Archive for ‘family’

2017/06/18

Sunday, June 18th

Father’s Day! See this and this. Cards from kids!

I thought I would try writing in this here weblog again, because I like writing.

It’s hard to write stuff, because one doesn’t want to write endlessly about how Donald Trump being President was always a signal that you were reading a probably-cheesy dystopian-alternate-timeline story, and as it turns out, it still is.

But that is such a big thing, that writing about anything else seems like ignoring the Elephant In The Room, if you know what I mean.

As weblogged about previously, I’ve taken part in various marches; the Women’s March, the Not My President’s Day March, the March for Science. Maybe some others I forget. I have a rose (ūüĆĻ) in my Twitter ummm name-thing (not the @-thing, the other thing) because I have joined the Democratic Socialists of America, and I have been all too often debating with Trump fans on Twitter.

This is a challenging thing to do, as one inevitably wants to prevail in debate, and try to convince the interlocutor(s) and even onlookers of at least the plausibility of one’s position, and one also wants to in some sense defend against the inevitable ad hominem attacks. (Or ad Eminem, as WordPress suggests.)

And yet those people are me also, fellow parts of the universal mind and all, fellow fragments of the Big Block, albeit apparently fragments from rather far away, and difficult to enjoy or understand.

Which brings me to what is, for me, the hardest thing about compassion (Compassion). I may have written about this before, but that’s okay.

I have, or think I have, no problem feeling compassion for people who are being mean to me; as long as there’s no dangerous physical assault involved, I can joke with them and try to tease out what they are upset about, and not mind that they have silly ideas because hey we all have silly ideas let’s help each other find better ones.

But what do I do when someone is being mean to someone else? How do I have compassion for the attacker? What form should that compassion take? If I am kind and joke with the attacker, am I normalizing their negative impacts on the victims? It doesn’t feel like a good idea to pal around with Nazis! (Internet or otherwise.) But I still want to express compassion, in some form.

Is punching him in the face in fact the best way to show compassion for not only the people that Richard Spencer helps oppress, but also Spencer himself? Or does one punch him in the face out of compassion for his victims, and then help him bandage up his nose out of compassion for him? Neither one feels quite right. Or maybe both do?

Speaking of Compassion and Oneness, I’ve been playing the game (“game”) Everything, from The Steam, and it’s wonderful. It’s a thing that lets you be all sorts of different things, from a hydrogen atom to a cow to a galaxy (and things off both ends), and that plays numerous Alan Watts discourses while you do it. What could be better!

Also I have been playing The Sims 4 some (see also the Sims 2 Stories, which are mostly back online now, woot!). I sort of skipped The Sims 3 for whatever reason, and now I am playing 4 in sort of vaguely but not really Legacy Challenge style. I started with a single Young Adult sim, Tolerance Boatwhistle, in a huge lot without much money, as required, and I’ve been playing just that one lot, without extending anyone’s life, as required, but I haven’t been keeping score or using the approved trait-picking methods for offspring or anything.

So far Tolerance Boatwhistle married standard sim Liberty Lee and they begat Prudence Boatwhistle (who never had a job, but survived on her paintings, and), who (with the help of standard character Alexander Goth, who has a female voice at least in my game, and who never moved in, but did die on the lot so we have his tombstone and ghost) begat Gladstone Boatwhistle, who married townie or something Hadley (heavens I’ve forgotten her last name), and together begat Consideration Boatwhistle (who became the ultimate Bodybuilder Bro, and) who married Giovanna something (I am terrible with names, aren’t I?), and who together begat Carlton Boatwhistle and his little sister Charity Boatwhistle.

Gladstone and his Hadley just recently died of old age within minutes of each other (the Grim Reaper, who is vaguely a friend of the family by now, didn’t even have time to leave in between), so they will soon be coming in at night to eat food and chat and possess various household objects, and there are just two adults and two elementary school kids on the lot (and six gravestones and therefore potential ghosts), and things are relatively simple.

Too simple, in some sense; the family has enough liquid cash and random income sources that it seems like no one has to actually ever get a job unless it’s required for an aspiration, and everyone’s moods are always pretty high except for a few days after the prior generation dies of old age.

But it’s a very soothing sort of world to spend time in and watch and give little non-urgent instructions to.

I‘ve also been playing WoW a bit, but it’s really boring now and I tend to doze off over it. I’ve tried to start playing No Man’s Sky again, but I dunno meh. Similarly for Spore. And Elite Dangerous’s bizarre controls still keep me from bothering to go back in there.

What else? ¬†Lots of books! And work! And Manhattan and things! But this is getting longish, so I will try to remember how to “post” it.

Thanks for following along! This was fun, I’ll try to do it again soon (“soon”).

 

 

 

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2015/08/29

Summer 2015

I think I’ve speculated before how long it would take, in a significantly long stretch of leisure, before I had had my fill of utter idleness, and started spontaneously doing other things, thinking new thoughts, writing new things, and generally being creative. Available evidence suggests it’s more than a week. ¬†:)

It’s been a long time since an August hiatus in my weblogging could have meant anything (beyond “it’s a day”) to even the most devoted reader. ¬†But this particular August hiatus, the hiatus that this entry will end once I actually post it, is because we are once again up in Maine, sleeping late, eating lobster, listening to the plashing of the surf, and generally being blissful. ¬†It’s now been sixteen years since we started this Maine-going stuff, and this web-logging stuff; one more year than last year.

We have a number of books lying around, as always, and we may list them later on in the traditional way. ¬†But this decade (and I expect I’ve noted this down before) there are many books and book-like things inside of smallish and flattish silicon-based devices here and there, and those are good hooks for writing down things also.

On this Nexus 5 or Something Cellular Telephone that I have here, for instance, when you hit the little square button thing area, it goes to a view that shows a big scrolling Rolodex-like display of all of the roughly six zillion things that the phone is in some way aware of me doing.  Some of them are open just in case I want to go back and look at them later; so I can write those down in the weblog here, with clever observations on life and the universe more or less related to them, and then I can close them in my phone, and that will be good if only because then I can find the non-closed ones more easily.

Let’s see what we got, here on Tuesday night of the vacation week.

  • Twitter. ¬†Well, that’s Twitter (where I exist as my Second Life persona for historical reasons), so we’ll just close that. ¬†(I could write about how and why I use Twitter, and what effect it is having on the global unconscious, but instead I will just recommend the feed of A Bear).
  • Instagram, where I exist as the name of this very weblog, and where you can see various pictures, some of them from Maine (and one of them being a selfie with Felicia Day, because she did a booksigning at work which was extremely cool; she says that lots of people around her are playing Final Fantasy XIV (or perhaps 14) these days); we’ll close that, too.
  • Chrome. ¬†That has eleventy-seven tabs of its own active inside it (because I configured things that way somehow sometime), so we’ll leave that open for now.
  • A search result for “soft shell lobster“, because we were getting lobster at the usual place, and they had both kinds and I didn’t know the difference. ¬†The little boy and I shared a pair of soft-shelled (with corn on the cob); they were delicious. ¬†And ethically troubling. ¬†As usual.
  • The Wi-Fi settings control, because the marina right next to the Lobster Warf has a friendly open signal.
  • GMail, because I was checking my email. ¬†We’ll close that. ¬†It was mostly spam. ¬†(Does the Clinton campaign really think I would be extremely psyched at the idea of flying out to some random place to have lunch with Hilary? ¬†I mean… no.)
  • A search result for “tom collins ingredients“, because the little daughter was urging alcohol on us at the Warf, and I asked for a Tom Collins, and apparently this is an Obscure Old Person Drink or something, and the little daughter wasn’t sure the bartender would know what that was, so I looked it up.
  • An instance of Maps along with the search result for “google location history” that spawned it, because I was mildly curious when we’d gotten there. ¬†This was also very useful the other day when we were in town, and we couldn’t remember how long it’d been since we’d parked in the “2 Hour Parking” place, and I remembered the extremely useful Google Location History aka Google Maps Timeline; try it yourself!
  • An instance of Hangouts, ’cause we’ve all been IMing each other and sending around photos and stuff in the modern unWired manner, and this has mostly been working even though they are all Apple-ish and I am on Android.
  • Search results for “weather linekin” and “seagulls sleep”, from being down on the dock lifeguarding while the little boy, and then also the little girl, swam about in the apparently-not-incredibly-freezing water, and it rained a little and we wondered where seagulls sleep.
  • Another instance of GMail; that’s weird. ¬†We’ll close that (and everything else we’re mentioning except for Chrome, so far).
  • Google Play Music, because I was playing some music. ¬†(Have you seen the Airhorn version of “Take On Me”? ¬†It is ossum. ¬†Although it is a YouTube thing, not a Google Play Music thing.)
  • An instance of the 2048 app, where I got up to 4096 (and a 2048 and a 1024), which is pretty good, but only 74424 points and far short of my Personal Best of 103964.
  • Some more weather results; it’s been foggy, cloudy, and/or raining for much of this Maine vacation so far, but that’s okay!
  • A search result on “ofay”, which turns out to be a (derogatory) slang word for white person, which I looked up because I am reading Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, which I got for fifty cents at the Friends of the Library book sale, and which is an impressive and significant book that everyone should read (because of and despite issues of misogyny and homophobia, and it being from the 60’s, when the issue of race was different from and similar to how it is today).
  • A search result on “noetic” because the little daughter asked what it means, because it is in a book she is reading about Jewish panentheism. ¬†(Also it is reminiscent of the title of Lower Dens‘ second album, and they are a favorite of hers.)
  • News and Weather, because as well as the weather I was mildly interested in the Stock Market Crash and subsequent recovery (someone made an obscene amount of money on that).
  • A search result on Chris Lovdjieff, who appears in Soul on Ice, and who is known to the web for nothing much else as far as I discovered.
  • A search result on Windows 10 Browser, I forget exactly why. ¬†I am interested to see that it is supposed to have collaborative annotation features, which sounds interesting. ¬†It has also been tried many times before, and never caught on; it will be interesting to see if it does this time. ¬†If the new browser does it in some open way that other browsers can join in on, it might. ¬†But, well, haha…
  • A search result on “i like beer sing”, which was a typo for “i like beer song“, but Google found the song¬†I was looking for anyway. ¬†I played this for the amusement of the family while we were having a lovely dinner of wine and cheese from Eventide¬†and clam chowder from the Warf, out on the porch overlooking the bay, yesterday evening I think it was.
  • Search results on “coffee” and “the red cup” because we were looking for a place to have coffee in town, but the Red Cup was closed for the day already.
  • A “Sign In To Network” page, because the WiFi network here is a Linksys Smart Something with a silly portal login page that wants the password typed in again more often than one would really expect. ¬†While I am here, though, I will brag that when we discovered that the WiFi covered only one small bit of one side of the rental house, I deployed a clever range extender (possibly not that one, but one very like it at least) so that now it covers nearly (but not entirely) the whole house.
  • Search results on “eldridge cleaver’s lawyer” and “fsm 1960’s”, again from Soul on Ice. ¬†It turns out that in the 60’s, “FSM” stood for “Free Speech Movement“, not “Flying Spaghetti Monster”.
  • A search result on “Melismas intro“, because in the cool art store in town, they were playing a track from this, and I liked it, and noticing that the album could be bought for slightly less than I had in my Google Play account (entirely thanks to answering questions about myself in Google Opinion Rewards), I took that as a sign and whimsically bought it.
  • Some random uninteresting search results, and yet another instance of GMail (that’s weird), and Netflix (where I have been binge-watching among other things ancient episodes of Columbo¬†from the 70’s which are wonderfully retro).

Whew, and that’s just the beginning.

This is a notably short and fragmented way of writing down things!  Which is perhaps appropriate for the modern age, and for the first thing on the list up there having been the Twitter and all.

One doesn’t have to bother thinking up unifying themes and following them to a logical conclusion or anything!

Books are more unified that way; longer, and in some sense fewer of them.

I’m reading Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, from the used book sale, as I mentioned. ¬†Also reading Jessamyn West’s “The Life I Really Lived”, which came with the house here (and that I’d therefore better finish this week, come to think of it). ¬†I picked it up because I recognized the name of that Jessamyn West from having read this Jessamyn West¬†since the early days of the Web Logs, and her having mentioned her namesake (namesake? something like that) once or thrice.

It’s a good book, although like Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” (or at least the adaptation I recently read) and for that matter quite a few other works, significant parts of the theme can be summarized as “people sure used to be weird about sex”.

Just now I’ve been typing this while sitting around with the family watching the first season of Pokemon on the Netflix, which is great nostalgic fun (James’ voice is so different!). ¬†And there is an odd fog horn or something hooting periodically outside. ¬†And the plashing of the surf.

I think I may go to bed soon, and write more of this tomorrow and/or after. ¬†(Tomorrow we are going to Portland to put the little daughter on a short-range airplane to head home because she is so busy, and to bop around in Portland, but in the evening we will be back here.) ¬†Sleep well and so on! ¬†Not that you’ll be pausing for a night between paragraphs while reading this. ¬†Unless you want to of course!

Dot dot dot.

Now it is Wednesday night, back at the rental house by the foggy bay, after a long day in Portland starting from dropping the little daughter off at the Portland Jetport (whose terminal seems unnecessarily long by a factor of about five), and including buying yet more books at Longfellow Books¬†because of course one didn’t have enough books yet.

The two I bought: “Sherlock Homes: Fact or Fiction?” by T. S. Blakeney, and “The Two of Them” by Joanna Russ. ¬†Both shortish, both used, both somewhat odd, both two dollars.

(Well, for clarity, each two dollars. ¬†It’s funny I had to make that clarification only there. ¬†If I had said they were “both under 200 pages”, would you have thought I might mean their lengths added together totaled less than that? ¬†Probably not. ¬†But the price seems at least ambiguous. ¬†Perhaps because we think of a set of books as having a salient total price, but don’t normally think of a set of books as having a salient total length? ¬†Although we do think the latter in some circumstances, and even there I think the “both” form doesn’t achieve ambiguity for word-length. ¬†Odd.)

My phone is over there well beyond my reach, having its electrons moved further from its positively-charged bits, so I won’t go back to commenting on the still-incredibly-many unclosed tab-like-things quite yet. ¬†I will just write words (2000 of them already so far, says the helpful modern WordPress editor control thing), for the pleasure of writing them and perhaps of reading them later, and perhaps for your pleasure, even you who aren’t me, at some point. ¬†(The little boy mentioned the other day that he’d been reading through my old weblog accounts of previous Maine summers; this was unspeakably gratifying.)

I haven’t read any old ones myself (this time, yet, recently). ¬†Even last years’ seems mysterious to me, in that I don’t remember what I said at all. ¬†Presumably I mentioned having made the Big Change Of Employers, because that was even more recent than it is now. ¬†It still feels quite recent, both because nearly-two years is rather an eyeblink compared to nearly-thirty-four, and because the learning curve at New Employer¬†is, if not dauntingly steep after the first few weeks, always dauntingly high. ¬†Everything is always in motion, always either not-done-yet or old-and-deprecated (or both); the wry internal slogan “some documentation may be out of date” is funny because it is so often (despite a deep and sincere institutional respect for documentation) such an understatement.

I understand from Twitter that the stock market has been bouncing up and down alarmingly (or perhaps uninterestingly), and that people have been killing each other and themselves in awful and distressing ways.  I feel permitted, by being on vacation, to find out less about these things that I might normally.

Dot dot dot.

Now it is Thursday morning!  The little boy and I are considering, in a relaxed sort of way, taking one of the touristy Cruises around the Bay.

Is it bay-side air, or water-side air, or Maine air, or just vacation air, that feels so sweet and soft and beguiling?

I have here a CD called “Swamped” by Johnnie Mac, bought from the artist himself for five dollars (plus a dollar tip dropped into his bag before I noticed that I had a five and he was selling CDs for that), where he was busking on the street in Portland.

So now I have to find something with a CD ripper to make it into usable music with.  :)

Portland elicited a number of dollar bills from the pocket where I keep dollar bills normally for the buskers and the apparently needy and/or homeless of Manhattan.  The street people in Portland are like the ones in Manhattan, but I think markedly whiter; perhaps street people of color, being less likely to have ancestral ties to the area, tend to move the heck out of Maine, to somewhere warmer.  Or other more complex reasons.

Some more Android Rolodex tabs (I may be opening new ones faster than I’m recording and closing them):

  • “Settings” and “Phone” and search results for “cruises boothbay harbor” because we looked up some cruises and called one of them about reservations and left a message, so I turned up the ring volume on my phone in case they call back. But probably I will just call them again soon.
  • Hangouts, Twitter, Instagram, and GMail again, as usual. ¬†Also YouTube, where I was watching this McWhopper thing. ¬†For some reason. ¬†(Actually lots of interesting analysis to be done on that little brand interaction, if you’re into such things.)
  • Search results on “over at the frankenstein place“, because some phrase involving light went by, and the song got stuck in my head, and then I had to play it for everyone.
  • Search results on “what is the Methodist method“, because we passed like the East Boothbay Methodist Church and¬†I was curious. ¬†(Turns out it’s a John Wesley thing; “Holy Club”, eh?)
  • Search results on “who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop”, because I wanted to see if asking that question by voice of my phone would elicit any snarky Siri-like remarks. ¬†It didn’t. ¬†Hey, come to think of it, let’s try Siri herself on that question! ¬†Well, she sends it to Wolfram Alpha (???) which responds with but a single pointer to the song; a weak pass (my phone did of course a full Google search, and came back with a variety of links to choose from).
  • Google Keep, where I had a grocery list (we stopped by Hannaford¬†on the way home from Portland last night and bought everything on it; so I suppose it’s still there, just empty; imagine how many empty grocery lists there are out there!).

Dot dot dot!

The little boy and I went out on a sailing cruise, while M (not a big boat person) enjoyed town.  The cruise was great, the quiet of the sails and the water, just the two of us and a family of three and the Captain and a deckhand.

And the phone is upstairs charging again, and I’ve been lazing about long enough after we got back to the house that it is getting on dinner time. ¬†So nice and lazy. ¬†I think I will read more of West for a bit; she is good.

(Oh, and I guess I haven’t mentioned? ¬†That Mysterious Illness that I had the other week? ¬†The final verdict, not definite but at least plausible, based on the eventual discovery of both Escherichia coli and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in my blood, was diverticulitis with septicemia (i.e. there was a little hole in my intestine somewhere, and some gut bacteria leaked over into my bloodstream), which is relatively life-threatening compared to most routine daily events. ¬†So I am even more grateful than usual for M deciding I ought to get to the ER, for antibiotics, and for continued life in general.)

So now it is Thursday evening, after dinner, and we’re sitting around talking about what to do tomorrow (nothing, for instance, or the beach), and listening to a very miscellaneous Bandcamp track found while searching on “little shop of horace”, “little shop of horus”, and so on. ¬†Very idyllic!

And now it is Thursday evening after a walk down to the end of the road (house for sale on 1.5 acres and 600+ feet of shoreline, just under a million and a half US$, which is lots of money, but less than a medium-size condo in Chelsea, which is only a piece of a building, and has no shoreline at all). ¬†I have showered the tar off the soles of my feet (from road repairs that I blithely walked over barefoot), and am about to lose myself in West’s story again. ¬†Lovely evening.

Dot dot dot.

And now Friday morning. ¬†I could have written here, instead of this entire entry, just “the secret of being on a floating dock in a quiet bay with the full moon above”. ¬†But then I wouldn’t have gotten any phone tabs at all closed.

Jessamyn West is still very good. ¬†I may not finish the book while we’re here, because I keep napping, and playing SimCity BuildIt, and occasionally writing in the weblog here. ¬†I hope I remember in that case to leave this instance of the book behind, and to get one of my own.

I see that last year I mostly posted some pictures. ¬†I’ve taken some pictures this year, but for whatever reason I amn’t posting any here. ¬†I might still, you never know.

We are thinking, the little boy and I, about going to the beach today, the last full day of the week. ¬†It’s a bit cold for the beach really, and it’s lovely and relaxing here. ¬†But we still might. ¬†What time is it now? Just gone noon.

Sometime a little after dawn some loud grackling birds woke me up, and I went down the old cement steps (inlaid with decorative stones and shells) down to the sand.  The tide was out, and it was beautiful.  Then I went back to bed for a few hours.

This is being an extremely long entry! ¬†Maybe I should post it as a Part I and a Part II, so y’all could digest it in multiple smaller pieces. ¬†Or I could not do that. ¬†:)

And now (dot dot dot) Friday evening, lovely and cool, almost cold in the wind.  No going to the beach happened, but the little boy and I went swimming (and walking, the tide being out) in the bay off of the dock; very refreshing.

The long drive home tomorrow!

And now (a last set of dots) we are home and the little daughter is with us again, and we are looking at old photographs and generally being happy and domestic. ¬†I will put an appropriate picture at the end here, and post this now (probably without proofreading the last bits, ’cause I am tired).

Happy year!

Evening on Linekin Bay

2015/07/08

Medical Science Baffled!

Last week The Employer was very generous, saying “sure, take Thursday and Friday off!”, and also “Visit the Whitney on us!”, both of which we did, and the new Whitney isn’t bad, has some great views, shows off art pretty well (given that “putting lots of art in a building with labels so people can walk through and look at it” isn’t a great way of showing off art, although it’s at least convenient), and is only moderately ugly itself, as a building seen from the outside. The neighborhood right around it is hoppin’, and I am wondering how much of that is due to the museum showing up, and how much was pre-existingly hoppin’.

Then there was resting on Friday, and on Saturday we went out with two other families and sundry relations and hangers-on to a performance of The Arabian Nights by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at (ummmm) Bromdiggers (no) Boscobel (that’s it), and that was great (if not strictly-speaking Shakespeare). The company is always energetic and celebratory, and the productions well-done, and since it was the Fourth of July and they’re been through this before they took a second intermission when the fireworks started going off across the river, so we all had a nice half-hour or whatever watching at least three different shows (the ones from West Point were closest and therefore biggest), and then the rest of the performance. (People never applaud for long enough at the ends of these! I always want to go backstage and apologize to the cast and crew.)

On Sunday morning I went and got a dozen bagels and some cream cheese at the bagel store, and we took them down to The Lake, and other people brought other things, and we had a good time eating and talking and being nostalgic about how we used to do this all the time back when the kids were small, and being amazed by how large the kids are, and how engaged and/or married some of them are, and how adorable the tiny grandchild is (not mine, but the neighborhood’s first, so sort of community property, and sooo adorable). Then when it was time we drove the little boy to the train station for going back to Boston, and had probably rather too large but very yummy burritos from Moe’s (“Welcome to Moe’s!”), and came home.

And I took a shower and sat down and started shivering uncontrollably and having a 103°F fever, and we spent the rest of the night in the local Emergency Room.

Which is unusual!

I am finally feeling pretty normal today, which is I think Wednesday. I am taking two kinds of antibiotics, one for each gramness of possible bacteria, and finally not having to take anything for fever (because I don’t have any). The ER’s theory is pneumonia, only without any symptoms actually involving lungs. My internist was favoring gall bladder (due to observing Murphy’s Sign, which makes me think of the Yellow Sign, of which the less said the better), but a nice lady took pictures of my insides with sound-waves, and apparently my gall bladder is just fine. Personally I favor food poisoning due to cream cheese left out in the sun too long or something, but presumably the analysis of my blood by Medical Science didn’t suggest that.

So now I am feeling mostly better but still housebound, and not wanting to (say) work seriously on work stuff for fear of overtiring and relapsing, and I was therefore going quietly mad for things to do, and it occurred to me that I could write things down in my weblog!

And here they are! The things, that is. Written down. Should there be a picture? What would it be of, though?

2015/06/28

So many all sorts of things!

This is another of those posts that starts out all meta, noting how long it’s been since I posted last (and in fact meta-meta, since I’m talking about being meta (and in fact…)).

So much has been occurring! ¬†I’m sure there was some stuff longer ago that I could mention that I’m forgetting, but¬†we went to foreign countries! ¬†Which is not a thing we do very often.

First M and I went to “England” for a week (“London”, in particular). ¬†Here is a picture of Buckingham Palace:

Buckingham Palace

and if that doesn’t give you the full flavor of the experience :) M has done a great thorough set of writeups¬†on every day of the whole thing (with perhaps more stress on yarn and fabric, and less stress on random blurry things, than a hypothetical similar series here might have offered).

Then after that, M went back home, and I went to “Dublin”, in “Ireland”, on business. ¬†Here is Ireland (it is green):

Ireland

All I saw was Dublin, mostly the “Silicon Docks” area and the part of downtown in front of Trinity Library, and the 20-minute walk between them. ¬†But it was cool. ¬†I was there entirely by accident on Bloomsday, and saw some people dressed all memorably, although I was not forward enough to take pictures of them.

Another notable fact is that a vast alien mothership has landed in the middle of the city, and apparently there is some mind-control field that prevents anyone but me from seeing it.  Here is a picture (although if the mind-control lasers have gotten to you also, you may just see an ordinary little line of Irish flats):

Giant alien mothership, Dublin

(Not Photoshopped, promise!)  So that was notable.  Various random things:

  • We stayed in a tiny flat off of a garage off a a mews just North of Hyde Park, which was pretty awesome.
  • There was a local pub right on the corner, The Mitre, which was very genuine (in the sense that for instance if you just wander in as an American there’s no clue what you’re actually supposed to do in terms of sitting down, obtaining goods and services, and so on), and (once we figured it out) had good Guinness and Fish-and-Chips, and all like that.
  • We saw All The Things, Big Ben, the Eye (from below, we didn’t go up in it), Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the Tower, the East End, big famous stores and shopping streets and things whose names I’ve forgotten (see link to M above who covers these things coherently).
  • The Underground is great, if confusing compared to say the NYC Subway. ¬†When you land at Heathrow, they will make it Very Very Easy to buy a ticket into London on the Heathrow Express, which is very convenient and fast, but costs basically infinitely more than the Piccadilly line in the normal underground.
  • The Underground is not great in that figuring out how to pay for things is Incredibly Baffling. ¬†Again the NYC Subway is a model of simplicity here: you get a Metrocard of any kind at all, and you pay either nothing (if you have an unlimited card) or $2.75 to get into the subway system. ¬†And that’s it! ¬†In the Underground you can buy either a ticket or an “Oyster” card, and the “Oyster” card can have a TravelCard “on” it in some logical sense, and there is a deposit associated with the card that you can get back only after the card has expired, and you can get it back from a machine if it’s under a certain amount, and otherwise you have to take it to a hidden office in the London Sewers that is open only alternate Wednesdays in February. ¬†Your Oyster card is charged (or not) both when you enter the system and when you leave; if you don’t have enough money on it to leave, you can still leave, but you can’t enter again until you “top up” the extra amount from when you left. ¬†They have people stationed at every set of payment machines, who attempt to explain to tourists and Londoners alike how much it will probably cost them to do various things, but those people seem only slightly less baffled than the people they are advising.
  • Although you aren’t supposed to take pictures in Westminster Abbey (for reasons I can’t really understand), my phone¬†seems to have accidentally gone off a few times, and I have some pictures of M’s feet standing on various famous names in Poet’s Corner.
  • Lots of other stuff.
  • The last day, when I’d dropped M off at Heathrow and had a couple of hours to get to London City Airport (the London Docklands is a really interesting area!), I went and sat in Hyde Park in one of the folding chairs that are all over the place, and as it was raining lightly (we had great luck with the weather, that was the only rainy bit) I put my umbrella up over me, and just sat there watching people go by for awhile. ¬†That was nice.
  • After awhile of that, there was this very loud noise out in the street of chanting and marching and things, and eventually this roused me and I went up to the street and there were all of these Hare Krishna folks marching and singing and dancing and conveying a big colorful float, and a smaller float with a loudspeaker, and satellite folks going among the people on the sidewalk giving out literature and taking donations. ¬†They were, it seems, going to Trafalgar Square for an annual vegetarian feast and festival.
  • So I ended up with a Hare Krishna book and have read much of it. ¬†It starts out well, with good basic spiritual insights about the world and stuff, but then goes off the rails (as so many do) about how true knowledge can be obtained by chanting certain words, and we should believe specific things because the Vedic Literature says it, and anyone who believes otherwise are Lower Than The Beasts and blah blah blah. ¬†Which was sort of sad.
  • And many many other things.

Outside of us travelling about wildly, other things have happened that you may have heard of from other sources:

  • omg #LoveWins. ¬†What a world!
  • And Tony Scalia has completely jumped the shark; I really ought to write a weblog entry about that. ¬†Ages ago I used to grudgingly admire him for at least being consistent and mostly rational, if from odious underlying assumptions and principles. ¬†Awhile after that I wrote about how I’d become disenchanted, noting that his not even acknowledging the possibility of (rather obvious) alternate views was either oblivious or hypocritical of him. ¬†And now he seems like just a frothing loony. ¬†(And given the “applesauce” and “jiggery-pokery” in his latest, one has to wonder who in the world he hangs out with.)
  • Also ObamaCare is still legal and all, which seems good (I am such a Progressive these days!).
  • The Republicans continue to be the Party of Crazy. ¬†I still think we will probably get a Clinton vs. Bush in 2016, with a close Electoral College and a Democratic popular vote. ¬†But Jeb has been pandering to the loonies more than I would have expected, and I’m not sure what that means. ¬†(Trump! ¬†Christie! ¬†hahaha!)

Other things I would like to write about someday:

  • All of these tabs that I have open on my phone and in Chrome (both to talk about them, and to write them down for myself so I can close some of them!),
  • The Monty Hall Paradox thing, for which I have what I think is a very insightful observation that doesn’t seem to have been made much, that explains why it generates so much strong feeling and all.

But not tonight!  :)  In fact I think I will post this without even a thorough proofread; enjoy the typos!

2014/12/30

Liebe ist ein welthaftes Wirken

Kaufmann translates this, from Buber’s “I and Thou”, as “love is a cosmic force”, but gives us the original in a footnote to see for ourselves.

One thing I like about German and how synthetic it is (in the technical sense that I just learned; I was going to say “agglutinative“, but that turns out to be wrong) is that you can look at the parts of many words, and see how the meaning compares to the sum of those parts.

The most simple-minded translation of that phrase might be “Love is a worldly work”, which has the same nice consonance of double-ues, but a very different sense, since the English “worldly” has strong connotations that are almost the opposite of Kaufmann’s “cosmic”.

It’s interesting that the translator chose “force” here, rather than the obvious “work” (which would have read a bit awkwardly), or perhaps “act”. Because Buber is talking about love in the context of “those who stand in it and behold in it”, “force” probably makes more sense than “act”, since you can stand in a force (a force field!), but not so much in an act.

$50 FINEBut then I wonder why Buber wrote Wirken rather than say Kraft. And then I am at, or perhaps well beyond, the very end of my competence as a translator. :)

The other day the little daughter, watching me staring into my phone and clicking and swiping without end, commented more or less “you’re taking in so much content; I don’t know if that’s healthy”.

I found myself very much in agreement with that thought, and put the phone away (temporarily) and looked at various stacks of books sitting unread here and there, and picked up “I and Thou”, read the Acknowledgements and Translator’s Key, skipped Kaufmann’s very long Prologue (these things should generally be at the end of a book, in my ever so humble opinion, so that one can encounter the work itself with more or less fresh eyes, and then read the prologue-writer’s thoughts about it afterward, when one has already one’s own ideas to compare them to), and started very slowly into the work (Werk, Wirken, Kunstwerk?) itself.

It’s a very dense book, or feels like it deserves to be treated as such, which means that I have to be careful not to spend so much time on each sentence that I eventually drift off and do other things before I get past the first chapter.

As I tweeted not long after starting (and yeah, I know; somehow Twitter and the Face Book and now even plague have all taken up residence in my ways of relating to the world):

I can’t of course actually empty the cup, and I admit I’m not really trying all that hard to.

Currently, a few more pages in, I’m wondering if Buber will go from talking about the ineffable relating that is I-You (and that he identifies with, or as, love in some sense), to a realization that the duality present even in I-You (because after all there is still I, and You) is at some level an illusion. Because that would be so Buddhist.

There are no sentient beings,
And I vow to save them.

It will be interesting either way; if he does get to some kind of non-duality, I’m sure it will have a flavor all its own. If he doesn’t, it will be interesting to see if he simply stops short of it, actively considers and denies it, or goes off in some other direction entirely.

I’ve been meaning to read this book since college sometime :) and it’s nice to finally get to it.

‚ĚĄ

Solstice was nice, thank you for asking, if a little atypical. All four of us were here together, but instead of the usual Christmas Dinner with ham an’ all, we went out to the local diner.

The story: M smelled gas in the basement, so on I forget maybe the 22nd we had the gas man come and test things, and he found there was a leak somewhere in the kitchen range, and while we were moving the range out from the wall it got caught on something and when we pushed on it a little to get it past the something, the entire glass front of the oven door very enthusiastically shattered into a zillion pieces and fell onto the floor.

That was exciting!

We called the appliance place who sent out a person who determined that the range was old enough to vote, and that no one makes parts for it anymore (either for replacing the door glass or fixing any possible leak).

A new range arrived yesterday and I have baked my first loaves of bread in it, but between the breaking of the old and the installing of the new we could cook only in the microwave and crockpot, and although we considered trying to design a satisfying Solstice dinner around those, in the end we decided the local Diner would be more fun.

And it was very nice.

How do Diners do it, by the way; anyone know? How can you have that enormous a menu of available things, and be able to produce absolutely any of them in a reasonably short span of time? Are they all designed to be producible from some smallish set of ingredients, and you keep those around and ready at all times? Do all of the chefs know how to make all of the things? Are there big recipe books? Or do they look at the menu when the order comes in, figure out what you are probably expecting, and wing it?

2014/08/25

Fifteen years!

Wow, you’d think something would have changed after a week away; flying cars, or aliens walking around Manhattan, or at least a new subway line or something, but NO, everything is pretty much just the same!

Weird.

Extremely attentive and/or precognitive readers will suspect rightly that we were away for a week because we were in Maine; the first time that happened was in 1999, and this is 2014, so it’s been fifteen years!

And since that first Maine trip was when I started writing a weblog, and this is in some sense the same weblog as that, this is the fifteenth anniversary of the weblog!

Woot!

Here is a picture of Maine:

Renewal

Isn’t that gorgeous? Along with M’s sister’s family, and their father and stepmother, we rented a house on top of Dodge Mountain, overlooking Rockland and the bay and points East, with a lovely deck, and chairs to sit in, and tables to put your book and your wineglass on, and beds to sleep in, and all.

It was great.

I did a lot of reading, as usual. That book there is “Karma and Rebirth” by Christmas (sic) Humphries. I wrote it up for GoodReads (hope that link works for not-me people).

(I will resist the obvious temptation to produce lots of weblog content by pasting in all various book reviews I have written instead of just linking to them!)

I read that because I happened across it in some used book store (perhaps Hello Hello Books?), shortly after watching Hemant Mehta’s rather offputting “Can Atheists be Buddhists“, and it seemed like a nice synchronicity.

The Mehta piece is offputting for a few reasons:

  • His conclusion is basically “no”, and I’m sort of both of those things, so yeah.
  • The reason his conclusion is basically “no” is that, he says, although Buddhists don’t believe in a deity, they do believe some stuff (specifically Karma and Rebirth) that Isn’t Scientific, and therefore atheists won’t believe it.
  • This implies that for Mehta “atheist” doesn’t just mean “doesn’t believe in God” for some value of “God”, it means “only believes stuff that is Scientific”, and that seems like just sloppy thinking or sloppy word-usage or something,
  • His conclusion that Karma and Rebirth are Not Scientific seems very offhand and not particularly well thought out; as for that matter is his assumption that all Buddhists believe in either or both of them in any form.

Some day I will have to write a post on Buddhism and Scientificness and Karma and Rebirth and all, and why atheists can in fact be Buddhists, and vice-versa, at least when they are me. Not today, though. :)

Another book, that I’m sure I bought in Hello Hello Books (which is a great bookstore, by the way), and then I read and enjoyed very much, is Doris Grumbach’s “The Pleasure of Their Company”, which I also wrote up for GoodReads. It was good.

I do love lying about in Maine, feeling the wind and reading books and thinking about things.

Also I went out on a boat! And held a lobster!

Here is a picture from on the boat, with the notable deck hand Dana holding the lobster in question:

Dana with the lobster

and here is the lobster, with parts of my hand holding it:

Lobster

and a little girl looking dubious in the background.

We did many other things in Maine! I took three of the four kids to the beach one day, but the sun was behind clouds and the sand was too wet and rocky and the waves too small and they got cold, so we didn’t stay very long.

Here are some rocks!

Rocks

They do look coldish.

We went into Rockland a couple of times (although sadly we were not in town for this

Internet Cats

which I bet would have been noteworthy), and into Camden a couple of times (here is a classy black-and-white shot of some water in Camden:

Water in Camden

just because we are posting lots of pictures; more and/or different ones can as usual be found on the Insta-Gram).

Reading back through some of the various Maine and post-Maine postings in the weblog over the years, I see lots of variety in terms of thoughtfulness, randomness, introspection, and so on. I did feel introspective, in a good way, and renewed, in a good way, by it all this year, but in writing about it I’m mostly just writing random things, I think. :)

Maybe largely because I didn’t feel like writing about it at all while I was there (too busy doing it?), and now am writing about it retrospectively, having been home for a couple of days and back to work one day, so somewhat back in the quotidian mindset. Or something?

Here is another picture :) this one of ol’ Red’s Eats (where we didn’t eat this year) as randomly enhanced in its usual drive-by way by Google Plus:

Red's Eats

Kinda neat, I thought.

What else? I read some other books, acquired some other books, sat zazen a bit, had some thoughts, drank some wine, ate some lobster and some blueberry pie, enjoyed some sun and wind.

And I’m not unhappy to be home. :)

About all one could ask for, really!

2014/07/20

I need you more than whoa

So Lady Gaga really needs to enunciate more clearly. Listening to Artpop playing loudish on the car radio, with the occasional interruption from the maps app telling me how to get home from wherever, I really couldn’t tell what it was.

More than gold? More than goal? (World Cup reference!) More than dope? More than Dole? (mmm tasty canned pineapple rings!) More than whoa? More than low?

Eggs Benedict on the UWSApparently it is “More than dope“.

Anyway! Great fun yesterday, which was M’s b’day. We decided, daringly, to go into The Big City rather than just to some Mall or other familiar space. Brunch on the Upper West Side, at a sidewalk caf√© even!

Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your taxi. (photo: Little Daughter)

Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your taxi.
(photo: Little Daughter)

And little stores, some yarn-related and some not, and the wilds of Central Park, and the Guggenheim Museum.

(The Italian Futurists seem to have been mostly sort of wannabe-Fascist assholes; who knew? The work itself was probably daring and transgressive at the time; today it would be sort of meh.)

And we rested (and recharged my phone; the one thing I don’t like about the Nexus 5 is how battery-poor it is) at work, and then went and met the little daughter (yay!) at this amazing little tea-and-pastries-and-macarons (which I now know have basically nothing whatsoever to do with macaroons) place in Soho, and walked through a buzzing-with-energy Soho evening to the subway and came home.

Whew!

Oh, and there is the interesting Case of The Two Very Similar CDs, but that will have to wait for another time and/or possible world…

2014/05/25

The Daisy Knitter

Because everyone’s schedule was actually going to be in sync, we had all four of us planned some time back to go down to the Zoo today. We recently realized that it was going to be Memorial Day Weekend, and were a bit worried that the Zoo might be unpleasantly crowded.

We needn’t have worried, because as it turned out the Zoo was completely inaccessible.

(After an hour or so waiting in traffic, we got within shouting distance of a parking lot entrance that was closed with a LOT FULL sign. A topless young man jumped out of the car ahead of us and went over and talked to the people in orange vests near the sign; as he was coming back M called out the window to him “What did they say?”.

“We’re fucked!” was the metaphorically accurate reply.)

So we drove Northward a bit to Peekskill, had coffee and hung out at the Coffee House (I got a tee shirt!), took pictures on our cellular phones, looked at lots and lots of books at The Bruised Apple, had yummy little pizzas, I mean flatbread, at Gleason’s, and (not in this order) wandered through the Flea Market buying random things.

The most notable random thing I bought was this:

artifact

(shown larger than actual size).

When I asked the owner of the case it was in (with various pieces of costume jewelry, old pocket knives, police whistles, compasses) how much it was, he said “Ah, you’ve got a good eye, look at this”, and he showed me that, if you twist the knob in the center, a stubby bit of wire pokes out from the end of each of those ribs you see radiating from the center in the picture. “That’s five dollars.”

A bargain, clearly! So I bought it.

(Here is an image of it with the wires extended, too.)

And, this being the future, I was able to type the patent number into my cellular telephone while standing there at the Flea Market, and determine that my new possession is technically speaking a Former for Artificial Flowers, patented by Antonia Dolia in 1930 or so.

Turning of the disc on completion of the operation varies its position and withdraws the wires 5 within the casing, the formed flower being thus free for removal to leave the device free for further manufacture.

So with that, and having a nice day in the car and in Peekskill, in lovely weather, with the all-four-of-us family, this has been a lovely day, despite the inaccessibility of the Zoo.

Now the little daughter has gone for a quick tango-related jaunt into The City, and the little boy is off somewhere with his chums, and M and I are sitting here typing on computers and watching people hit tennis balls about on the television.

Earlier I was reading Fred Pohl’s “The Annals of the Heechee”, but got really really tired of being told like three times per page about how Robinette Broadhead is a computer program, and how that means he is so much faster and more parallel than meat people, that I put it down to do something less tedious.

You can therefore partly thank Pohl’s bit of Mary-Sue-ism for this weblog entry. :)

Him, and the (patented) Daisy Knitter.

Now I am thinking of taking this plain grey tee shirt that I have and maybe tie dyeing it with bleach or something. Or maybe a nap…

2014/01/28

Thank you, Pete

My one hope is that the guitar’s going to be mightier than the bomb.
–Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger ‚Äď Singer, Songwriter, Activist ‚Äď Dies at 94

THIS LAND IS OUR LAND: GOODBYE PETE SEEGER, 1919-2014

A Moment Of Pete: When Pete Seeger Murdered HUAC, Just Like A Communist

A MOMENT OF PETE: THIS BANJO SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER

Tags:
2013/12/29

Sunday, December 29, 2013

As usual all various things have happened since some amount of time ago!

Geek-o-Vision

I now have one of these:

an Oculus Rift device

and as soon as I get this one cable that it needs to attach to the enormous Windows machine, I will try out the demos and maybe like WoW or something (and sometime probably Second Life), and that will probably be amazing or disorienting or both.

(And boy will one look amusing while using it.)

The Smart-o-Phone

Speaking of the enormous Windows machine, I now have yet one more non-Windows computer, running yet one more operating system. Here is the Instagramming of my telephone upgrade:

Phones

Having skipped a few generations there, I now have one of these modern “Smart-o-Phones”, and am apparently an Android user (which also involves chocolate bars in some way).

KitKat logo

The Smart-o-Phone can do all various things; pretty much everything that the “i-Pad” can do, except that it is considerably smaller. But as I have pointed out when comparing a little laptop screen to a big desktop display, the Smart-o-Phone screen can be made pretty much as large as you want just by holding it closer to your eyes…

Oh, also, it has some sort of telephone in it. But that is okay, it does not hardly ring much or anything annoying like that.

I have been installing Smart-o-Phone “apps” on the Smart-o-Phone, which allow me to listen to the radio, and sign into WoW (once I convince WoW that I don’t want to use the i-Pad for that anymore), and look at train schedules, and drive little imaginary trains around a simplified model of Europe:

Pocket Trains

Also (like the i-Pad) you can watch TV on it, which I am in fact doing right now (mostly just because I can); this is mildly convenient if one wants to watch one of the subset of shows that Verizon makes available for streaming. For whatever reason the only thing I ever seem to watch this way is “Law and Order: something something”; they just barely clear the bar of being worth ignoring all those commercials.

Ooh, probably I should install the “Net Flicks app” also! That has things which do not have commercials.

So now I have the Smart-o-Phone running Android, the i-Pad running iOS (and which it’s not entirely clear what it is for now), the work computer running ChromeOs (and Chrome Remote Desktop connecting into the at-work work computer running Goobuntu (haha “Goobuntu”)), and the enormous Windows computer running Windows 7 something something, which is basically just for WoW and Second Life these days (and see recent Facebook thread where I complain about Windows’s virtual memory pessimisation algorithms). And the Oculus Rift. :)

Festivities

Oh yeah, these things happened too!

Cookies!

Solstice Dinner 2013

Solstice Christmas New Year Holidays and all! Which is why I now have the Geek-o-Vision and the Smart-o-Phone and all. :) And the little daughter used some Interweb Site to create and produce this amazing tee shirt:

Best Tee Shirt Ever

which attentive readers will notice is based on a recent weblog posting just right here.

Isn’t that the best thing ever? Such an amazing little daughter…

I’m sure other things have happened also, but those are the only ones I will write down for now I think. Lots of lazing about to do today! :)

Update: some of the images in the above are nefariously appearing or not appearing at random, or perhaps with some weak correlation with my attempts to get them to appear. Tsk!

Update 2: Oh yeah, I was going to talk about Ingress on the Smart-o-Phone too! But I didn’t. Maybe later…

2013/08/29

Wilderness were Paradise enow as long as there is WiFi

This house has a big screened-in porch, to keep the mosquitos and black flies away and still let you sit out in the soft air, looking across the tidal river mouth to the next island along.

I think I’ve realized before in roughly this context that sitting down and writing about where I am and what I’m doing, and what I’m thinking, significantly helps me appreciate it. Which seems odd and even pathetic in a way, like the person in the joke who won’t know whether he enjoyed his vacation until the pictures come back. (Remember when you had to wait for pictures to come back? I barely do, some days.)

I tend to live, that is, mediated. Or maybe it’s just the part of me that writes weblog entries that tends to live mediated; an interesting and potentially thorny question. I should go sit for half an hour, and expose all the parts of myself to some unmediated experience (in some sense). Maybe I will in fact do that! See you in about half an hour, conditions permitting, in the next paragraph.

Okay, back! That was nice. And the little daughter sat (Sat) with me!

(So now I have six additional points in my Karma Pool, one for each five minutes, and since there were at least a couple of instants there where the Monkey Mind was not drafting and evaluating sentences for the weblog, I get two Prajna Tokens that I can use to advantage on future Insight Rolls. Zen as D&D subgenre: I wonder if anyone’s written that up. A quick search reveals only the predictable Zen Warrior. “[U]ses wisdom and inner spirit to enhance their fighting”, phleh.)

As long-time reader may have realized by now, it is Summer, and we are in Maine! All four of us, too, which has not happened since, um, the last time it happened!

(Weirdly, I have no computer-as-such with me, and am typing this on my “iPad”, which is like a computer only smaller and you type with your thumbs on the screen. But it can talk WiFi to the house’s access point, and thence into the Internets via a nice fast RoadRunner connection of some stripe, so yay.)

We arrived on Saturday after a fine drive up, and the car managed to make it to within a few yards of the driveway of the house before the engine mysteriously quit. I started it again and drove it actually down the driveway into the place behind the house that one puts the car in, and the engine mysteriously quit again.

That was exciting! So now we know the extremely nice couple that drives for and/or constitutes Boothbay Taxi, and the also extremely nice people at Dan’s Auto Repair just down the road, and at Hawke’s Auto Something down toward the Harbor, where you can pick up a rental from Enterprise (once you have taken a taxi there on Monday, after a very relaxing Sunday spent in the house and in taxis to and from the grocery for foods).

I am writing this on Thursday-already, having realized as above that I would appreciate things more if I wrote them down (roughly), so there are other days in between. Let’s see.

On Monday we took the one car in and rented this one here, and walked around town and had food at the traditional Lobster Wharf. Tuesday the kidlings and I went to the big sandy beach (the water was unspeakably lovely), and then back to the house where the ladies roasted veggies while the men went out hunting seafood rolls for the tribe. Wednesday was yesterday, and the kids clambered about on a big multi-level rope course with harnesses and zip lines and stuff, and we grups stayed on the ground taking many many photographs. Then we had another nice seafood dinner in town.

Some evidence of these and other activities may be found on the official ceoln Instagram feed thing, which I ought to link to from this weblog sometime. If I haven’t already.

Today is cloudy and looking like another relaxing not-doing-much day in the house. We might go to the very nearby Botanical Gardens, or to the grocery, or something. Or not. :)

Wasn’t that quotidian? Oh! This also means we should say Happy Fourteenth Anniversary to the Weblog!, more or less roughly; although for most of that time it was here, not here. (And boy is HTML hard to type on this little thumb-keyboard!)

Oh, and before the zazen I took a shower because M said I should even though we are on vacation and showers are boring (and you generally get wet).

I stopped as usual at the Library Used Book shed in town and bought eight books for two dollars, one of them Buber’s “I and Thou” which I suspect I’ve never read.

But even more than in prior years, the once-traditional list of all the reading materials lying about is sort of moot. F’rinstance, I was sitting here watching an episode of Whedon’s Dollhouse on the Net-Flicks, and the boyish mad scientist character mentioned a couple of times the gag reflex when eating sea urchin, so I paused and looked that up on the interwebs, and it turns out that that is a thing, but also that it is quoted in a book of essays about that fictional world, and a few thumb motions and ninety-nine cents Earth currency later, I had a copy of it here in Maine, on the i-Pad, all ready to read at.

So yeah. :)

While I was in the middle of writing all of that, somewhere around “once-traditional” I think it was, Dan’s called to say that the car was ready, with a brand-new distributor and a tie-rod while they were at it, so the little daughter and I went out and picked it up and turned in the rental and bought a few groceries, and then I went for a walk along the road and into the botanic gardens, which while not really arranged for visits by barefoot pedestrians, is quite friendly and pretty and upscale, and has all various plants and roses and stones and pieces of art and water-features and trails for walking on.

(From the northernmost part of the gardens one can in fact see this house we are in, although there is brush and/or deer netting and/or “Staff Only” signs in between. I got home by looking around surreptitiously, slightly lifting a piece of loose deer-net, slipping ninja-like under it, and hopping a low stone fence to the road near the house, rather than walking all the flipping way back south to the official entrance. So far the FBI have not embarrassingly appeared.)

So yes, I have been watching Dollhouse. It is good! There is significant good audiovisual work out there, it appears, which can be viewed without commercial interruption. Also good!

I think I will stop writing with my thumbs for a bit again now, and do other stuff. Maybe later I will tell you about this self-published author who, perhaps unwisely, offered me a free copy of his book if I would review it. Interesting things have ensued. For some value of “interesting”. :)

Back again! It is ummm Friday morning, and I’m sitting at the round glass-topped table on the porch, having slept deliciously late and then eaten food, immersed in the still-lovely air and watching cars go by on the road.

Last night the little daughter required everyone to drink alcoholic beverages. I had a bigger-than-shotglass of bourbon with an ice cube and a little Rose’s Lime Substance. And we all gathered around and watched tennis and things on the teevee. Extremely pleasant in all ways. But I think my insides are scolding me a bit today. So no more boozes for now!

And now it is Friday night, and I have taken the little daughter to the airport so that she could fly places on airplanes (apparently 23-year-old little daughters are allowed to fly unaccompanied on airplanes without any special arrangements!), and have watched another Dollhouse episode (and a Lost Girl episode, even though Lost Girl hasn’t really convinced me that it is good yet, but Ksenia Solo is cute), and the little boy and I shot off a couple of little boxes of Consumer Grade Fireworks that I bought on the way home, and we are watching Tennis on teevee again and I am sleepy zzzzzz…

And then it was Saturday, and now it is suddenly Sunday, and we are home after a shared six-hour drive (that was remarkably traffic-light even though Labor Day Weekend), and have slept and had Sunday Morning Bagels. And now I will read this over another time or two, and post it so that you can read it!

The further thoughts about self-published novels and stuff will have to wait. :)

2013/01/04

Dumplings, Dastards, and Drivel

(Before I decided that the dumplings really belonged in here, I was considering titles like “Douchebags and Bullshit”, which is somewhat coarse, or “Rotters and Rubbish”, which wasn’t bad.)

So this year we made 203 New Year’s Dumplings. The little daughter having come home special for the ceremonies, and the little boy being home from school between terms, we were four healthy adults, and the leftovers of that 203 didn’t even last through the end of January Second.

(See prior New Year’s post for prior history of dumplings.)

Here is my New Year card over on the Secret Second Life weblog. The sentiments apply to all Real Life friends too also. :)

On dastards (cads, bounders, douchenozzles, arseholes), see quite a few of the comments to this Asher Wolf posting on why she left the CryptoParty movement that she founded or co-founded, and how the hacker community contains too much, and too much tolerance of, sexism and misogyny and general nastiness.

Many of the comments are supportive, but many are also just facepalmingly awful. (I posted what I thought was a satire of that kind of comment, and despite my having tried to make it obviously absurd, it was enough like the run of actual negative comments that I had to put in a followup saying that it was intended as satire, because people were responding to it as though it, well, wasn’t.) And the evil-density in the twitter comments was even higher (if harder to link to).

I understand why people come in and carefully and condescendingly explain how she is all wrong, and bad things happen to everyone, and it’s not misogyny, and rape hardly every happens, and things like that; they are just blind to their various degrees of privilege, and are shoring up the bulwarks of the protective walls they have up around their egos.

Pretty standard human stuff.

I less understand why people come in and say that someone “needs to shave her pits”, or says that some particular person attacking her is “way hotter” than someone else is. I mean, wut? How is that even remotely relevant to anything?

Either (1) this is actually the way that they think, (2) they are just rather nastily trolling, or (3) talking about the way they “think” is a bit of an overstatement, and they are basically being Eliza machines in this instance.

Also pretty standard human stuff, I suppose, as are the strings of obscenities and the attacks on her website; I just don’t understand it as much, and it makes me (even) sadder.

And on drivel (or rubbish, or bullshit), I am reading Belief or Nonbelief, and while I’m not done with it (despite how short it is), I cannot keep myself from fulminating, or at least weblogging, about it. It’s a series of public letters between Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who is a Cardinal (a Hat Cardinal, not a Wings Cardinal, obviously).

Eco is sort of The Semiotics Guy, so he is all into signs and how and what they signify (if at all), and so on, so it’s not too surprising that he can wander up big ethereal staircases of language until he gets so far above the concrete that his words not only fail to signify anything material, but fail to signify even any identifiable concepts. And of course Martini is an intelligent person in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and spending most of his thought-time in environments as far from real life as possible is probably one of the few ways it’s possible to be one of those for very long and stay sane.

Hilarity ensues.

The first bit is about hope and life and ideas of the end of the world and stuff; it was written somewhere in the late 90’s. Eco, referring to the last book of the New Testament, writes

Revelation can be read as a promise, but also an announcement of an end, and thus gets rewritten at every step, even by those who never read it, as we await 2000.

Say what? People who have never read the book are constantly rewriting it? Squinting at the whole paragraph really hard, what he means is something like “people are always thinking about how the world might end, and Revelation talks about trumpets and hailstorms and stuff, but nowadays we think more in terms of acid rain, nuclear waste, global warming, and stuff”.

It does sound cooler and less obvious if you talk about the constant rewriting of a book by people who have never read it, but that way of talking has the disadvantage of being incoherent and/or wrong.

Here’s another great passage:

In this way, each one of us flirts with the specter of the apocalypse, exorcising it; the more one unconsciously fears it the more one exorcises, projecting it onto the screen in the form of bloody spectacle, hoping in this way to render it unreal. But the power of specter lies precisely in its unreality.

Yowza! We unconsciously fear the end of the world, so we flirt with it by projecting it (“hey baby, ever been… projected?”) onto the screen (does that mean “we imagine”? or “we make movies about” or…?) in the form of bloody spectacle (we imagine global warming as bloody spectacle? could well be true of the movie version, I spose) in order to (unconsciously, still?) render it unreal (because things on the screen are unreal I guess), but in vain because (as our unconscious is apparently not clever enough to recognize) making it unreal just makes it more powerful.

And the sentence just before it is about “irresponsible consumerism”, which is somehow linked to all that other stuff.

There’s probably some unpacking of this that is actually making a coherent truth-claim that might perhaps be falsifiable, but in essence I think it’s more like poetry; a bunch of words piled on each other not to make some coherent truth-claim, but for some more diaphanous aesthetic reason.

The very next paragraph deserves copying down here also (perhaps only because I’m getting more into the spirit of the thing):

I’d be willing to bet that the notion of the end of time is more common today in the secular world than in the Christian. The Christian world makes it the object of meditation, but acts as if it may be projected into a dimension not measured by calendars. The secular world pretends to ignore the end of time, but is fundamentally obsessed by it. This is not a paradox, but a repetition of what transpired in the first thousand years of history.

Leaving aside the absurdity of referring (as I think he is doing here, but really who can tell) to the years 1-1000 CE as “the first thousand years of history”, it’s hard to say what most of these words might plausibly mean.

Just how common is “the notion of the end of time” in “the secular world”? He has presumably said “the end of time” rather than “the end of the world” for some reason, but I don’t know what it could be. “The end of time” is a notion that barely makes any sense at all in “the secular world” (since time is not something that can end, absent something really weird and non-secular happening), much less being extremely common. The dimension that is “measured by calendars” is time; I’m not sure what it means to say that the Christian world acts as if the end of time occurs in (or “may be projected into”) something besides time. Is he saying that most Christians think of the Apocalypse is a metaphor for something moral or aesthetic, rather than something that will actually take place at some point? That is most likely true, but as far as I know the Official Story of the “Christian world” is that it’s going to happen (for some value of “it”) at some actual time, perhaps any day now.

Maybe he’s just saying “your typical actual Christian person doesn’t actually believe that the world is going to end, or at least doesn’t act that way, whereas your typical secular person worries alot about global warming”. But he sure says it funny if so.

Here’s another character-string, that I don’t think I’ll even try to tease a meaning out of (although the first few words seem like a real screamer, in the “obviously false unless it means something different than it seems to” sense):

Christianity invented History, and it is in fact a modern incarnation of the Antichrist that denounces History as a disease. It’s possible that secular historicism has understood history as infinitely perfectible — so that tomorrow we improve upon today, always and without reservation, and so that in the course of the same history God reconstitutes himself and in a manner of speaking educates and enriches himself. But the entire secular world is not of the ideological view that through history we understand how to look at the regression and folly of history itself. There is, nonetheless, an originally Christian vision of history wherever the signpost of Hope on this road is followed.

On rereading, I’m suspecting more and more that Eco, that wag, is using some prose generator here. (Secular historicism has understood that God reconstitutes himself? Orly?)

Cardinal Martini’s response to this first burst of words isn’t quite up to this standard, but he does use a huge number of words to basically say “oh, well, Christians don’t really have to worry about the end of the world because God is going to take care of them, after all, so naturally the secular types are the ones who obsess about it”.

He does, though, note that

History has always been seen most clearly as a journey toward something beyond itself and not immanent… this vision does not extenuate but solidifies the meaning of contingent events into an ethical locus in which the metahistorical future of the human adventure is determined.

which is getting there.

(And which, once one spends a few minutes picking it apart, turns out to box up considerable volumes of likely-false assumptions inside words and passive-voice constructs like “always” and “most clearly”, “been seen” and “is determined”, which are just the post-graduate version of sprinkling one’s Internet postings with “clearly”, “obviously”, and “certainly”.)

(And for that matter uses a quaintly archaic sense of “extenuate”. Hm, is this a translation, or is the English the original?)

In the next exchange (and the only other one I’ve finished reading), Eco turns the discussion toward the meaning and beginning of life, and the question of abortion, not so much as to get closer to real concrete questions as to show that even on a subject like this he can mostly avoid them.

Here is Eco:

When the banner of Life is waved, it can’t but move the spirit — especially of nonbelievers, however “pietistic” their atheism, because for those who do not believe in anything supernatural the idea of Life, the feeling of Life, provides the only value, the only source of a possible ethical system.

which is bullshit in both common senses: it’s false, and it’s not clear that it’s actually concerned at all with true and false, but just wants to sound good.

(The quotes around “pietistic” in reference to atheism are rather bizarre, as it suggests that “pietistic atheism” is a term that someone else has used, and that Eco himself is using referentially, although he has shame-quote-level reservations about it. But in fact the term “pietistic atheism” is actually pretty rare, so… I dunno.)

And of course just “waving the banner of Life” doesn’t necessarily move the spirit; some people’s spirits are (quite healthily) resistant to being moved by the waving of any banners, and there are all sorts of sources of possible ethical systems besides “the idea of Life, the feeling of Life”.

And so on and so on.

Eco then makes the very good point that a key question is exactly when a human life begins, that we don’t have a really good answer to it, and that it seems like a question that we may never have a really good answer to, even though it’s so important. (I like him saying this, because in my own analysis of the whole abortion issue, these facts are at the core of why it’s so hard.)

The Cardinal responds by subtly taking issue with Eco’s emphasis on “Life”, saying of course that it’s really all about God, and “the life of a person called upon to participate in the life of God himself.”

“Participate” is a great word there, like when the news says that a person is “linked to” some terrorist group. The postmodern “informed by” is another one. They all let you sort of draw a narrative line between two things without actually making any truth-claim that might turn out to be wrong. I have no idea what it actually means to “participate in the life of God himself” for Cardinal Martini, and I’m not convinced that he really does, either. At the high cloudy levels that he’s talking, “participate” is all that’s needed.

Moving on to just when there starts to be “a concrete life that I can label human”, Martini uses some more “obviously” words:

But we all know that we have … a clearer sense of genetic determination starting from a point that, at least in theory, can be identified. From conception, in fact, a new being is born.

There ya go! “We all know” that “in fact” a new being is born at conception.

Here “new” means as distinct from the two elements that united to form it.

This may be a nice definition of “new”, but the more important term is “being”. When someone ingests a couple pieces of food and they start to dissolve in the stomach, there may be some point at which they squish together and there is a “new” food-glob which is distinct from either the hotdog or the bun, but there’s no “new being” here to worry about, unless and until the relevant molecules make their way into a developing fetus which is (say) eventually born.

So he’s doing an end-run to try to slip “identity begins at the moment of conception” (something that the Church has believed for only a small fraction of its history, as Eco mentions and Martini ignores) into the discussion as though it was something we now know as a fact.

Okay, that’s par for the course. :)

Here is some more novel and amorphous stuff, on the topic of why the product of conception matters, and why we should protect it:

Beyond these scientific and philosophical matters lies the fact that whatsoever is open to so great a destiny — being called by name by God himself — is worthy of enormous respect from the beginning.

Why is that? Is there anything that God himself can’t call by name? Does God have names for people in a way that he doesn’t have names for animals, or fruit, or dust-motes? This is a piece of Catholic doctrine, or something, that I wasn’t aware of. Why would being called by name by God, as opposed to any other aspect of a putative relationship to God, be the thing in particular that makes a person “worthy of enormous respect from the beginning”?

If it turned out that God also had names for individual rocks, would we be morally obliged to make sure that any rock that begins to split off the side of a mountain does in fact split off, and to have “enormous respect” for it from that point on? Why or why not?

And yes, the question seems absurd. But it’s directly implied by the Cardinal’s words, so I will refer him to you on that issue.

We are talking about real responsibility toward that which is produced by a great and personal love, responsibility toward “someone”. Being called upon and loved, this someone already has a face, and is the object of affection and attention.

I think we are still talking about a just-fertilized egg here. The great and personal love must be God’s (since, sadly, not every instance of conception involves great or personal human love), as must be the affection and attention (since, this early in the game, no human is aware that anything exists to lavish affection and attention on).

But the someone already has a face? What could that mean? A fertilized egg most definitely does not have a face; it is too small. Is this a metaphor for something? If so, it’s not clear for what. Does he mean that he thinks the look of the face of the eventual person (if any) resulting from the fertilization is already determined, by the genetics of the sperm and egg? That’s probably not true, certainly not before the gametes are all done fusing (when exactly is “the moment of conception” at this level of detail, anyway?). And why “face” rather than “form” or for that matter foot-size? Are those less important, or is it all just some metaphor and “face” sounds better?

The next sentence is:

Every violation of this need of affection and attention can only result in conflict, profound suffering, and painful rending.

How did we get from the fertilized egg’s being the object of affection and attention (from God), to a need for affection and attention? In fact the fertilized egg, at this point, doesn’t have any need for affection and attention, unless there’s some religious claim here that it needs it from God. But presumably nothing could violate God’s affection and attention. (I’m not sure what if anything it means to “violate” a “need”.)

The claim being made here seems to be that from the moment of conception there is a new being that as a need for affection and attention, and any failure to provide for that need will result in conflict, profound suffering, and painful rending.

But that’s false. Something like half of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise spontaneously aborted very early (and so presumably their needs aren’t being provided for?), and no one who isn’t God ever knows they existed. No conflict, no profound suffering, no painful rending.

The obvious counter here is that the good Cardinal didn’t mean that. And that’s likely true, but then we’re just left wondering exactly what he did mean.

The end of this letter doesn’t help much, except to suggest that it’s all about faces again.

There is a splendid metaphor that reveals in lay terms something common to both Catholics and laymen, that of the “face”. Levinas spoke of it movingly as an irrefutable instance. I would rather cite the words, almost a testament, of Italo Mancini in one of his last books, Tornino i volti [Back to the Faces]: “Living in, loving, and sanctifying our world wasn’t granted us by some impersonal theory of being, or by the facts of history, or by natural phenomena, but by the existence of those uncanny centers of otherness — the faces, faces to look at, to honor, to cherish.”

Which, I think, is nice, even profound, as poetry, but as any sort of discussion of a subject falls rather flatly short of, well, of meaning anything.

Living in our world was granted us by the existence of faces? You don’t say!

2012/12/21

Various things!

Russel Brand is pretty funny. (The one with the Westboro Baptist Church loonies seems viral at the moment, but there’s lotsa others, with less icky persons. Including Sarah Silverman, on whom I must admit having a slight enormous crush.)

We went up to Boston to retrieve the little boy yesterday (and came home today). So with that and that I was in two big cities in three days, neither one because of its airport. I suspect this is a New Record for me!

Boston is cool.

We wandered Newbury Street, all the way from the I-90 entrance to the Common and back. Lotsa stores and stuff, which weren’t all that interesting, but also people and graffiti ‚ÄĒ

Oh, wait, that reminds me of a picture I took! Hold on a sec whilst I find it and put it onto flickr…

Here:

Newbury Street sidewalk

(Anyone know who w.i., or perhaps w.t., is?)

There was a whole wall of multiply-overlayed graffiti also (including another instance of this one), but for whatever reason I didn’t get a shot of that.

(Since the drop of every sparrow is now multiply noted, here’s someone else commenting on this adage (basically noting that it does not, either), and here’s a Tweet wondering whether or not.)

We stopped at one of the three (!) cupcake places on Newbury Street and got some small and overpriced but really quite yummy cupcakes (I had chocolate ganache, mmmm).

We stopped at Raven Used Books, which has really really good books, and I got a copy of “Justine” (Durrell’s, not de Sade’s) (this edition, assuming Abe Books links are relatively long-lasting), and a copy of “The Dissident Word” (The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1995) from the discount table out front, and then a copy of the Oxford University Press “Islam: A Very Short Introduction” (I think I know a bit about it at this overview level already; on the other hand I’m sure there are holes in even my relatively shallow knowledge) and the Shambhala Dragon edition of The Sutra of Hui-Neng, Grand Master of Zen (With Hui-Neng’s Commentary on the Diamond Sutra), which I’m pretty sure I don’t already have.

Then for an early dinner we stopped at Trident Booksellers and Cafe (why does any store bother not selling books, eh?), and had yummy food items and looked at all various books. I noticed there was a guy with a laptop and a beard at another table looking through an issue of Buddhadharma (to which I (also) subscribe), and a little later he passed by our table and saw I was holding the Sutra of Hui-Neng, and he remarked that it’s one of his favorites and we talked for a few seconds.

Oh yeah and at Trident I also bought John Powell’s “How Music Works” for possible use in upcoming (someday) versions of my algorithmic music composition programs. I was going to just put it into some wishlist and maybe get the digital edition, but (a) it was on sale for a nice low price in Trident, and (b) it includes a free CD, and can a e-book include a free CD? I mean, it could, in principle, contain all the bits from the CD, but does it?

In some free newspaper stall on the street I picked up the latest Phoenix, and looking through it while resting in the little boy’s room (before or after Newbury Street, I don’t remember) I found a pointer to Howling Dogs by the impressive porpentine, which reminded my (in color scheme, even!) of my own Forked Stick (which I never finished, but that might not matter, and you might enjoy poking around in also).

I thought that was some nice synchronicity.

When we finally got to relatives’ house for spending the night, I was tired.

Here is me, being tired:

Tired

So after that I slept, and we got up this morning, zoomed back into Boston in the rain and wind and scooped up the little boy after his last final, and drove home. The wind and rain calmed down as we drove, and by the time we got home it was fine really.

So that’s those things!

2012/10/14

North and Back Again

Now the Internet connection is out entirely. That is, we can get to the owners’ wireless router, but the rest of the Internet isn’t visible from there. (Night before last, when there was all that wind and the remnants of rain, we couldn’t get to the wireless router even all that reliably, but the rest of the Internet was sporadically accessible when we could.)

And, perhaps suspiciously, there seems to be no cellular service here this evening either, although there has been prior days. Maybe Linekin shuts down even harder than we thought, the week after Columbus Day.

Devoted long-time readers of this weblog (especially in its prior incarnation) will be concluding with joy around this time that we are once again writing from on vacation somewhere in Maine, and that conclusion will be, or is, correct!

(The pumpkin quickbread will need to be checked again in about ten minutes; since I don’t know this oven, and I’m baking it in a glass baking dish for want of a proper loaf-tin, the time’s highly uncertain.)

 


 

We drove from home to Boston on Friday for Parents (Parent’s? Parents’?) Weekend at the little boy’s school; that was fun, mostly for getting to see the little boy, but also random schoolish events (the sample Ear Training class was especially neat). Then up here on Sunday, to the little cottage above the larger house where we stayed in hmmm 2009, probably, although I seem to have Not Mentioned It In The Weblog, which is odd. Unless I just can’t find that entry in between being distracted by all of the other ones.

On Sunday we tried to go to the nearest-by good lobster-type restaurant, but it had apparently just (like, maybe minutes before) Closed For the Season. (We’d been a bit afraid that, coming up this late, everything in general would be Closed For the Season, but the owners here had assured us that most things would still be open.) So on the advice of the other folks leaving the nearest-by-but-closed place we drove down toward Ocean Point, found a place to park around the bustling Ocean Point Inn, and made our way inside.

Turns out it was the last night for the Ocean Point Inn before they also Closed for the Season, and it was “going to be a madhouse”, and they could not give two random persons with no reservation a table, but we could take two of the last four seats available at the bar, so we did, and had some very yummy lobster stew and I think blueberry pie, and sat talking to the bartender a bit when she had an instant to breathe. Busy night, definitely, but “tomorrow, free!”.

 


 

On Monday we went and walked around in Boothbay Harbor like we always do, went to many of the Usual Stores, bought a few random things (including me the usual few books at the Friends of the Library Used Book Store), admired stuff, had ice cream at the usual ice cream place (their last day before Closing For the Season!). Odd with no children or other relatives orbitting (orbiting?) about, but pleasant and familiar, and a gorgeous day. We had dinner at the Lobsterman’s Co-op; I had my traditional actual lobster, which was very good. Monday was, naturally, their last day before they Closed For the Season.

Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat and fever and no energy at all, so Tuesday and Wednesday we did basically nothing at all, which is really okay because we’d planned to do considerable nothing-at-all, and my being down for the count just forced it to be at that particular point in the schedule.

(This is awkward and/or frustrating; I called one of the owners a few hours ago on her cellphone, cell numbers being all that they gave us, about the Internet not working, and after asking if I was sure I had done the password right and all, she said that they would “take a look when we get back”; and now it is like quarter to nine in the evening, and I can’t really tell if anyone’s arrived back over there or not, and I am too shy and retiring to call them again before they contact us. I am such a connectivity addict!)

So Tuesday and Wednesday were extremely relaxing, modulo a bit of fever and all which were quickly moderated by Night and/or Day Quils produced magically by M from the nearest grocer.

 


 

Thursday, which was yesterday, I felt considerably better, and we went to Freeport, the home of L. L. Bean’s vast megastore into which we didn’t actually go, and scads of other stores of various descriptions, some amusing, some good sources of Outlet Bargains, and so on. We found a great British Goods store, which M (being the prime Anglophile in the house) will probably have weblogified significantly about by now (and where I got some nice teas, including a lovely green tea with lemon, for my recovering throat).

We ate lunch at a restaurant attached to the Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine empire; Linda Bean being the something-great granddaughter of the original L. L. Bean himself, and now a luminary of all that is Maine and lobstery and prosperous. She seems from my little reading about her to be quite the Ron Paul Republican type, which is pretty in keeping with someone who started her own commercial empire from (one speculates) merely quite a bit of inherited wealth and corresponding contacts and self-confidence. Sort of like Mitt Romney’s semi-famous line about how he inherited nothing, in the sense that he passed along the actually cash-money inheritance that he got into a trust for his children. But inheritance is so much more than the cash money passed along…

Anyway! And today being already Friday, how did that happen, we went into Wiscasset (“Prettiest Village in Maine”, or other slogan to that effect), and waited in line and had lunch at the extremely famous Red’s Eats, strategically positioned at the Wiscasset end of the Boothbay-to-Wiscasset bridge in such a way that the length of the backup both ways on Route 27 there pretty accurately reflects the length of the line to buy lobster rolls at Red’s. (We’ve always observed that notable correlation, but this is the first time we actually stood in the latter line ourselves.)

The lobster rolls were very good, largely I think because they contained very large amounts of very fresh lobster meat, still in the form of claws and tails and whatnot. And the sweet potato fries were a nice addition. And the Maine blueberry cake.

It was cloudy and chilly and windy during all of that, and we ate our lunch in the car, but when we emerged it was sunny and almost clear, and it stayed gorgeous like that as we wandered about the town and bought various smallish items of a vacationy sort, including a copy of The Submarine Boys on Duty and an oldish Texaco road map for me, and various things for M that she can weblog on or not.

We stopped by the grocery for random things on the way home, I made (and somewhat burned, as it turned out, but don’t worry it wasn’t because you were distracting me with weblogging) a pumpkin quick-bread from a box of mix (and water and oil and a couple of eggs), we found that the Internet didn’t work, and pretty much here we are, caught up to date!

 


 

Incredible how many years we’ve been coming up here. This is the first Empty Nest trip, with the little daughter all out being a college graduate and gainfully employed adult, the little boy a college Freshman in Boston, both of them living in apartment buildings (something that neither M nor I have ever done, and I sometimes feel that they are already more authentic grownups than I am because of it). We really haven’t figured out the whole Empty Nest thing at all yet, that’s going to take awhile just to seem real, much less to get used to.

Thirteen years, in fact, hasn’t it been? Since those very first postings to the then-new (and now-very-stable) davidchess dot com and associated domains. How young we all were! Although in the mental map in my head (that I suppose I formed when I was about twelve, and have updated only lightly since) fortyish and fiftyish are about the same really; so us adults haven’t aged much. :)

We didn’t come up here in 2011 or 2010, at least that’s our current theory. And then in 2009 we were up here, with M’s sister’s family, just across the street there, but apparently I managed to not weblog about it at all. So I last weblogged from hereish back in 2008. Reading back there, I note that (a) there is commentary on the Red’s Eats traffic situation, and (b) even then I was talking about how sporadic my weblog posting was becoming. That latter trend has certainly kept up, eh?

 


 

I could do the usual List of Books Lying About, but right now I am too lazy to get up (well, to get up again; I just wandered off to the kitchen upon remembering that I’d been heating water for hot cocoa, and got that, and came back). And what does one do about the iPad? It has various books on it, and it is lying around, but do they all count? Or just the ones that I at least halfway intend to perhaps read whilst up here?

(Not to mention the infinite number of books and potential books and book-like-things that are also virtually lying around when the Internet connection is working; but that’s obviously a whole nother universe.)

This house, cottage, is across the road from the one that is right on the water, and that has its own dock. And we’re further up the Bay than we were those first years, and the water is calmer. So I’m not sitting by the open window breathing the air and listening to the waves plashing (and, come to think of it, the air is supposed to be well below freezing tonight, and it’s headed there already, and we don’t have any windows open). Still, though, there are waves out there, plashing quietly, and a million extra stars up in the black sky (I saw them all, looking up when I strolled over earlier to see if the owners were home and might be able to fix the network connection, not that I’m in withdrawl or anything no no nothing like that). And it’s quiet, very quiet, and a car going by makes one lift one’s head to see what that sound is, as opposed to at home say where a sudden cessation of background motor sounds would have the same, if opposite, effect.

Those first times up here were so, what?, pivotal, or not pivotal so much as exemplary, maybe, thematic. Life-changing not in the sense that life would have been some other way without them (although to an extent it would have been), so much as life-changing as in showing in a lovely clear way how life had changed, having sentient children, a prosperous family, having chosen certain life paths over others, being in a rental house on the coast of Maine rather than crouched with tired fingers in a harvesting shack on the edge of some large and well disguised marijuana field somewhere in California, listening for helicopters and planning what to do with the next big payout.

Just for example.

And then over the years they’ve become more familiar, comfortable, known, part of life rather than some sort of distillation or fragment of metaphor. Being the first Empty Nest vacation is definitely a new thing, but still such a definitely-new thing that I have nothing much to say about it; that train has arrived, but the cargo has not yet been unpacked. The definitive bit of Empty Nest weblogging has yet to be written, and that may not happen on the coast of Maine at all.

 


 

There’s a road somewhere between here and elsewhere called New Meadows Road, and there’s a river near there called New Meadows River. And, thinking as I sometimes do about places and how they get their names, I found the river one sort of baffling.

I mean, it’s relatively straightforward how you get some meadows called New Meadows, because there were some other meadows first, and now there are these new ones also, the New Meadows, and if then a road goes in that runs by, or on the other side of, the New Meadows, that could be New Meadows Road.

But the river, that river was already there. It was there before the New Meadows were there, and it seems pretty likely that the New Meadows are close enough to the (if you will) old meadows, that even when the old meadows were relatively new, people knew about the river (rivers in general, and this one in particular, being no small things or easy to overlook), and had to refer to it now and then.

Did everyone just call it “the River” all that time, and it wasn’t until after the New Meadows were named that for some reason it became necessary to call it something? Not really convincing.

Was it originally called the “Odious Bobcat River”, and people living along it got tired of the name, and consciously redubbed it “New Meadows River” for psychological reasons? It would be a good story, and it’s possible, for all that one naively doesn’t think of persons in antique times being into that sort of PR.

M suggests that the meadows and the river could, after all, have been discovered (or discovered to the extent of needing names) at the same time, and rather than having started using some new meadows a stone’s throw from the old ones, it could be that our intrepid explorers came around some curve in the forest track, or reached a hilltop, and behold there were some meadows, gleaming in the sun as though newly-minted, and a river flowing merrily beside them, and they named them the New Meadows and the New Meadows River accordingly. (Although M says that “Fresh Meadows” might have been a better name in that situation, I pointed out that perhaps they had looked on the Internet and found that Fresh Meadows, Maine was already taken.)

 


 

Ha, and now it appears that the Internet is available again! (Approaching bedtime on Friday night, it is.) So I will stop typing for now and see what the world has been up to, and post this probably once we are back home, quite likely typing more in between now and then, in the traditional burglar-resisting style.

And now and now, it is near bedtime Saturday night, and we have various things all packed up, some even in the car, for the long drive home tomorrow. We went for a lovely walk and climb over the rocks way down at Ocean Point, taking lots of iPictures, and then back into town for seafood and icecream (the icecream store was actually open, although officially closed for the season, the owners we suspect having dismissed the thirteen year old counter persons until the Spring, and having fun selling off the last few flavors to weekend tourists themselves).

I won’t post the list of books lying about, because for one thing some of them are already in the car. But the ones I finished include Modesitt Jr’s “The Parafaith War”, which I enjoyed (from the blurbs I sort of expected a fast-paced clever-idea story, so because it’s actually a rather slow and thorough growing-up sort of story I found it extremely slow moving until I adjusted my expectations), and something named “The Buck Stops Flynn”, which was odd and quirky, and Sam Harris’s “Free Will”, which turns out to be very short and to say pretty much what I expected in my “Getting Free Will Wrong” entry the other day, but which I may eventually write a more nuanced entry on.

And that’s it! :) Probably no more typing here tonight, and possibly no more until I figure out exactly how and where to post this once we are back home. Probably to the shiny new wordpress weblog. Should I also post it to the old traditional davidchess dot com weblog as a Special Anniversary Update? If I remember how? Maybe!

In any case, be well, have been well, and whatever tenses English is missing. And thanks, as always, for everything.

 


 

(And now we are home! Things not mentioned above include half an hour of zazen sitting on a mossy stone on the scenic Maine hillside, which I’m not sure just when occurred, and a stop at a Cracker Barrel on the way home for our direct intravenous cholesterol injections. The cat is going completely bonkers at the return of her staff, and we are unpacking. Welcome home!)

2012/08/19

Fish and Kasha and Hardcore Heroes

So the little daughter, now out of college and a Certified Adult in her own right, has been cooking things. Cooking, from the look of the pictures she’s been posting to The Instra-Gram and other young-person places, delicious gourmet sorts of things.

Which is really cool. :)

This weekend she is home visiting, it being the weekend after her birthday and a convenient weekend for visiting, and she asked me to show her how to make Fish and Kasha, which was one of the things that I used to cook for the family back when I was myself young and energetic enough to cook on weekends. (Age is of course a feeble excuse; maybe I will start doing it again!)

I couldn’t find a written-down recipe on any of the many recipe cards in the various recipe-card collections in the kitchen, but I thought I pretty much remembered how, and M helped remembering the ingredients, and so the little daughter and I went out to the local vast cavernous A and P, and we bought fish and kasha and chicken broth and bread crumbs and broccoli and cauliflower and cheese and stuff, and came home and cooked it all, and it was all very yummy and nostalgic and successful.

(They didn’t have any really familiar-looking fish varieties, but the little daughter looked up “swai” on her “cellular phone” and found that it’s basically a kind of catfish, which is what it looked like, so we got that, even though it was “re-fresh” (that is, frozen and thawed) rather than actually fresh.)

Then while we were eating and talking about when we had first, and last, had Fish and Kasha, I remembered where the recipe of course was, and found it in the old weblog, in the entry for 7 November, 1999. A while back! And reading the recipe, it turns out we followed it pretty much exactly, down to getting Wolff’s kasha at A and P, and it being Sunday. (Although we didn’t do the extra skillet-involving steps with the kasha, and it still came out perfect.)

Here it is again, just for fun (note somewhat twee Rocky Horror reference at the beginning there):

Sunday Dinner: Fish and Kasha

This is a great dinner, because it doesn’t have many ingredients. I don’t like a meal with too many ingredients (did somebody yell “slut”?).

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut two catfish fillets (about a pound) into bite-size chunks. Take two bowls, pour some milk into one, and some bread crumbs into the other. Dip each chunk of fish into the milk, and then into the crumbs, and then put it onto a baking dish (mine is clear glass or pyrex or something; I don’t know if that matters). Cook 25-30 minutes, until tender. Do not overcook.

While the fish bakes, take about one cup whole-kernel kasha (a.k.a. buckwheat groats). We used to get this in five-pound sacks from Walnut Acres, but they don’t seem to have it anymore. Now we buy two-cup boxes of Wolff’s in the “funny furrin foods” section of the A&P. You can just boil it in chicken broth for about 15 minutes, but for a fluffier result: in a small saucepan, melt two Tbs butter in two cups (one can) chicken broth, with a dash salt and a dash pepper. At the same time, heat the kasha in a frying pan or heavy skillet over high heat, until hot and toasty. Pour the boiling stuff carefully into the kasha, lower heat to simmer, and cook covered about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has vanished and it all seems sort of done.

Steam some broccoli. That is, cut off the parts of the stem you don’t want to eat, and arrange for the top parts that you do want to eat to be exposed to steam (preferably in a steamer rather than just sitting in boiling water), until it feels right when poked with a fork. “Right” is entirely up to you.

While all that’s going on, melt another two Tbs butter in another saucepan (yeah, you’re going to have some dishes to wash, later). Dump in enough flour to mostly soak up the butter. Gradually add milk, a little at a time, stopping between each addition to stir until smooth. When you’ve got a good amount (use more milk for more but thinner sauce, less for less but thicker; it will thicken up somewhat when you add the cheese in any case), grate in some cheese (we like sharp Cheddar for this, but anything gratable that you like will work). Stir until the cheese is all melted.

Pour the cheese sauce over everything else, and eat.

The only hard part about this is getting everything to be done at about the same time. That, and cleaning up afterwards. But it’s all very yummy! The little daughter eats everything but the broccoli. The little boy used to eat the kasha back when he was a baby, but won’t anymore.

Tonight, all four of us ate pretty much everything. :)

On entirely other fronts, I’ve been playing Diablo III more, which surprises me somewhat given my not very enthusiastic first impressions. Turns out there’s something soothing (or something) about wreaking havoc through the same landscape and the same story multiple times, with varying character stats and types and varying nastinesses of monsters.

Most recently I’ve been playing in Hardcore mode, which means that if the character you are working on dies, it stays dead, and you need to start another one (or go back to leveling your comparatively unexciting non-Hardcore characters).

My first one, Ulf The Doomed, made it to level 30 before I got careless and he ended up surrounded by monsters, which isn’t usually a problem, except that multiple ones were taking turns freezing him so he could neither fight not heal himself, which definitely was a problem.

The second one, and my first what do they call them Wizard or Magic User or whatever, was Mary Death (a brilliant name, I thought), and she made it only to level 14 before dying due to my not having swapped the latest level of potions into her action bar, and left-clicking rather than right-clicking on the potions in inventory once I realized that, arg.

And that was all good fun, but I think I might be tired of Diablo III for awhile now, we’ll see. And I haven’t been in WoW or Glitch or anything that I used to play alot and have now temporarily forgotten about entirely, for some time.

On the other hand I’m still in Second Life for at least an hour or two, at least five or six days a week, even when real life is moderately stuffed with things (as it’s tended to be). Which says something. :)

2012/06/20

Hello again, goodbye

Oh, time is so long and fast, and sweet and cruel!

The other day (just yesterday?) a couple of boxes came UPS, heavier than usual boxes, and they were the boxes that we had been expecting from Stepmom down south.

The bigger box contained the old music box (the Old Music Box) from my childhood (and the smaller one had the five toothy metal cylinders that we have, that one plays on it).

It’s a wonderful thing. I was fascinated by it as a kid; I recall spending endless hours examining it and puzzling over it and figuring out how it worked. No telling how accurate that recollection is, but I do remember exactly how to operate it, and the musical thunk that it makes when you put a cylinder in, and the sounds it makes when it stops normally, and when you stop it by holding onto the little paddle of the Jacot’s Patented Safety Check (“Sept. 22, 1886”). If I could smell it (one more reason to wish I could smell again), I’m positive the rich mix of wood and time and oil would be utterly evocative.

When I was a kid there was no Internet, so while I knew from the label on the inside of the lid there that it was a Peerless Forte-Piccolo (“Any Number of Cylinders may be Obtained for this Box”), I had no way of finding out anything else about it.

Now that there is the Web, I can find out easily that there are many to be had on auction all over the place, and that it is worth approximately SIGN IN OR REGISTER NOW TO SEE PRICES.

Also, among all those rather annoying pages, there is this wonderful page from The Music Trade Review of presumably some large number of years ago, which describes Jacot’s Interchangeable Music Boxes, of which the Peerless is “a popular priced instrument with a single spring”.

At the turn of the century (no, the one before that), one imagines that people would sit around and listen to the latest cylinder on these, in livingrooms (parlors?) all over the place, in between listening to Mother performing on the keyboard, Sister singing, and Younger Sister reciting “How Doth the Little Crocodile” or equivalent.

It’s surprisingly loud!

I wonder if I ought to be oiling it…

And then on the sad inevitable side of time, last night Gramma Jeanne finally broke the last fragile strands connecting her to her body, and left us for wherever. She would have turned 100 in August; here is a picture from more than ten years ago, that Dad took (and she said back then was okay to put in my weblog):

Her consciousness hadn’t been paying much attention to her body for a few years anyway, so her finally slipping off was no surprise, but it’s still a thing, a twinge, a sadness. It’s funny how, although she’s part of my identity, part of my childhood, part of my Self, I don’t remember very much specific about her. She was nice, indulgent, adoring of her only grandson, but not in a very embarrassing way, even by the standards of a little boy.

For awhile she and Grampa Proc (Samuel S. A. Proctor, technically my step-grandfather, deep-voiced and mahogany-skinned and genial, always smelling of pipesmoke) lived in a house with a big window that looked across Cedar Lake into downtown Minneapolis. And then later they lived in Hawai’i, where we actually visited them once or twice.

In the Minneapolis house, they had a lava-lamp! I remember sitting and staring at it for hours. And I remember as an adult trying to sit and stare at a lava-lamp for hours, and it somehow wasn’t the same.

Time is so long and fast, and sweet and cruel.

2012/06/17

Dingbat, the singing cat

Dingbat, the singin’ cat
He sung so high
But he was flat…

At least that’s how I remember Dad singing it. I remember him singing various things randomly.

(It turns out that “Dingbat the Singing Cat” was an actual thing, and actually sung to roughly the tune of Peter and the Wolf, although Dad and/or my memory seem to have transformed the words some. I didn’t realize that until I looked it up on the Interwebz just now.)

There was also

Be kind to your friends in the swamp,
For that duck may be somebody’s mother.

which I find is also an actual thing, again with perhaps slightly different words (I think I like ours better).

Mom was very partial to the “Let’s take a kayak to Juneau or Nyack” line from “Let’s Get Away From It All”. Although the line is actually “Quincy or Nyack”, and once again I don’t know if the “Juneau” version is Mom’s doing or mine.

Where’s Quincy, anyway, and why would one take a kayak there in particular?

But Mom was very fond of Nyack, which was just down Route 59 not too far, and had nice craft shops and art and stuff. Still does in fact! Although now it’s across the river, rather than just down Route 59. But still not too far!

I also remember the first few notes of Peter and the Wolf being used as the tune by which to sing “hey, ho, the radio!”, but I don’t know if that’s something Dad made up or got from some old comedy song (he loved Spike Jones, and I still do), or something that I made up or imagined.

Perhaps due to having enhanced my usual driving coffee with a Dunkin’ Donut or two (and those little shops are all the heck over the path from here to Boston and back!), I was apparently bouncing up and down and singing loud nonsense songs rather more than usual as we drove up that way this weekend for a (very successful and also triumphant) trip to apartment-hunt for the little boy.

And given that today is father’s day, I think that’s extremely appropriate. :)

Thanks, Dad!

2012/06/09

Paulie’s

So now I am sitting in Paulie’s Bar, 25 minutes or so from home, listening to the guy who we thought was supposed to start at 9 and who actually started 45 minutes later, playing a mic’d acoustic guitar and singing into the voice mic, sitting on a bar chair on the little stage (well, platform, raised maybe six inches above the floor on mysterious random somethings). He’s pretty good, and I’m enjoying him even over the noisy crowd (little girls the little daughter’s age or so, not a day over twenty-five anyway, fiddling with their smartphones and talking to each other easily over the music, the little boys with buzz cuts and those weird thin-line beard things, drinking Corona from the bottle, a few folks from my generation, the little boy himself at the table next to me here looking around).

“Rock me, Momma,” the guy sings, “like a southbound train.”

We’re here to listen to a group that a friend of the little boy’s, a fellow bass player who’s been a year or two at the school where the little boy starts in September, plays the bass in. They’re supposed to be on after this guy here with the guitar. They’re usually sort of folk-rock, the little boy says, but tonight they don’t have the cello or violin (I think it was), so they will be more like Funk.

Today we’ve been simultaneously looking for apartments for both tiny children, one for him in Boston (because A Certain School I Could Name doesn’t have even enough dorm space for incoming Freshmen for Pete’s sake), and one in Princeton for her because that is where she is going to start living and working now that she is an Adult College Graduate type. Both of which are completely ridiculous because just a minute ago they were like 8 and 12, sheesh.

It is nice that virtually all of this apartment-hunting stuff can be done over the Interwebz these days, although we have some firsthand reports about the most likely-looking Boston places from the above mentioned bass player, and we may actually go up and have a Realtor show us around, and the little daughter knows at least the neighborhood down Princeton way well already, if not the actual building.

Speaking of the little daughter being a College Graduate and all, here is extensive photographic evidence of the fact. It is an “album” on “the Facebook”, so I’m not entirely certain that it will be correct and/or visible to anyone or everyone, but give it a shot.

Busy times, eh? And that’s without mentioning all the other stuff that’s happening, because the other band, the one we came to hear, is now doing mic checks, so I think I will attempt to Publish this from the ‘pad here, an’ we will see what ensues…

2012/05/21

Cat pictures!

I don’t usually post family and cat pictures much, but I can’t resist these two from M’s weblog:

<3 :)

2012/04/28

Night Life

I so need to get into Peekskill more! Terrible how many years I’ve lived right down the street from this artsy little town, and gone to barely a handful of events.

Or to reuse a Facebook posting and put it more positively:

So I am sitting here in the Beanrunner Cafe in Peekskill (good crowd!) ordering soup and a sammich and mocha for dinner, listening to the music while the performers (including my little son, of whom I am wildly proud) set up, and Suzanne freaking VEGA is apparently performing down the street at the Paramount, and I am having my iPad here and I am reading my mail and buying digital books on the innerweb which instantly appear to be read, and now I am posting here, while sitting at this little table with a candle an’ everything.

Woot!!

and then I put up a Facebook photo gallery (my first!) of (dark, blurry, cellphone) pictures of the whole experience.

It was an absolutely wonderful time. The owners and lead performers were elated that they managed to pack the house even playing opposite Suzanne Vega (I would guess that having six High School students in the troupe and therefore drawing in parents and uncles and aunts and grammas and grampas may have had something to do with that, heh heh, although objectively speaking it was in fact a great time). The overly talkative people at the table behind me (why would you come to a live music performance and then TALK NONSTOP, LOUDLY SO AS TO BE ABLE TO HEAR EACH OTHER OVER THE MUSIC for half of the second set?) even partially redeemed themselves by asking me on their way out if the bass player was my son, because they’d thought I looked like him.

I had a big glass of wine (in addition to yummy soup and a wrap sandwich and a big mocha coffee), and while it didn’t hurt my driving-home any I feel somewhat hung-over this morning. (Or maybe it was just the kitten being all excited and/or sleeping on my legs much of the night.)

But it was so worth it…