Wednesday, December 29, 2004

While waiting

      I don't wait well. Never have. Don't expect I will ever learn how. When I know something is coming, I want it to be here now. I'm one of those annoying people who are on time and are quite willing to start the party without the late arrivals.
      Most of this impatience springs from my low boredom threshold. I have the attention span of a gnat on speed. Well, really a mosquito on speed. I want to land, get to the marrow, drink my fill and then go. When I'm interested in something, I'm interested. Those around me during an obsession have learned that it's safest to just indulge me and get out of the way. I'll be back soon.
      These obsessions have led me to all sorts of various crafts, arts and hobbies, including stage magic, comic books, candle making, role-playing games, drawing, art, lasers, hovercrafts, chemistry, computer programming, book binding, origami, coin collecting, physics, sword fighting, yoga, tai chi, guns, knives, archery, model rockets, aquariums, fountains, cooking, baking, etc. People find my house "surprising" simply because so many of these hobbies still hang around.
      Example: I have three fountains in my house, one in my bedroom, one in my kitchen, one in my living room. Admittedly they are just tabletop fountains and the one in the living room is a tiny one, but they are fountains. Just to make things more aquatic, I also have an aquarium in my living room. My house bubbles and gurgles throughout the year.
      If you dig around my house -- and I'd rather you didn't -- you'll find a saber, a short sword, a sword cane, various knives, reams of decorative paper, a broken laser, some hovercraft plans, several model rockets that show a few scrapes from their rough landings, more strange tools than you can shake a stick at should you be a stick shaking person, thousands of books and a lot of -- hate to use the word but it fits -- odd junk.
      Throw in several dozen photos, knick-knacks, artwork and gadgets, and you begin to be surprised that it can all fit in my tiny house.
      Now it sounds like I'm one of those men that will eventually die when piles of magazines fall on him, but it's neater than it sounds. I make it a rule to only indulge in one hobby at a time so the others mostly stay in their various boxes, cabinets, drawers, closets, storage buildings, etc., until I feel the urge for them. And my magazines are mostly stored in the garage ... No, really, I have a cabinet for them out there.
      I enjoy all these hobbies, but I confess it's daunting to consider how much money I've spent on them over the years and how little I have that's of value to anyone but me. I mean, I collect things that interest me, but that doesn't mean they're particularly worth anything in monetary value. In fact, I prefer hobbies -- origami for instance -- that don't require much outlay of cash. (The laser was a strange aberration to this, and it doesn't even work anymore. Something else I need to fix when I get time.)
      All of this led to me to feng shui. Let me give you a moment to catch up. Still can't? Let me help. For a brief period of time, I investigated feng shui. I thought a lot of it was plain silly. However, I found a book from which I was able to extract three bits of wisdom, at least in how to declutter your house. To wit: Keep only items that are 1) useful and/or 2) loved and/or 3) beautiful. (I told this to a friend of mine once, and she said that if she followed it, she would have to divorce her husband as he wasn't any of those!)
      Thus what you find in my house is 1) useful (maybe just to me) or 2) loved (once again maybe just by me) or 3) beautiful (ditto). They also help me not be bored and thus wait, if not patiently, at least busily.
      Now if you're still with me, you're probably wondering how we got on the subject of waiting anyway. Well, tomorrow my sibs and their families arrive for an exceedingly rare visit to my town. I've been cleaning house and generally bemoaning all that stuff in my house as I eagerly await their arrival. And I do mean CLEANING. We're talking dusting, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, discarding and finally hiding. I'm tired of doing it. I want my nieces and nephew to be here now so that we can play, play and play some more.
      So I'm waiting for them.
      I need a larger house.
      Good night.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

No more, sir, please, no more ...

      I love Christmas. Always have, hope I always do. But I'm beginning to think I don't love the food that goes along with it. I blame this on IBD partly, but mostly on Weight Watchers. I, of course, have cheated over this holiday season. I've had enough turkey, potatoes and gravy, rolls, yams, pudding and pie to last several bears through the winter. I've went to parties, lunches and gatherings until I've started flinching whenever someone says, "We should get together."
      I should be strong enough to resist the food. I'm not. Won't pretend to be. If you put it in front of me, I will eventually eat it. I'm sure if I had been with the Donner party, I would have survived and perhaps gained a pound or two. My best choice is to not put it in front of me.
      Not to mention my IBD doesn't like rich food. I'm a great believer in a fairly bland diet, something that I'm used to and even like most times. I don't mind a change of pace occasionally, but lately my diet has been doing the cha-cha-cha.
      It's amazing how much food factors into our special occasions. I've yet to go to a get-together without there being some munchie offered. Even business meetings offer doughnuts. We live in a land of plenty, and we eat plenty, too. We eat too much, too often and too fattening.
      So I'm ready for the food part to be over. The laughing, talking, hugging, singing, exchanging gifts, making phone calls and playing board games can go on for a while longer. But as for the food, no more, sir, please, no more.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A Christmas report of sorts

      The tree sits in the corner, lights blinking on and off in the room that is dark other than my computer monitor. Hot tea sits in a mug to the side of my keyboard.
      I'm sitting here trying to write my way through the world, trying to find my way to a coherent existence instead of my usual muddle. I'm thinking about the world and how strange we humans are. We make war easily, do our level best to wipe each other off the face of the earth, but when a calamity happens, such as a tidal wave, people from all over the world send money, send food, go themselves to help. We are capable of terrible acts and incredible charity. The ape reaching toward the angels, as Terry Pratchett puts it. What an odd lot we are.
      It was a good, quiet Christmas. I was alone, which seems to fill my friends with dismay. It was a bit lonely, I won't say that it wasn't, but I've mastered being alone a long time ago. I've learned how to be with only me. In learning how to forgive other people for their failures, I learned how to forgive me for mine, and thus I don't mind spending time with me. There are remembered regrets, but there are present and past joys, too.
      And I called my sibs and their families. I watched movies and posted Christmas stuff and generally ate sweet, fattening, delicious food I shouldn't have. I listened to soft Christmas carols and let the quiet music fill my soul until there wasn't any me left, just the sounds of angels appearing and holy holy night.
      And later that evening I watched Godzilla battle MechaGodzilla and Mothra in a movie battle that brought Tokyo to its knees ...
      It was a good Christmas. How was yours?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas in 37 languages

Afrikaner: Een Plesierige Kerfees
Argentinian: Felces Pasquas y felices Ano Nuevo
Armenian: Schernorhavor Dzenount.
Bohemain: Vesele Vanoce
Bulgarian: Chestita Koleda
Chinese: Kung Hsi Hsin Niene bing Chu Shen Tan
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Danish: Glaedelig Jul
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Finnish: Houska Joulua
Flemish: Vrolike Kerstmis
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christougena
Dutch: Vrolyk Kerfeest en Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Iraqian: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Italian: Buon Natale
Japanese: Meri Kurisumasu
Jugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Norwegian: God Jul og Godt Nytt Aar
Oklahoman: Merry Christmas, y'all
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Boas Festas y Feliz Ano Novo
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele
Russian: S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Vesele vianoce
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Chrystos Rozdzajetsia Slawyte Jeho
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

A Christmas prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

Merry Christmas!

      I hope you all have a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas. Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for all your comments and support. May God bless and richly keep you.

The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Friday, December 24, 2004

One Christmas Star

It
does
not seem
much against
the darkness of this world:
one light in a midnight sky, a pinpoint
of illumination seen by Magi and lonely shepherds.
Yet, strange as it seems, nothing has
let us see as clearly as He
along heralded
by that one
Christmas
Star.

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Mikey and Mikay, the little angels.
© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Andre Norton fan

      One of my favorite authors is Andre Norton. Ms. Norton has published an incredible number of fantasy and science fiction novels in a career that spans over 50 years. I remember quite well coming across her novels in the library and eagerly devouring them when I was a pre-teen (back before the Flood).
      The Science Fiction Book Club has released several of her novels in hardback. I've started buying them to add to my collection of Norton softcovers. I have about 50 of her books total, and I've barely started.
      Her imagination and work ethic were equally amazing. I don't know how she did it. Admittedly some of her books aren't great, but none of them are bad, and many of them are wonderful. Her Witch World Novels are fan favorites. For starters, I recommend Forerunner Foray and Star Rangers.
      She's still active in collaborations with other authors and occasionally a novel of her own. She will be 92 this February. How's that for amazing?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Do you have any cheese to go with my whine?

      And now -- while enduring an IBD flare and my fractured foot -- I have caught a cold. Sigh. Well, let's talk of good things.
      My Christmas shopping is still done. No new unexpected gift needs have risen. Whew!
      I paid down another credit card with the last of the loan money. I didn't have enough to pay it off, but I paid enough that I should have it cleared by December 2006. Another card should pay off in August 2005 and another one in January 2006. That will leave just one card that will take until July 2008. And then I'm done except for the loan itself. It's supposed to pay off in December 2011, but with the money that used to go to the cards, I should be able to pay it off much sooner, but I haven't figured out the payoff exactly yet. This plan will also let me build up some savings in there as well as have a bit of cushion for emergencies. Several people -- thank you very much -- have pointed out that plans rarely execute as we planned them. I know that, but planning is the only way I can extract myself from this financial hole. I think it is flexible enough to cope with most of the emergencies that I can think of. We'll see. It would really help if I sold a book or two or seven.
      I got some good pictures of Mikey when he visited last weekend. I'll be posting a couple after I sort through them. He is such a joy. Of course, his idea of Christmas is a bit shaky -- we hunted Easter Eggs and wore Halloween masks and played monster -- but it's what his three-year-old mind came up with it, and we had great fun. Wish he could have stayed longer.
      And now good night!

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Incredibles save the day!

      Turns out my nephew is a fan of The Incredibles as well as the Justice League. And there's lot of merchandise out there for both. I purchased his presents this evening, and now once again, and I say this with just a bit of nervousness, I'm finished shopping. I hope. Please let it be so.
      I also wrapped a lot of presents today so I'm still making progress despite everything going on in my life. My foot continues to take more attention than I think it should, but I've been reading about these types of injuries on the net, and apparently that's just the way it is. So I will plan accordingly.
      Hats off to Joel! He left 11 (!) comments on my blog today. He really needs to get a life ... :) but until then, thanks for the comments, dude!
      And now I'm going to call it a night. Take care all.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

ACK!

      My sister just called and said that the gift that she told me to get for my nephew and that I have already purchased ... he already has! ACK! More shopping! ACK!

A Bit More Later

      We will now give a short plug for Photoshop Elements 2. It's an excellent image editing program based on the premiere image editing program Photoshop. Since I don't want to sell a kidney to afford Photoshop, I'm content with Elements, and it's more than adequate for my purposes. The latest version is Elements 3, which only works on Windows XP. Check it out.

When it rains ...

      Because I had been ignoring it to take care of my injured foot and to battle with IBD, my computer decided to quit working. At least that's the only reason I can think of. While trying to make a music CD for a friend, it coughed, gave a mighty hiccup, then threw up data from one end of the hard disk to another. We had errors and blue screens and general all-around disaster.
      Fortunately my data was secure. I back-up my writing and photos fanatically. But of course, that data requires a computer to be useful in any way. And I need this computer to work. (Which it is, of course, or you wouldn't be reading this.) I can't afford a new one. This one is showing its age -- it was four this Thanksgiving, which is about 60 in computer years -- but I need it to continue to function well into its 100's. So I uninstalled, installed, downloaded updates, deleted updates and generally applied CPR and intensive care to its ailing motherboard. Viola! It's alive. And maybe in better shape before the Crash of Christmas 2004. We'll see how it goes.
      In other news, there isn't much. I finished my Christmas shopping this afternoon. My foot is currently complaining; it's quite loud for something with no mouth, but it should be happy to know that we won't have to brave the wilds of Wal-Mart again for a while. At least until next week when the frenzy will have died down.
      More later.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Darkness and light

      I'm having a bad week. First, the IBD has flared, and I'm having to work to keep it under control. Second, the whole bustle and busyness of the holiday season is always a drag. Too much to do and not enough time despite how I planned. Third, I apparently fractured my foot yesterday. I stepped wrong, went down a couple of steps, caught myself with this foot on a concrete step. Ouch. Truthfully it didn't actually hurt that much at the time. I was more embarrassed about falling. However, it has since risen in my attention. It's swollen and unhappy and turns out, according to my M.D., to be a stress fracture. Not that they can do much, other than give me pain pills and tell me to keep off of it.
      Fortunately, I have most of my Christmas shopping done. I just lack two people. I intended to finish today, but I will have to wait, it looks like. But it's okay.
      The IBD flare will subside. They always do. I'm watching what I eat and trying to spend at least 30 minutes in "quiet time" daily. I'm not getting enough rest yet, but I'll keep working on that.
      As for the busyness of Christmas, that's part of its fun. The whole harried thing has to be embraced. It's like riding a roller coaster. There might be places that make you uncomfortable, but if you throw yourself into it, you'll be okay.
      At its rock core, Christmas has tremendous power. It's near the longest night and shortest day, the time when darkness holds sway longer and light gives way, then the year continues and light waxes daily. The changing of the year follows. It carries both regret and joy.
      For many, Christmas is a hard time. One of my friend's mothers died on Christmas Day. She's never got over that, despite efforts to do so. I myself find melancholy pressing on me, more now that both my father and mother have passed on. I 'm at a loose end, not really belonging anywhere. Oh, my sibs make me welcome; don't take this as a reflection on them or my many friends who would willingly open their homes to me. But it's not the same. Somehow I never feel like I get to go home.
      There's an old song that goes: "They say that heaven's pretty, and living here is, too. But if I had to choose between the two, I'm going home. I'm going home. Where I belong." It's that belonging that's missing. It's the longing for the place that I had when I was young. But we grow up. We find other joys. And perhaps this regret and wisdom help us to be better people.
      Occasionally my religious friends will get into a discussion about Heaven and the afterlife. They have many theories, few of which involve streets of gold. But for me, it will be going to a place when we all finally belong.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Shop, drop and roll into bed

      I shopped, shopped and shopped some more. I only need gifts for two more people, then I'll be done. (Except for the endless wrapping. Gift bags anyone?) And now I am going to bed. I'm beginning to get the definite feeling that I'm not as young as I used to be. Oh, I mailed the Gazette this evening, also. Woohoo! (See December 4th's entry for more info about the Gazette.) Catch y'all tomorrow when I will try to have more to say.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Almost there

      The December Gazette is nearly finished. It's printed and stapled. It needs to be put in the envelopes, the subscription thank you's added, the subscription bills added for those who haven't paid, stamped and then mailed. I should finish it tomorrow night and then mail it Wednesday. Woohoo! I'm so close to being done, I can taste it.
      Tomorrow night I will engage in hardcore Christmas shopping. I'm going to whittle my list down a lot. I got four people's gifts tonight. Only 15 more to go. Yikes. And staying on a budget really makes you have to hunt. But still, it's going okay.
      I'm all worn out so good night!

Nifty Christmas Idea 9

More easy Christmas gifts:
      1. A couple of packages of specialty coffee make a perfect gift for your caffeine junkie. Include a few bottles of various flavorings for a special treat.
      2. Gift cards and gift certificates. Easy to send through the mail as the enclosure of a Christmas card. Add that saved postage to the gift card amount for a really jolly Christmas.
      3. Bake some cookies and put them in a glass jar with a lid. Many stores have sugar cookies with a design already in the dough. Add a bow. Nifty.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Nifty Christmas Idea 8

Here's a Christmas tree decorating tip from Frenzied Feline:
      When hanging bead garlands on the tree or other places, use wire ornament hangers to hang it from the branches. This prevents it from slipping on the branches and keeps a nice, crisp "peak" in the swags. Nifty.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Nifty Christmas Idea 7

Three inexpensive and lovely gifts:
       1. Purchase a pretty clear glass jar with a lid. Buy M&Ms or different types of chewing gum or other candies and fill jar. Decorate jar with nice stickers. (Scrapbooking stores have stickers that look great.) Put bow on top. Excellent gift for co-worker or teacher.
       2. Purchase plain pillar candles in various colors. Cut Post-it notes into star shapes or purchase stickers. Stick on candle. Or use masking tape to create stripes. Using paint brush or sponge, dab gold and/or silver paint on pillars. Or use any color desired. Paint should be water based and not flammable. Do not use oil or alcohol paints of any kind. When finished painting, carefully remove tape and/or Post-its to allow the pillar's color to show. Let dry overnight. Bind two or three together with a pretty ribbon.
       3. Purchase small wooden picture frame. Remove glass. Cover frame with stickers or hot-glue foreign coins on it or paste used postage stamps of various designs on it. Place photo inside of you with the person you've giving it to. Or a travel photo. Or cut a Christmas card front to fit frame.
       I've used all three of these ideas, and they turned out nifty.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sometimes

      Sometimes you're not enough. That's the one of lessons of growing up. You get to learn that some people can't be saved, that you're going to have to watch as someone you love makes wrong decisions and chooses darkness, that you can't do anything except hope the damage won't break them.
      You can only do so much. Ultimately it's their decision about their lives. All the good advice in the world means nothing if the recipient won't listen. All the kindness in the world can't reach someone who won't let themselves be reached. You hope and pray, but they take that next drink or that next hit or one more time around with the wrong guy. They say they want to be rescued, but they've chosen their hell, and you can't save them. They don't want to be saved.
      Sometimes miracles happen. People do step back from the abyss. It happens every day many times. It's the hope you hold on to. Even when you lose.
      So you learn to take the victories you can, and you mourn the ones that fall, but there's always someone else walking along the edge so you don't have time to waste.
      You keep trying because we all court disaster sometimes. But for the grace of God, you might be that one who's failing, who's falling, who needs someone to catch them, who needs someone to say, "Hold on. I won't let you go. Hold on."
      Over the past few weeks, I've watched a friend choose something bad. He's lost his job and now his family, but he wants something he can't have and he's going to ruin himself in his attempt to get it. He's had books of good advice and libraries of warnings, but somehow he thought he'd be different, that he could walk along the hungry abyss and be unharmed. That he was different from all those others that fell before him.
      Sunday night he called me and asked what he should do. So I gave the usual good advice (counseling, marriage therapist, N.A. meetings) and as I did, I realized that he was going to ignore me, that everything I said was not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that it was going to be okay, that it was going to work out. That he could keep what he had already lost.
      Because I really am his friend, I didn't tell him that because it wasn't true. The call ended shortly thereafter. I doubt he will call me again. I'll continue to hope and pray for him and his family, and that's all I can do for now. But miracles happen. I want one to happen in his life before he suffers too much, before he gathers too much regret.
      Miracles do happen.
      Sometimes.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

And so it goes

      I've been busy on a project all night and only looked up a couple of minutes ago to realize that I should already be in bed. Thus only this tonight. But tomorrow I promise plenty of blogging goodness!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Signing my life away

      I closed the loan today. For a brief moment, I had a lot of money. Well, more money at one time that I remember ever having. Then the bank sent it off to the various tools of Satan. And that was that.
      Closing the loan was an interesting experience, particularly if you define "interesting" as "exhausting, confusing, long and tension-filled." There was form after form after form after form to be signed. And the loan gang had to explain each form using some language that no one has understood since the tower of Babel. Eventually I was like some wild crazed thing blindly signing every piece of paper they placed in front of me -- disclosures, agreements, privacy statements, body cavity search consent forms, organ farm contracts, etc. Finally I staggered out of the loan manager's office like the walking wounded. I swear he lit a cigarette after I left.
      But it's done. The DDP continues, God willing and if the creek don't rise. And now I'm going to bed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Swimming in the shallows

      I used to be deep. No, really. In high school, I read -- on my own, not being forced to read them by a teacher -- the novels of Ayn Rand, Ernest Hemingway, Balzac and others. I devoured these huge books by the dozen, and my razor-sharp mind understood them. (And they were huge books; none of those authors had ever heard of editing for length and would be offended by the idea. A lot of words are in English, and they intended to use them all, sometimes in a single sentence.) Now I am lucky if I can make it through an episode of Scooby-Doo without getting confused.
      I don't know how it happened. I was still deep in college. People would comment about it. When I started talking, they would invariably say, "It's getting deep in here." I found other deep people there, and it was nothing unusual for us to spend hours discussing socioeconomic issues of modern life and whether or not our Student Assistant was dating the head of the cheerleaders.
      But after leaving college, I began swimming in the shallows, and my mind began to go. I don't know where it went. I suspect it's on a beach in Aruba.
      For the most part, I haven't missed my mind. It was inconvenient, always bringing up things that it shouldn't, particularly during Presidential elections. Of course, I can't do math, but I couldn't do that when it was here so it didn't seem like I had lost much.
      In fact, I was content until a few months ago when I chanced on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" I knew what the show was, but I had never watched it. I was immediately hooked. In case you aren't familiar, the host asks a contestant various questions, and with each correct answer, the contestant wins more money, up to a million dollars. Ah, $1,000,000. That's such a pretty number. I could just stare at it all day. Wait, where was I? Yes, I recall. The evil codfish had attacked the fortress of the fruit bats ... No, wait, that's not it. The evil fruit bats had attacked the fortress of the codfish. It's easy to get those two confused because they are so much alike, one being a flying mammal and the other being a fish. See?
      Anyway, the first questions on the Millionaire show are easy: Which of these is a fruit? A. Tomato B. Lettuce C. Spinach D. Rush Limbaugh. (The answer is tomato, but the overwhelming impulse is to pick Limbaugh.) Who invented the telegraph? A. Isaac Newton B. Galileo C. Copernicus D. Samuel Morse. (The answer is Morse. Newton invented fig newtons; Galileo and Copernicus were rock singers.) Easy, easy.
      But as the questions progress, they get harder until the million dollar question which is something like this: What is the atomic weight of lead? A. 2 B. 207 C. 512 D. 141. What excited me about this is that it happened to be something I knew. The atomic weight of lead is 207. So there I was, yelling the correct answer at the TV. And when he said, "D," I groaned and did a frustration dance. While it was the most exercise I had done all week, something is wrong when you get that involved in a game show. I realized I had lost my depth.
      Some people don't mind being shallow. They revel in it and end up in a political office or watching reruns of Baywatch. I, however, vowed to fight my mental decline. I immediately went to the library and checked out three of the heaviest books I could find. I had to have a strapping library aide carry them to the car for me, and even she had a bead of sweat on her forehead when she finished. I also decided to watch more Public Television, at least the week they show good shows to entice you to give them money.
      But other than Public Television, I will cut back on my TV time. That should save me at least 30 minutes a day, and I never liked the news, anyway. Except for that blonde newswoman who has a nice smile and lovely eyes but also has a wedding ring so I don't like her after all.
      And I will use the most potent wisdom I know for regaining your intelligence, a secret passed down by the ancients, a secret I will now share with you, something that will make you a genius and allow you to balance your checkbook forever!
      Oops, gotta go. Baywatch is on.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Another busy day

      My tree is decorated, and the rest of the house decorations are up. I wrapped most of the presents I purchased yesterday, and they make a small pile under the tree. I cleaned my kitchen, including mopping the floor. Nothing will ever make me like mopping, by the way.
      I spent the rest of the day working on the newsletter. I still have much to do. This week will be devoted to finishing it and getting my Christmas shopping done.
      Before I get accused of being efficient, I think I need to explain that I'm trying to get as much done as I can while I'm healthy. Odd? Well, I have IBD. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, if you don't know what it means. It's not one of those romantic diseases that they make a Lifetime Movie about.
      The simplest way to explain it is that I have an overactive immune system. It's always on. And sometimes it attacks me. Particularly the lining of my intestine. It makes me throw up and do other things that I will leave to your imaginations. If it's a really bad flair, it makes me bleed inside, and then I end up in the hospital. Not much fun, but I medicate early in a flair, and I haven't had to stay in a hospital in a long time.
      No one knows what causes IBD, IBS or Crohn's Disease. There are lot of theories and a lot of research being done, but no real answers and no cures. My niece suffers from Crohn's and has it much worse than me. She's been doing okay for a while, thank God.
      Certain foods can sometimes trigger a flare for me. Or stress. Or simply being alive. And here's the rub on the stress. It doesn't have to be bad stress. It could be something good, but it can still trigger a flare.
      Holidays are stressful, and I've lost weeks to a flare before. So when I'm healthy, I try to do as much as I can in case I'm not able to later. That's why I've been working steadily on Christmas. Just in case. I know it's an odd approach to life, but trust me, it's the approach of all IBD sufferers and anyone else with a chronic disease. And it's something you adapt to. No one's life is free from pain. That's just the price we pay for being alive.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A busy day

      The outside Christmas lights are up. My tree is up and lit, but still needs to be decorated. I went Christmas shopping and got a bit of it done. My house is dusted and vacuumed. Whew. I'm tired.
      Christmas shopping was a somewhat dismaying experience. As part of my DDP, I made a budget for all my Christmas gifts. Confession time: I have spent money like a French king at Christmases past. I enjoy giving gifts, and if I found the "perfect" one, I bought it, no matter if it would take me the next six months to pay off. But you can't keep doing that without the over spending eventually catching up with you. The last two Christmases have been terribly tight. Not enough money to go around. Well, I can't do it anymore. I have to control my spending, and that is that. I know I can find good gifts for everyone within my budget, but it feels ... weird. I called a relative and asked for gift suggestions for family member this morning. I had to tell her that a couple of her suggestions were out of my budget. She acted a bit odd about it, or maybe I perceived her response as that way. I'm sure it was a surprise to her. I have to cut back, but it made me feel diminished in some way. I can't really explain it, and I can't help it.
      And speaking of confession time, I haven't been writing as I should. I didn't expect the agent's rejection to take the wind out of my sails, but it has. It's a great surprise to me as I'm the original bump'n'go boy, but this one hurt in unexpectedly ways. I type on my story almost daily, but something is missing. It's just typing, not writing. I will recover from this. I always do. But it's not much fun during the recovery.
      I also made headway on the December Gazette today. I hope to finish it this coming week. Have I mentioned the Gazette yet? No? Well, the Gazette is a monthly family newsletter that I publish. I started it after my mother passed away and I realized that her life was largely unknown. All her earlier history was gone. I stayed angry at myself for months that I, a writer with a degree in journalism, had never taken the time to sit down and interview my mother. There were so many things about her that I hadn't learned and never will in this life.
      I'm slow, but not totally stupid. I started taping my father as he told stories about his childhood. Then, to share them with my sibs, I printed them up and mailed them out. The Gazette was born as a one-color, no illustrations flyer. I interviewed my dad monthly, which was about all he would do. When he passed away, I had nearly five years of stories and hours of tape. I find those a comfort now. During that time, the Gazette grew and changed.
      The cost of the Gazette became too much for me so I began to request subscription money, not really expecting much but hoping for some help. Amazingly, my family and friends subscribed cheerfully. While I still lose money on the Gazette, their subscriptions go a long way toward helping it not be such a burden and I appreciate their help and willingness to document and share our lives together.
      After my father's death, I thought I would stop the Gazette since I figured the family wouldn't be interested in continuing without him and I wasn't sure I wanted to. To my surprise, they strongly urged me to keep on. After a three month lapse, the Gazette did.
      Today, the Gazette is still published monthly and has full-color photos and illustrations. In September, we started our 10th year of publication. It features columns, travel articles, memories, devotions, recipes, stories, jokes and more by me, my sibs, my aunts and uncles and friends of the family. I gain a new subscriber ever so often, and while it still loses money, it's to the point that I can easily handle it and feel like it's just part of my contribution to our family history.
      The Gazette has helped my writing grow and keeps me in front of a computer, wrestling with words. Some articles that I've written for it have been published in other magazines as well as serving as inspiration for plays and short stories. It's a source of monthly feedback and encouragement.
      While you might not be interested in producing something like that for your family, do take the time to interview your parents and grandparents. You will end up with something that you and your children and their children will treasure. Not to mention it might spark your creativity in ways you can't imagine.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Good news

      I got the loan! Woohoo! We will close on it Tuesday. It's going to save me a lot of money and allow the DDP to continue at a faster rate. I feel a great sense of relief. God is good. Have a great night, y'all.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Every day a little victory

      I paid off a loan today. I wanted to dance in the bank as I did it. I was as nervous as a first kiss. It's taken me a couple of years and a lot of saving and discipline, but I did it. Permit me to bask in the feeling of accomplishment for a moment .............................. Okay, enough of that.
      The rest of the news isn't quite so good. The new loan to pay off some high interest credit cards may or may not happen. I'm buried in loan applications, but the loan officer thought it could be worked out. The loan rates won't be as low as I wanted, but it will still help greatly in getting those blood-sucking tools of Satan off my financial back. Of course, I still might get rejected. We'll see how it goes. Even if this doesn't work out now, I've made a lot of progress. (Start inspirational music now.) It's been a hard road, and much of it still lies before me, but the DDP will overcome! I will be free!

Office Christmas tree.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Going mad, I tell you mad!

      Blogger is driving me crazy. Now I can't get Hello to upload photos onto my page. Sigh. Yes, it's free, and I shouldn't complain, but hey, I am! I want it to work. And I'd like them to add a few more new features. For free. Pushy, ain't I?
      I took a photo of my office Christmas tree that I thought turned out okay. It's what you're going to see if it ever lets me post it. Who knows?
      I really like my new fridge. I really need to get a life.
      Tomorrow I pay one debt and will attempt to gain another one. What? Yeah, tomorrow I'm going to try to get a loan to pay off a couple high-interest credit cards. I hope I can manage it. If not, my debt disappearance plan (DDP) will continue, but it would allow me to pay things off sooner. Let's hope the bank sees me as a good risk. Have I mentioned that credit cards are a tool of Satan? Credit cards are the tool of Satan. Now you know.
      Gifts, gifts, gifts ... That's what I've been working on tonight. Trying to pick out gifts for my loved ones. I want my gift list in shape for my Saturday shopping trip. I try to buy locally, even if it's at my local WalMart. My sales taxes help support my town. Makes sense.
      Hello still won't let me post the photo. Maybe tomorrow. Y'all have a good night, you hear!

Woohoo!

      Finally Blogger let me on to post! I tried many, many, MANY times last night, and it only gave me an error page. I don't have much time now so just few brief things to tide us over until tonight:
      I have a new fridge. My old one, the beloved green Hotpoint of 22 years, finally died a slow death. Now I have a new white side-by-side Frigidaire from Sears with filtered ice and water available on the door. Cool! It provides cubed and crushed ice and has lots of shelves and storage space. It's not green, which is a good thing, and I got a good price for it. Sears seems to have good prices on most appliances, and they have great delivery guys in my town.
      My roomie purchased himself a new Ford F-150 last night. It's red, quad cab with hundreds of cup holders! Well, maybe not hundreds, but dozens ...
      I mailed my Christmas cards last night. Woohoo!
      I'm going to tackle the Christmas shopping this weekend and vow to have the majority of it done before the weekend ends. Thank heavens for 24 hour Walmarts.
      Likewise, my tree goes up this weekend, and I hope to finish putting up the lights outside. Well, one way or another, I will be finished with them. Some things you just have to let go and move on.
      The sun is actually shining today! Sunshine! Ahhhh ...
      Tomorrow afternoon I will pay off one of my debts. The first result of my five year plan. It feels good. I have a long way to go, but to quote an old proverb: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step."
      See you tonight, Blogger willing!

Monday, November 29, 2004

You As Farmer

In the barren hills of my heart
you planted yourself with careful
and deft words, sending roots questing
deep into what I thought was dead.

Surely you sometimes thought no crop
would ever grow as you toiled in
my unresponsive soil, weeding
hidden hurts and secret sorrows.

Many times you reaped only pain
as I lashed out, uncomfortable
with the turning of my set life
and the necessary reseeding.

After all theses seasons, I must
now tell you this truth: watered by
your faith, nourished by your smile,
I have bloomed, surprising even me.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Nifty Christmas Tip 6

      Say no. That's right. Say no. You can only do so much. Obligations abound. Friends, family, church, clubs, work ... There are limits to what you can do. You deserve some rest this Christmas. Cut back on your projects. Say no that one extra job. Don't over commit yourself. They will find someone else. Understand that you are human, and give yourself a break. Christmas should also mean peace. And that's a nifty thing.

A statue of Saint Luke in an alcove in the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Nifty Christmas Tip 5

      Salt dough ornaments are easy to make and will last for years with care. To make them, you only need three things:
            4 cups of flour (not self-rising)
            1 cup of salt
            1 1/2 cups of hot tap water.
      Mix water and salt together for one minute. Mix in the flour slowly. When all the flour has been absorbed, knead for two minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured board. You want the dough to be about 1/4 inch thick. Form the dough into various shapes with cookie cutters and molds. Place on a cookie sheet that's covered by foil. Be sure to make a hole at top of the ornaments that will allow a hanging thread or wire to go through. (You can't add the hole after baking as the ornaments will break.) Bake at 325 degrees until firm (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). The larger the ornament, the longer it will take to bake. Let cool completely. (Naturally you should not eat the ornaments.)
      Varnish the ornaments with an acrylic varnish, or use acrylic paints to decorate them, and then varnish. The varnish is important as it keeps the ornaments from deteriorating. Be sure to varnish both sides. This is a great family project. Nifty Christmas fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Busy

      I've been busy today with Christmas cards, putting up Christmas lights, housework and bills. I only lack three cards and then I will have the cards all ready to go. I ended up with 52. I only got two light nets put out, but I hope to finish the lights outdoors tomorrow afternoon. Over the next week, I'll get the tree put up. And do some shopping. Sigh. It never all gets done, does it?
      It's nearly midnight so I'll sign off now. Have a great day tomorrow.

Church steeple against a darkening sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Stuffed with turkey

      I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did. I went to my sister's house and ate until I waddled. I had turkey and dressing, pecan-topped sweet potatoes, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls with olive oil butter, corn, sweet peas, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and banana pudding. That was the first course ...
      Yes, I know it wasn't Weight Watchers approved. Tomorrow I will be good again, but not until then. Because tonight I had leftovers of all of the above. Ahhhh. It was delicious. My sister is an incredible cook. I shall now sink into a food induced stupor and see y'all tomorrow. Always supposing my stomach doesn't explode.
      Here is my sister's recipe for:
Easy Baked Sweet Potatoes
1 large can of sweet potatoes in light syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup of grandulated sugar
1/2 cup of whole pecans
      Drain sweet potatoes. In small batches, blend potatoes. Pour blended mixture into mixing bowl. Add vanilla, eggs, brown sugar and grandulated sugar. Stir until well blended. Pour into 8-inch square buttered Pyrex dish. Strinkle top with pecans. Bake 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Delicious!
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Nifty Christmas Idea 4

      You can make a quick and easy centerpiece by filling a tall, clear glass bowl or vase with shiny gold ball ornaments. It would also look good on a mantel or side table or anywhere you need a bit of Christmas color. Or take a tall pillar candle, set it on a clear plate and surround it by a ring of ornaments. Nifty.

More colorful foliage.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

lHappy Thanksgiving!l

      Have a wonderful, happy, safe Thankgiving. See y'all Friday!

More fall colors.
©2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A sideways glance at the First Thanksgiving

(I actually wrote the following last year for Thanksgiving and intended to fill in the tiny historical gaps by doing credible research. But what with the knitting and handgun lessons, I haven't had the chance. Still, no notable historian has challenged it so here it is.)

      I hope if you have to travel tomorrow that you drive carefully. Or if you take public transportation, bus or train carefully. Remember only you can prevent forest fires. So stay out of the forest! The chipmunks don't want you there. They plot against you, they do.
      I should really write something about Thanksgiving, but most people know the story of the Pilgrims and their long perilous journey across the ocean. To tell something new about them, one would have to do months of hard research and consult learned scholars. Instead, I'm going to use an easier way that nonetheless is prominent in today's society, particularly among Congressmen: I'm going to make it up.
      The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, in 1620, crossed the ocean in the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth, America, two months later. How lucky is that? They left Plymouth and ended up at Plymouth.
      The Pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution from the governments and churches in Europe. The European establishment was a bit looser about sin, considering the Ten Commandments to be the Ten Suggestions and the Sermon on the Mount to be a Chat with Tea. The establishment, however, was steadfast in its beliefs, burning heretics at the stake. What a happy time was had by all, not including the burnee, of course, who sometimes complained loudly.
      The Pilgrims were led by John Alden or maybe Miles Standish. I'm a little unclear on this. It could have been Flappy Slapdashy. Look it up. On the trip over, several sailors died. This could have been seen as a bad omen, but the Pilgrims didn't believe in omens or baths, either. No, this part is true. They thought baths were sinful and should be taken only once a year -- say for instance when your undergarments were capable of walking to the water by themselves -- and you were never to enjoy them.
      Some modern-day scholars have taken this to mean that the Pilgrims were dour, sour people, like Democrats today, but this simply isn't true. In 1637, Warwick William "Willie" Wipingnose smiled in public at a Pilgrim gathering. Twice. He was immediately flogged and pilloried, but he did smile.
      Soon after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, they discovered, due to bad planning, all the supermarkets were in the Old World. Food got scarce. Several Pilgrims disappeared but were found in various cooking pots in the Donner home.
      The winter was cold, the wolves were gathering and the pantry was bare. Disease struck the colony. The colony tried to strike back, but Disease was too quick and dodged and ran around town, skipping and singing, "Climb Every Mountain."
      But help was just beyond the horizon, or actually just inside the woods. Chief Acornugger of the Whatchamacallit Tribe had met the Pilgrims some time ago. He hadn't liked them, finding them "stinky and dour." His medicine man Pokeineye had warned him of the white man, saying, "They come in long ships to take our forests and our lands and will drive us before them. Do not let them. Invest in casinos. Don't buy Enron."
      For a while, Acornugger led his brave braves against the white man in daring raids, taking tools, clothing and an entire case of moist towelettes.
      Once he or some other chief captured several white men and were putting them to death by cutting off their heads. (Although he wasn't a member of the European establishment, the chief was sympathetic to their methods.) The last victim was a man named John Smith (possibly not his real name). They pushed Smith down on a tree stump and started to chop off his head when the chief's daughter Pocahontas threw herself on top of the captive. The chief was overcome by this display of emotion and ordered Smith released, although Pocahontas kept insisting that she had just tripped.
      Anyway, Chief Acornugger saw that the white people were starving and felt his heart swell with pity, but it turned out to be just gas. A completely different tribe led by some other chief actually brought food, including corn and Twinkies, to the famished Pilgrims.
      The Pilgrims and Indians gathered for a goodwill feast, giving thanks for the food and friendship shared by all. The Pilgrims were so grateful that they didn't steal the land of that tribe until 45 years later.
      And that's almost exactly not the story of the First Thanksgiving.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A fern in an urn in the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Nifty Christmas Idea 3

      My friend Crystal takes her son each Christmas to let him pick out a new ornament for their tree. They make a day out of it and also make a wonderful Christmas memory. She's done that with him since he was little, but I think it's something you could start this Christmas with your child, spouse, etc. Begin a Christmas tradition of your own.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Nightmare

      They're coming after me! The boy ran down the street, hoping he could hide in some dark alley or find some refuge.
      "Run, sweetheart, run! It's more fun this way!" A lone voice called out. The boy looked back as the gang pounded around the corner. Light flashed off their knives, and some of them carried baseball bats. The gang intended to make the boy pay the price for being different.
      The boy looked wildly around. He couldn't outrun them. To his left, a security light cut a swath in the night. The boy ran toward it. At least, he'd be able to see to fight.
      The gang was silent as they ran now. The boy reached the metal light pole, turned and braced his back against it. He sagged and lowered his head. He would have prayed if he could have mustered enough breath.
      The gang ran closer ... twenty yards ... ten years ... ten feet. They stopped, panting and swearing.
      Roy walked slowly toward the slumped boy. He was smiling. Suddenly he lunged forward, his knife directed at the boy's midriff.
      But the boy wasn't there. He jumped to the side. Roy's knife scraped the pole. The boy's left foot came up in a perfect arc and struck Roy in the face. Roy fell backward, blood spraying from his broken nose.
      A frozen silence ensued as the boy and gang stared at Roy. For a moment, the boy hoped.
      Then someone yelled. They rushed the boy. The boy kicked the legs out from under one of them. A fish smashed into the boy's face.
      Blows came from everywhere. The boy couldn't protect himself. He tried to roll into a ball, tried to protect his head, but they caught him and pulled up against the pole. Far off a siren sounded. Too late.
      Roy stepped forward, blood streaming from his nose, and in one quick move stabbed the boy in the stomach. The knife felt like cold fire. The boy screamed and fell into darkness.
      I wore up trembling. I reached over and put on my glasses. The clock read 2:30 and 1979 again. I lay there staring at the ceiling until the sun finally rose.

© 2004. All rights reserved.


Dusk.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Nifty Christmas Idea 2

      My friend Joyce read my blog yesterday and called today to tell me about a recycling idea of her sister's. Her sister takes old Christmas cards, cuts the back off of them, and mails the fronts as postcards. She draws a line down the center of the cover's back, addresses them on the right, writes a short note on the left, stamps and mails. She also has blank cards that she uses by pasting a particularly lovely cover on the front and adding her message on the inside. Nifty and inexpensive.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas cards ...

      I've spent most of the evening working on my Christmas card list. I've updated addresses, labeled envelopes, picked out cards, etc. I've yet to get a single card finished, but that should happen over the next few days and during the Thanksgiving weekend.
      I enjoy sending Christmas cards and enjoy receiving them. Consequently, my list has 46 names on it this year. Maybe a lot, but like I said, I enjoy doing it.
      Each year, I try to write a poem or a story and include it in the card. I don't always succeed in getting it done before I need to mail the cards, but should be able to this year if things go smoothly.
      I found a couple boxes of cards on sale last January that I really like. My Christmas cards always have the Three Wise Men on them, and these have a stylized picture of them with foil accents.
Nifty Christmas Idea
      Speaking of Christmas cards, a friend of mine shared this cool idea with me. She wanted to send out cards, but couldn't make the time to address them each year. So she purchased a box of labels and handwrote each address on a label, adding embellishments and black and white stickers. Then she took them to a copy store and had the labels copied in various colors. Nifty! She also took colored pens and filled in some of the stickers. Of course, she could have used a computer program like PrintShop or PrintMaster to do this, but she liked the handwritten look.
      I'll try to share a Nifty Christmas Idea each day as we get closer to Christmas. If you have some, please share them!

Inside the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Singer and The Song

      Tonight I'm going to give the stage to Calvin Miller and his poetic narratives The Singer and The Song. The Singer parallels the Gospels while The Song resembles the book of Acts. Both books are wise, witty, sad, triumphant and joyful. Even if you're not a religious person and read them only for the exciting narrative, they're worth reading. What follows are a few quotes from both of them:

I knew a blind man
whom a surgeon
helped to see. The
doctor never had a
lover such as he.
It is in such a way
that singers love
composers.
*******************
Hate sometimes
stands quite
close to love.

God too stands
often near to
evil -- like silent
chessman --
side by side.
Only the color
of the squares
is different.
*******************
A healthy child is
somehow very much
like God. A hurting
child, his son.
*******************
To God obscenity is not uncovered
flesh. It is exposed intention.
Nakedness is just a state of heart.
Was Adam any more unclothed when
he discovered shame? Yes.
*******************
A finale is not always the best
song but it is always the last.
*******************
Decision is the key to destiny.

"God, can you be merciful and send
me off to hell and lock me in
forever?"

"No, Pilgrim, I will not send you
there, but if you chose to go
there, I could never lock you out."
*******************
Love is substance. Lust, illusion.
Only in the surge of passion
Do they mingle in confusion.
*******************
Creativity can sometimes be a curse.
Ask Dr. Frankenstein.
*******************
The day of one's death is
a good day to be really alive.

      I highly recommend both books.

The courtyard of a beautiful church.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Ten yucky things I like

      First, I want to say that I don't know how it happened: a nice, well-mannered country boy like me developing a taste for -- even a craving for -- such things. But I do. I've tried to quit, but I can't. I like these things; you're just going to have to learn to live with it. I have.
      Brussels sprouts: Yes, I know they are the green boogers of the vegetable world, but I like them. They're loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals, but I don't hold that against them. I like them steamed with just a bit of salt.
      Swallowing gum: As a child, I was told not to do this because it would tie my insides up, and once was even spanked because I defiantly swallowed a huge mouthful. I rarely swallow gum now, and when I do, it's done without thinking. But when I realize what I've done, it always gives me a small, guilty thrill of pleasure.
      Pamela Lee Anderson: Despite her blonde beauty, this vixen specializes in being vulgar, tasteless and rude. Her body had enough plastic in it to make at least a thousand rolls of Saran Wrap. Still, she has a nice smile, and I keep thinking if she could only meet the right man who would understand and nurture her, she would blossom into someone wonderful. I'll send her my address.
      Lemons seasoned with salt: There is nothing like eating a slice of lemon sprinkled with a generous dash of salt to make your dining companions blanch. To further gross them out, I eat the peel, too.
      The Democratic Party: I like their pro-environmental stance and their civil rights work for women, blacks, the elderly, the poor and everyone else. I like their support of the Arts and college scholarships for everyone. I like the idea of an Universal Health Plan. If their leaders could just develop a moral or even two or three of those pesky things, I might move them off my yucky list and vote proudly for them.
      Sonic Drive-In foot-long hot dog: And not just a regular foot-long, but one with double chili, double cheese with lots of sweet onions and spicy jalapeƱo peppers. This cholesterol packed, carcinogenic, fat soaked, artery clogging dish has been known to make women faint and men excuse themselves. If I am ever healthy enough again, I am going to have two. With cheese fries. Have an ambulance with a cardiac cart standing by.
      Twangy country folk music: I like it when the female singer has a voice of such piercing sweetness and over-whelming volume that it makes your teeth vibrate and animals flee. Iris Demint is my favorite. She can drive insects out of your house.
      Mud between my toes: No, I'm serious. Really. The next time it rains, rush barefooted outside -- or even wait until it stops raining if you're a wimp -- and find some nice mud. It's the strangest feeling as the cool earth flows between your toes, somehow soothing and exciting at the same time. While you're out there, splash around a little. You're only losing a bit of dignity, and if you're like me, you're overflowing with that stuff anyway.
      A really good sneeze: It's always a surprise to me that I can produce such a loud noise with such force. Of course, this gets old quickly if you have a cold and can't stop sneezing, but an occasional one -- perhaps when you step outside into the bright sunshine -- is a cleansing feeling. I realize that this is not much fun for anyone in front of you so try to aim to the side or any unoccupied direction but not into the wind.
      Dog kisses: Not on the lips, of course, but nothing besides a baby will ever kiss you with more enthusiasm and flowing slobber. It's yucky, but I recommend it highly.
      So there you have all ten of them, and after reading them over, I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed about them. It's not as if I'm Republican or watch talk shows or like something truly yucky like those. :)

Beautiful trees.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

World Wonders

      Recently I was watching Public Television -- which is what I always watch despite rumors that I have the complete Baywatch on DVD -- and they were showing a program on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was interesting and certainly filled the time until Desperate Housewives -- uh, I mean, Masterpiece Theater came on.
      Can you name the Seven Ancient Wonders? You can? Really? It seems rather useless knowledge to me, but perhaps you don’t have a life. For the rest of us, the Seven Ancient Wonders were:
      1. The pyramids of Egypt (large pointy things in the desert)
      2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (which sound like they involved outlaws, rope and Boot Hill, but instead it was actually plants that apparently did something bad enough to deserve to be hung)
      3. The statue of Zeus at Olympia (40 feet tall and made of ivory. I didn't even know they had soap then)
      4. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (which got its name from King Mausolus of Caria who died and his wife built a huge tomb to put him in -- I guess he was a very large man. The tomb was so huge that eventually any large tomb began to be referred to as a mausoleum. You can use this information if you are ever on Jeopardy)
      5. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus (destroyed by arson, a good indication that Artemis wasn't quite as powerful as they thought)
      6. The Colossus of Rhodes (I thought this might be a sumo wrestler, but it was a huge statue made of bronze)
      7. The Pharos of Alexandria (400 foot tall lighthouse, made of white marble and destroyed by an earthquake. Sorry, no joke for this one.)
      None of these exist anymore except the pyramids, and since I haven't seen them myself, I can't be certain that they do, not with all those special effects that TV can do. Just the other day, I watched a televised speech by the president, and he looked amazingly lifelike. Anyway, since most of the Wonders are gone, I propose a new list of Wonders or at least things that make me wonder. With a lot of thought and research -- at least ten minutes worth -- I present the following:
      1. The Twinkies of Hostess. How do they put that cream in the center of those little cakes? If that isn't enough to guarantee their entry on the list, consider that they contain absolutely no useful nutrients. You would think a vitamin or two would sneak in somehow, but no. Nutrient free, loaded with gene-altering preservatives and completely delicious.
      2. The Dolly of Parton. Yes, I am a fan, and no, I won't explain why. Yes, I will. It's her music, okay? You should have your minds washed out with soap. Twice.
      3. The Com of Puter. Before computers, it took large groups of people several weeks to make the number of mistakes that a computer can make in just seconds. If computers had counted the ballots in Florida, Donald Duck would be president even though Mickey Mouse obviously would receive the most votes.
      4. The Democrats of Congress. They're getting listed for their incredible ability to keep straight faces as they say things like: "We've always been against big government," "We want to balance the budget," and "We want to put aside party politics and work with President Bush." Their lies alone could make Jezebel blush.
      5. The Inter of Net. This is very complicated so I will type it slow. Right now millions of people are sitting in front of their computer, having clicked on a file to download. They will be still sitting there hours later. The wondrous thing of this is that these same people are in such a hurry on the highway that they will cut in front of school buses and ambulances.
      6. The Post of Office. Despite the numerous times I have won sweepstakes, they continue to lose my winner notifications but still get my bills to me.
      7. The Talk of Shows. Watching a talk show decreases your IQ by several points, thus allowing you to enjoy pro wresting and not wonder at the lack of fatal injuries.
      There you have my choices. You may have different ones. Write and let me know. Then I will write an entry about the fact that you don't have any more of a life than I do.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

The colors of fall.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dear old friend,

      I'm just writing you a note to tell you that I'm done with regrets tonight. When I hung up the phone, after you told me that you were getting married again, I thought, it's never going to happen now. We're not going to be together.
      For a moment, I cursed the bad timing that has always plagued us. For a moment, I thought of the crazy loving we weren't going to share. For a moment, I thought of laughter in a shared, cozy dark. For a moment, I thought, well, my heart will break. And I braced myself for the shock.
      But my heart kept right on beating. And then I realized it was okay. I had been in love with you so long, had become so accustomed to it that I hadn't even noticed that it was only habit now. Somewhere over the years, the passion had been replaced with friendship.
      I thought about it all day today. I turned it over in my mind, examining this strong, healthy reaction that I hadn't expected to find. Somehow, some way, some time when I wasn't looking, I grew up. And it feels fine.
      So I'm done with regrets tonight. There's a whole world still out there. I've wasted too much time already. A part of me will always love you, but it doesn't love you any more. I hope you finally find happiness. You deserve it. And so do I.
Your friend,
TECH

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

And now for something completely different ...

      It's already well known that I wander off the beaten path. Let's completely confirm it. Check out the flash animation at this site: Cows With Guns. It takes a few minutes to load, but it's worth -- I think -- the time. Particularly if you have real sense for the zany.
      I also enjoy Dork Tower and Kevin & Kell, online comic strips that help keep the weird in my life. And we must not forget Monty Python. We don't want to upset the lumberjacks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dojo writing

      Over the past few days, I've been reading Dojo Wisdom for Writers by Jennifer Lawler. The book is subtitled "100 SIMPLE WAYS to Become a More INSPIRED, SUCCESSFUL and FEARLESS Writer."
      Nothing really new in her book in terms of writing, but the presentation rates five stars. Lawler relates such writing/martial arts lesson as "Understand what is expected of you," "Choose the path; never look back," "Accept criticism to grow," "Focus on the openings," and so on. Lawler has a simple, direct style that gives impact to her lessons. This small book is definitely worth the $13 I spent on it.
      Monday night I was lucky enough to see three Stargate: SG1 episodes that I hadn't seen before. Woohoo! These were from the sixth season, and I think I missed them during rehearsals for a full-length play that I co-wrote and directed. Quite cool to get to watch them now.
      Work continues to be more stressful than is good for me. I can't seem to regain my center, my calmness that allows me to operate as efficiently as I can. Oh well. No one's job is perfect. We all struggle sometimes. I just hope this passes soon.
      Have I mentioned that I love Uni-Ball Deluxe Micro pens? The ink flows smoothly, and the pen feels good to write with. I buy them by the dozen.
      Found an excellent site on writing plays yesterday. Playwriting 101 has lots of good information about all aspects of writing a play. A few too many "commercials," but if you're interested in writing for the stage, it's worth looking over.
      I added the Lunar News Network to my science and tech links. Good info and a nice looking site. Check it out if you're as moon struck as I am.
      I tell you now that the sun needs to shine here! I miss sunshine. I'm not a fan of fall and winter for that reason. I like light, and I like lots of it. I'd like to take some pictures of several trees in their fall finery, but it won't stop raining. Sigh. Maybe this weekend, the sun will come out. I hope so.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The play's the (terrible) thing ...

      Recently I attended a terrible play. Actually the play is a celebrated part of American theater; this performance was a stinker. We're talking so bad that the police needed to cordon off the theater and arrest someone.
      Ordinarily I have a well-developed instinct for avoiding things that might not enjoyable, but a good friend was in the play so I went anyway.
      Let me say now my friend was excellent, her character sharply drawn, her diction suitable and her lines clear. The rest of the cast made me long for a sniper rifle. It's not that they were bad -- well, actually they were -- but I knew the play, knew what the playwright had intended, and they botched the whole sorry mess.
      This is not to say the evening was a total waste. I learned a few things. First, it is impossible to strangle yourself. Second, you can't fake a heart attack well enough to fool my friend Linda who kept poking at me and saying, "You made me come to this. You're going to live through it." And third, ministers who say we don't understand eternity obviously hadn't sat through that performance.
      As a budding playwright myself, it concerns me to see actors and directors miss the point. I co-wrote two one-act plays that were published by Contemporary Drama Service. Both are light, fun comedies. I worry that somewhere they are being performed badly to audiences who don't realize that it is totally the actors' fault. I don't want to be blamed for something over which I have little control.
      Not that my plays are perfect -- well, now that I've brought it up, they are -- but they do have lots of funny lines and good stage action. They are fun to read and to do. I've seen them performed a couple of times by good actors who got the point, and everyone had a great time. I hate to think my little plays are making someone somewhere wonder if they could choke themselves by eating a program.
      At intermission, some people sneaked out. I resisted the impulse to call the escapees cowards, but they were. They were worse than cowards: They were leaving while I had to stay. I wish I had thought about letting the air out of the tires of the other cars, but I didn't know going into the play how bad it was going to be. If I had known, I would have developed a stomach-ache or malaria and stayed home.
      The worse thing about people leaving was that it thinned the already sparse crowd. As more people slipped away, I began to think the actors onstage would outnumber the audience. But there remained enough at the end of the play for the receiving line in the lobby.
      The receiving line, a characteristic of community theater, allows the audience to thank the individual actors for allowing them to see the performance. This posed a problem. The best compliment is a truthful one, and while I could honestly say my friend did a great job, what could I say to the other actors that would both compliment them and not be outright lying? I certainly didn't want to encourage them.
      I considered possible comments:
      "You must be proud." -- Of what, who knows? Let them decide.
      "I've never seen anything like it." -- True enough, but it had be said in a bright, positive tone, and I wasn't sure I could pull it off.
      "It brought tears to my eyes." -- Also true and the same problem as above.
      "My, hours of practice pay off, don't they?" -- Not bad since it implies that the pay-off was on stage while the true meaning was that hours of practice would pay off and how I wish they had done so.
      "Wow." -- Positive tone problem as well as seeming too awestruck.
      "Thank you." -- For ending the play before I tore my eyes out.
      I had reached the front of the line by this time so I chose to just shake hands and smile. The smile was sincere; after all, I was going home.
      As a postscript, I asked a friend of mine to read this blog entry and tell me what she thought of it.
      "I've never read anything like it," she said in a bright, positive tone.
      Hmm.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Fin to Feet

      Long ago, when I was still in college, sleeping through my Biology class, my instructor was actually rude enough to talk so loudly that his voice filtered past my subconscious, trudged through my conscious, and woke me up.
      I glared at him and was about to ask him to hold it down when I realized what he had just said: that humans are supposed to have descended from fish. (Descended, by the way, means to pass from a higher place to a lower place, which I guess means he thought that going from fin to feet wasn’t our brightest move.)
      Of course, that’s only one of the many theories concerning our origin. Other theories include Divine creation, spontaneous generation, microbiologic chemistry, alien seeding, and the much-praised cabbage patch.
      (A side note: In 1971, Franklin Kilping, a British scientist and accordion player, theorized that actually fish are descended from humans. Unfortunately, while trying to date a salmon, he drowned and never developed his theory fully.)
      I personally find it difficult to believe that we came from fish despite how some people kiss. Look at it this way -- no, that way -- ha, ha, I fooled you; I meant, this way: What normal, self-respecting fish would want to be human? With our wars, local sales tax, violence, county sales tax, crime, state income tax, politicians, federal income tax and poverty (caused by taxes), we humans have serious doubts about wanting to be humans.
      If a fish did decide to be human, it must have been a tuna. Tunas are long-finned radicals, or that’s how they’ve always struck me. I, of course, hit back; it’s a matter of honor.)
      For instance, let's consider Charlie the Tuna of television commercial fame. Is it just me or does anyone else wonder about his deep-seated suicide wish? I mean, he wants to be caught in a net, die painfully without water, have his small bones steamed until they’re soft and viciously ripped out, and then have his pitiful bleached remains cruelly packed into a tiny metal can. Want a tuna melt now?
      Or this strange fish could have been a shark, I suppose, since you could look at lawyers and seemingly see proof of their ancestry.
      But as far as I understand it (which, I admit, isn't far, more like the distance from Tulsa to Oklahoma City as opposed to New York to London), the theory says that fish developed legs on land. I see a problem with that immediately: How did the fish get on land in the first place?
      They couldn't swim on land; that's a difficult thing to do. They couldn't walk; they didn't have legs yet. And frankly, the thought that fish used their little fins to crawl out on land, build cities, open charge accounts and throw rocks at people with different beliefs is hard to swallow.
      And then the theory goes on to say that these fish eventually became ape-like creatures from which would arise the apes and us. (This theory is a great comfort to the apes since they like to point out that we didn't descend from them as is popularly thought but from a distant ancestor. In other words, it's not their fault. They find humans uncouth and mean-spirited, particularly in Congress, and they won’t even talk to us. Just go to a zoo and try. They won't say a word.) So not only does this poor fish have to develop legs, it has to develop arms and hands and then at least one thumb to use the TV remote.
      I, personally, don't think man descended from fish. If he had, he would want to eat algae, snails and seaweed. I don't like seaweed; do you? Well, you're strange, but 99.9 percent of the rest of the world do not crave seaweed. So I think that settles that.
      I do like bananas, but as it turns out, apes can take bananas or leave them. It's not their favorite food. Some of them do have a passion for termites or ants -- a fact which doesn't lend itself to support any theory unless the scientists decide that we and the apes descended from aardvarks. Which I might have the nose for.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A plant at my office.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A new gadget

      I got a new gadget today. A digital postal meter from Pelouze. Woohoo! A new toy! You should guess by my use of TECH as an ID that I love gadgets.
      I'm not a first adopter, however. Firsts pay a lot for the latest and greatest, and they have to suffer through a lot of bugs and problems. I'm a second or third adopter. The gadget is still cool when I get it, but it's a lot cheaper and with fewer bugs.
      But is a digital postal meter that cool? Well, it's probably not high on the geek scale, but I've wanted one for a while. It's going to make it a lot easier to mail out submissions, particularly since the USPS site will give postage amounts and will even print postage if you have the weight of an item. Nifty.
      A major no-prize to Susan1! She found the secret hidden in yesterday's entry. She's one smart cookie, she is.
      Well, I need to go to sleep. That's all I've done for the past few days. My sleep tanks were empty, I guess. Y'all have a good night.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Today

      Certainly it might seem I have a fixation on a blonde-haired song vixen, but it's not true. In fact, we won't even talk of her this entry. And I like to say to Frenzied that I have only mentioned monkeys three times (including this mention) over the past few weeks, but she noticed both previous mentions with such intensity that she thought I had mentioned them several times. Who has the fixation, eh?
      How have I been today? Still sick, but better. Or empty. Either one means that I've had a few stretches today when I didn't pray for a good, clean death. Or unconsciousness.
      And in book news, I've started a major revision. The tension level did fall once my characters fled into the Wilderness, becoming more of a sightseeing trip than an escape. We're going to see what I can do about increasing the peril.
      Rah-rah-rah to all the NaNoWriMoians. Next year I'm going to participate. It sounds like they're having lots of fun. And getting a lot of writing done. It's a good, good thing.
      Oh, there's a secret in this blog entry. A fabulous no-prize will be awarded to the first person who finds it.