Mathematician's Dream

Had a weird, highly detailed dream about myself … or myself in an alternate universe.  I was a successful mathematician, but not just a teacher or a college professor, but one who had made significant discoveries and was a popularizer of higher math, like Brian Greene or Michio Kaku are for cutting-edge physics.  I had a couple of books published and was a niche celebrity of sorts.  I had an office in a New York City college (Columbia?), an Indian wife (?) who taught biology at the college that paid my salary, and a house on a lake up in the Adirondacks.

Go figure.

But the oddest part of the dream was how detailed my collegiate journey was.  It seems I was an autodidact, especially so during summer vacations.  I had calculated 80 credits to get a math degree, and at 16 hours a credit that worked out to 1,280 hours of study in my major, or 320 hours a school year.  I took it upon myself to study / learn 4 hours a day 6 days a week during the 90 days of summer (in addition to the part-time shelf-stocking job I had), accumulating an additional 320 hours or so a summer – one full and condensed school year of learning.  Thus, when I graduated with my four-year math degree, I had 2,560 hours of the subject which so filled my heart with glee under my belt, twice as much as my colleagues, so I literally could pick and choose where I wanted to go to grad school, and they all eagerly shopped me.

Remember the Rule of 10,000 thing that makes such profound sense to me?  Well, though not explicitly stated, it was there in those hour calculations that I dreamt about.

Yes, in another corner of the multiverse I am a mathematician / physicist.  This dream, I think, was him, patting my somnific self’s slumbering shoulder, reassuring me that while Hopper-sub-writer may be floundering, Hopper-sub-scientist was doing just fine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Work Was A B****


I figuratively have two black eyes, a broken rib, torn ligaments in the knee, and lacerated knuckles from hitting back.  Literally.

Why does it gotta be this way?  I thought this was the 21st century.

Oh, yeah.  Right.  Money is involved.

And I work for horse traders.

Haven’t had an interesting thought all day, so, alas, no posting of interest tonight.

Perhaps tomorrow, after I’ve had time to decompress.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cinematic Trifecta

Watched a trio of science fiction flicks this weekend, two with the little ones and one by myself last night (the wife flew out to Cleveland on business earlier in the day).  One full-fledged classic, one cheesy classic, and one downright bad.

The downright bad one I watched by myself because it was made it 2010, and thus had gratuitous violence, gore and horrifying deaths.  And though the same could be said – heavy emphasis on that word, ‘could’ – about the other two, but since the first was made in 1954 and the second in 1968, my children would not be scarred for life watching them.  (Although The Blob, a 1958 entry into the world of cinematic sci fi, most certainly scarred me for life, though I watched it without parental supervision when I was about eight or nine.)

Anyhoo … the first flick was the psychedelic joint Japanese-American toy model, rubber suit monster movie The Green Slime.  I recall watching it only once as a lad – but what an impression it made on me!  All the mesmerizing essentials: a daring and dangerous mission, a space station, alien goo that can’t be killed but multiplies into man-sized giant-eyeballed sparkler-tentacled killing machines.  Oh, and the space station, resembling Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle’s rear tire, falls aflame into earth’s atmosphere, eventually exploding in a furious bang. 

Well, the second time around it wasn’t nearly as good.  Even the little one’s thought it was a bit on the lame side, though they watched the entire thing in varying stages of riveted-ness.  We even had some good laughs, too.  For example, we all kinda simultaneously realized the green slimers look remarkably like Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba gone bad:

Brobee ... good

Green Slimer ... bad

Whenever a green slimer gets lasered and bleeds onto the floor, out of the green slimy blood pops up these marble-sized miniature green slimers who in short order grow to join the army of green slimeys.  Patch – age five – had the best line of the afternoon when she shuddered and labeled them “booger babies.”

Next on the miniature silver screen in the living room was the classic – the essential – the phenomenal – Godzilla, King of the Monsters.  The Americanized version of the black-and-white Japanese original, with Raymond Burr as reporter “Steve Martin” to frame and narrate the terrible reign of Godzilla, a.k.a., the metaphor for the two nuclear bombs that ravaged Japan less than a decade earlier.  The only Godzilla movie to ever be nominated for a best picture (I think, if I recall correctly), this was done right.  Godzilla was bad, bad, bad, in the best of ways, on both a metaphorical and a guy-in-a-suit-stomping-models sense, but what always got me, even as a kid, was the tortured scientist rocking an eye patch, whose “oxygen destroyer” chemical ultimately slays the dragon.  He agonizes over the horror of his discovery – another nod to the atom bomb – as well as losing beautiful Emiko to Ogata, and his sacrifice at the film’s conclusion has now entered the heart of the next generation – Little One cried out, “Why did he have to die!!!”

Later I had the misfortune to watch Skyline.  A few years ago my buddy and I considered seeing it in the theaters … for about a minute, maybe two.  Decided against it, and it now I realize how good a decision it was.  For I will never have those ninety minutes back.  Lost, into the void of time …

Well … it wasn’t that bad.  Oh, yeah, bad it was, but more in a lame kinda “why bother?” way.  There was potential, if only in the fact that there were elements of at least half-a-dozen better SF movies stolen within it.  Douche-y LA types wake up hungover on the morning of an alien invasion: falling, hypnotic blue lights turn the victims into obedient zombies – then suck them straight up into the air to awaiting Independence Day spaceships – for their BRAINS!!! 

The first 45 minutes are actually watchable, if only for a what-would-I-do-in-their-shoes type thing and the whole what’s-a-going-on-here? thing.  But once the reveals are all revealed (the aliens, their penchant for brains, their gravity-defying spaceships, etc), it’s all tiresome chases and explosions.  And nothing makes sense once it’s all over and you start thinking about it.  No one reacts the way they would in real life, people do stupid things, nuclear explosions don’t knock over high-rise apartment buildings, etc, etc, etc. 

(By the way, those movies ripped off by Skyline include, but are not limited to, War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Resident Evil, Fire in the Sky, Battle: Los Angeles, one of the Matrix sequels, Cloverfield …)

Bottom line:

The Green Slime – eh, meh, C for nostalgia’s sake

Godzilla, King of the Monsters – A, still holds up from my youth

Skyline – C (it’s an average: B first half, D last half)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Amazes Me Most

Is that things like this need to be pointed out in this day and age:

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Uninstalled Mozilla Firefox, my web browser, off my computer this morning.  Switched to Chrome (yeah, yeah, I know, I know …)

It’s coming, friends.  It’s coming. 

Thought my children would be the ones actively persecuted, but at the rate of speed this nonsense has been coming down the pike, I put it down as serious hard times ahead in a decade, unless things are seriously curtailed in a serious way.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Culture Disgusts

This culture disgusts me.

Where’s my time machine?

That’s what I started writing, then I realized: where would I go?  What time period would I choose to live in?

When has there ever been a time where there was peace, prosperity, security, true enlightenment (not to be confused with the endarkenment falsely sold as enlightenment)? 

Where was there ever a place where there was peace, prosperity, security, and true enlightenment?

Must there always be strife and struggle this side of heaven?

I am a history buff and lately these past couple of years I’ve been reading about the Civil War and the Second World War.  But do you know what?  It’s starting to depress me.  Yes, I feel lucky not to have lived through either great conflict; I cannot fathom what I would do had it been decreed I been born, say, in New York c. 1840 or, say, Warsaw c. 1922.  But though we in contemporary America face none of the lethal repercussions faced by those in 1860s America or 1940s Europe, I can see the seeds of those earlier conflicts germinating in the washing-machine spin cycle of our current socio-political climate.

Or am I just being histrionic?

It’s a well-known fact, is it not, that mankind does not learn from history.  Didn’t some Spanish philosopher (Unamuno?  Santayana?) say something to that effect a hundred years ago?

Ah, I dunno.  Maybe it’s time to shut off the news, stop surfin’ the web, and read some sci fi.  Or take up birding.

This culture disgusts me.

Where’s my spaceship?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Code of Conduct

Saint Francis de Sales tried to live his life so that whenever anyone asked him what he was doing, he could honestly say, “I’m preparing for Mass.

- The Mass, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, page 206

Never read this quote before, and I’m a huuuuge fan of St. Francis de Sales (he’s the patron saint of writers, among other things).  It’s pretty much impossible for one to go wrong, short-term or long-term, when one conducts one’s life by these four simple words: I’m preparing for Mass.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rugby, er, Basketball

Nice scene from one of Little One’s basketball games.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Whim Purchases

Every couple of months, usually twice a year, I order a few books from an online used book outfit.  Last time I did this was in November where I picked up a quarterscore of items.  Whilst doing bills early Saturday morning – never the funnest time of my week – I spontaneously decided to hop onto the Interweb and almost randomly chose two more acquisitions.

First was a stout one-volume bio of WW2, titled stoutly enough The Second World War, by Antony Beevor.  Spotted it in a library a few weeks ago and thought about borrowing it but felt I wouldn’t have time to read through it.  Well, I hadn’t forgotten it, so I felt that must be a sign: I must read it!  Since I plan on finishing up Rick Atkinson’s trilogy this summer, followed by Ike’s own penning of the Great Conflict, I thought Beevor’s book might be a great Memorial Day / week re-introductory read.

Second is a guilty pleasure.  I think it will be, that is.  Found out about this book in a book about books, specifically one spouting off about the hundred or so best thrillers you’ve never read sort of thing.  The book referenced is called Shipkiller, by an author I’ve never read before (Justin Scott).  It’s supposedly one of the best maritime suspense stories, and the description of it in the book about books I read sealed the deal for me: think Moby Dick except with a giant oil tanker.  Unable to forget that set up, I whimmed it and tossed it in the electronic shopping cart a few days ago.

Reviews immediate and forthcoming, as always, once I’ve fully digested the material.  But first the post man must bring them to my doorstep.