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Rumilluminations June 23 -July 19, 2008
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, June 23 2008 - 12:48 pm

July 19, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

What's the difference between superstition and religion?

The only difference that I can see is consensus.

Sure, I have read a thing or two about the immorality of astrology, but that is in the eye of the moralist, isn't it?

Some traditional Islamic practices practices are immoral to Christians, and vice versa, I'm sure.

I heard the other day that for the first two centuries of Christianity, going to war (or at least taking up arms) was considered against the religion.

These days, among many Christians, the idea that people can survive without bearing arms or participating in war seems like a  impracticality amounting to superstition!

I can't decide if I am less superstitious than I seem, or more so.  People who think I would do something completely off the wall for superstitious reasons are right.  But people who think I would jump off a cliff because my horoscope tells me it might be a good time to try flying just don't know me.

Belief can make you happy in small ways.  It can give you a lift or comfort you.  This is harmless enough, isn't it?  The worst it can do is give you silly stories to tell that bore your less tolerant friends.  Maybe more fun-loving ones will be amused!

Religious people should get off their high horses when it comes to superstition!  Either that, or give their teen-age daughters the benefit of the doubt when they get pregnant!


July 18, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

A couple days ago I took my daughter to visit a friend who is living by Mink Lake for the summer.  We stood there, slapping at mosquitos, watching fireflies in the woodsy perimeter of the clearing.  After a visit inside and an external descent into deeper evening, we went out again and watched the progress of the fireflies higher up into the trees.

That location has the best firefly display I have seen since the one in the Union Street Cemetery here in Valparaiso thirty-five years ago!  If there are fireflies in Santa Fe, I never saw them.  Come to think of it, I don't remember lightning bugs in Corvallis either.  Fireflies like moist environments. 

And is it ever moist here!  "Muggy" is the proper word for it, combined with "hot".  Sticky miserable.  My daughter says she'll never come here in July again.

A couple of weeks ago I moved my bed.  I sleep a lot now in my parents' former master bedroom in this turn-of-the-century house.  They had their bed squarely under the windows facing the bedroom door - for fifty-plus years!  It never moved!

Of course I had to put mine in a slightly different location, but I only moved it over a few feet.  I thought I wanted my head near the window.

When I moved my bed, it was for feng shui reasons.  I wasn't thinking of the view.  I changed its direction to face the outside door to the house one story below.

Now when I wake in the morning I hear the same sounds I did before.  I often stir to the robin's musing croon.  A few minutes later, a cardinal conversation interrupts, and its whoops discourage the robin from further vocalization.  A morning dove trills in coquettish objection when a male pursues her, intent on starting another brood before the season is over.

(You can almost perceive the linear deafening rush of the passing trains as frames for these lovely vignettes of sound!)

Opening my eyes, I face three square multi-paned windows which set off the evergreens stirring outside.  This the unexpected reward I get for moving my bed.

God, this place is beautiful!

(I had a bath last night, so I'm not too sticky.  And if I don't move too carelessly, I won't rouse my mosquito bites into itchy action!)


July 16, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

Sorry for the interruption!  This is the first time in almost two weeks I am writing on my website from home (and not a library!)  What a marathon of modem-failure, sickness, fun and out-of-town visitors!

So I'm going to celebrate my return by just writing something I jotted down in the wee hours the other day.  (It's a hot and lazy day.)

When I was in my early twenties I had some nightmares about being split in two.  (Very reminiscent of Anna Karenina, which I read shortly thereafter, I believe, because my dream reminded a friend of the character.)

In later years a psychiatrist said he thought my problems at the time (and later in a similar situation) were simply the result of an emotional split.

But maybe it was a more basic problem that was responsible for the emotional splits.  Maybe the splits were a symptom rather than the cause.

When my Dad was in his later years he would sometimes have trouble relating what he saw (lights ahead on the highway, for example) to what they represented.  It was as if two parts (functions) of his brain had stopped communicating.

Maybe a dream about being split apart is the result of an actual physical and operational split that is a harbinger of problems to come.  (In the case of my emotional attachments, if I have trouble integrating what someone says (what I am hearing) with what someone appears to be doing (what I am seeing) I tend to believe my eyes.  (Because it is easier to lie with words?)  But why not integrate the two functions in my mind to obtain a truer picture?

There is a new term in the mental health field called "sensory integration" that may deal with these issues.

Anybody thought of Anna Karenina-type splits as the result of deeper causes than "morality" or emotion?  Can anybody relate these problems to difficulties with "sensory integration?"

Just wondering!  When I have tried to learn more about sensory integration via the internet I don't get much of an overview!

Maybe I'll have to read a book!

July 10, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I took a real vacation.  Went to the Dunes National Shoreline or whatever the old Dunes State Park is now called.

Walked over what we used to call the swamp, which I found out this time is really a marsh.  (Swamps have trees in them.  Marshes only have shrubs and waterplants and stuff like that.  How did I get to age 61 before I learned that?)

Ended up walking for miles through the woods to avoid a straight-ahead over-very-sandy-dry-dunes formidable hike to the beach.  Dunes are hard.  For every foot you step up, you sink a few inches back down.  (It's best to walk in someone else's footprints.  Remind you of anything?)

We wanted to see the woodlands anyway.  My hiking companion found a tiny birds' nest in the path no more than 2.5 or 3 inches across on the inside.  Hummingbirds' nests are even smaller, I believe.

We saw a bright orange fungus in ruffled layers that was a glowing bright light amid the shady green leaves.  A botanical photographer that I encountered later told me it is edible.  I wish I had thought to ask him how to prepare it!  It was moot anyway.  You aren't supposed to take stuff out of public lands.

When we got to the lake, we were the only discernable humans in either direction.  We had the beach to ourselves!  The lake was blue-gray due to the partly cloudy weather, but the stinging sand flies made the idea of going in irresistible to me.  I only went waist high, but dancing in the dancing waters, looking at the play of color in the waves and wavelets, brought me higher than I had been for quite a while.  I think the best view of the shore was to be had from the water!

Presently I saw the first parasailer I have seen at Lake Michigan, held aloft by a colorful parachute with big looping vents in the bottom side.  I was surprised at how long those rides can be!

We heard a big lingering boom that sounded more like an explosion than thunder while we were at the shore coming from the direction of Gary, but we couldn't see a thing.

Tried skipping a few stones, then headed back to the shelter where we had parked the car.  Did a little looping around trying to get there, which brought us by stuff we hadn't seen on the way in.  I saw a cinnamon fern that was taller than I am!  In the end we must have walked at least six or eight miles, thrashing towels at the pesky mosquitos all the way.

Not the most bloodthirsty mosquitos I have ever encountered, but you might rather remember the insect-repellent form of defense!

As we pulled out of the parking lot, the first few drops of a summer shower hit the windshield of the car.  A very satisfactory "day" (more like 45 minutes!) at the beach - a great vacation destination only 15 miles from home!

(And if you are near the South Shore, which runs from Millenium Park in Chicago to South Bend IN, you can take the train out to the Dunes Station for a pittance and walk to Lake Michigan from there!) 


July 9, 2008                                     Valparaiso, IN

Whew!  I've been sitting here for ten minutes - I don't have writer's cramp, I have mind cramp!

Or maybe I have writer's block, or blog block!  (In my case, blahg block!)

I was lying in bed this morning when I had my first really good psychological perception in a while, but do I remember it now?  No.

While I have to have faith that it will return to me to be written about another day, I cannot help but marvel at my ability, when I am horizontal, to imagine that, all evidence to the contrary, I will remember what I consider really great ideas when I am vertical!

It doesn't make sense.  Presumably, when I am horizontal, more blood is getting into my head.  This blood should bring more oxygen to my brain, so my thinking processes should be in top form!  I should be not only coming up with great ideas, but also storing them in some easily accessible mental file so I can come up with them on demand even when I am vertical!  Or failing that, my brain should be smart enough to know that when vertical I am relatively oxygen deficient and need to write the idea down!

Why isn't it?  Why don't I reach for the pen and paper?  Why don't I know by now that I cannot trust myself to remember all my.......

Zzzzzzzzzzz.... anthropological metempsychosis....zzzzzzzz

July 8, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

This morning when I took the garbage out, the sweetness of the air blew me away.  Seriously, not ironically!  Once the garbage lid was on the container and the container on the curb, all I could smell was the fragrance of flowers.

I wondered if it could be the alyssum that I had planted.  It smelled good, but couldn't be the whole story!  Closer to the driveway was the milkweed.  One stalk that was sticking out over the sidewalk is broken but still blooming.  Another is seven feet tall this year!  The balls of pink blossoms with petals going both up and down like teeny chunky irises are at least four inches across.  Sole support of the monarch caterpillar, these plants smell good too.  (Last week I saw a monarch butterfly in our side yard - a product of our local butterfly factory?)

What about the phlox?  I went over and smelled them.  Also sweet!  And that doesn't even count the butterfly weed, close relative of the milkweed, that is blooming beautifully across the street.

Spring may be gone, but the smell of sweet love is still in the air!

(Oh, and an unpleasant footnote:  Today I saw a wild grape leaf with four or five Japanese Beetles on it in the middle of the phlox and berry patch - too far away to easily reach.

I knew the Great Japanese Beetle Disappearance of 2008 was too good to be completely true!)

July 7, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

While out on a walk with or without toy poodle Harley, I find nothing quite so disconcerting as dogs throwing themselves against their prison walls, barking furiously as if they would tear us apart if they could get out.

I find it disconcerting because all too often they do get out.

What dogs' owners may not realize is that these seemingly vain attempts are effective body-building exercises.  Your fence may be way beyond the dog's power to escape when he is a pup or when he is first put in the fenced yard, but a year or two of vaulting exercise may just improve his muscles to the point where he can escape and wreak havoc on his owners' neighbors or on passers-by.

A very intelligent friend of mine learned this to her chagrin when she had to go "bail" her very sweet dog out of "jail."  For her it meant a five dollar fine (multiplied by at least four by now, I'm sure!) but pit bull and other big or big-jawed dog-owners beware!

I saw a TV court case in which a pit bull's owner had to pay $900 to a neighbor for a scratched-up-truck repair.  I was disappointed by the failure of the judge to comment that the owner was lucky it wasn't a wrongful death lawsuit.

Well, that case wasn't exactly parallel because it was a house escape.  But the principle is the same.  High enough to contain your dog one month might not be high enough to stop him the next.  Quick enough to stop him at the door now?  Over time you might have to become twice as quick.

Please be aware that owning a living pet is like playing the oboe - you have to deal with a constantly changing situation!

(If only we could teach the doggies to play musical instruments and lounge around in hammocks back by the pool, sipping lemonade from tall plastic summertime tumblers, instead of obsessing about little ol' toy poodle and me!)

July 6, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

Today I am at the University Library about twice as far from home as the public library, which is closed on Sundays.  (One of my pet peeves.  If they are going to close on the Christian Sabbath, why not on the Jewish one?  Don't tell me it is because no one wants to work on Sunday.  I, for one, have for years been happy to work on Sunday!  It's the best way I know to avoid the Sunday afternoon blahs, next to just treating Sunday like any other day.)

Anyway, after I finished writing yesterday, I had an even more bizarre encounter than had transpired before I logged on!

In the lobby I saw a gentlemen who looked familiar from the Banta senior center and we got to talking about retirement communities in the area.  Another woman and her son (?) joined us and I started enthusing about Barack Obama's book.

The pair palpably shut down immediately.  Subtly, but palpably.  The woman, maybe in her forties, said, "Yes, but what religion is he [Obama]?"

I was immediately nonplussed.  "I don't care! " (I thought) but I answered, "Christian."

I'm sure I didn't say it with convincing certitude because not being God, I am unable to read peoples' hearts and minds to answer such a question.  Obama says he is a Christian, why is she asking me, a stranger?

I sure wasn't going to tell her that I didn't care because I'm not necessarily her definition of Christian!  (Actually, not mine either but here in Valpo I don't broadcast the fact (er, except by internet, it seems!)  You never know, I might be burned at the stake!)

The son started talking about how "they" are waging a war for "your hearts and minds."

Woowoo time.  What the hell was he talking about?  I began to feel as if I was in some sort of bizarre movie with very serious fanatical crazy people in it.

Before I could find out where they were coming from (besides divining that they must really believe that Obama is a closet Muslim!) they excused themselves.  I hurried out the front door, remembering that I myself was due somewhere at that very moment.

Since our dialog was cut off, of course I continued one with myself.

Did I really not care what religion Obama is?

I had to admit to myself that I would be a little hesitant to vote for a practicing Muslim, because the Muslim cultures have such a different view of women.  But, hell, if I could be convinced that a Muslim President would uphold the constitution and be as disinterested a representative of us all as possible, sure I would vote for a practitioner of Islam!

I wish I were not so nervous about a Christian President as I am, since our choices right now are Christian - or (ta-da) - Christian!

For me the frontrunner religion-wise would be an agnostic!  Or maybe an atheist.  An atheist might be okay.

Maybe then our public library would be open on Sunday!

Having reached this point in my internal dialog (after walking two blocks toward my destination) I remembered that I had ridden my bike to the library!

I had to walk back to get it.

Those folks really threw me for a loop!            

July 5, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

Today I had to come to the library to use the computer because my second modem in two years (I believe!) died.

When I first walked in I was turned away because I didn't have my library card (still stashed with credit cars and driver's license in yesterdays pants!)  When I tried to weasel past the rules, I was addressed firmly by the aide at the desk.  "Ma'am," she said earnestly, and "blah blah blah...."

If I had something in mind to write about day before yesterday when my modem died (often I have eight or ten things to write about!) it has gone defunct.

Yes, it is wonderful to have someplace to go when I can't log on to the Internet at home, (I had nowhere to go yesterday!) but the bureaucracy is painful.

In Corvallis, OR, it is relatively easy to get to a computer at the library.  Here in Valparaiso, IN it is a little harder (more streamlined than it was two years ago!) but once you get on you don't automatically get bumped off after an hour like you do in Corvallis.

Anybody who has real business to conduct on the computer could reach the point of making a decision and get bumped right at the crucial moment!

Let's face it, having computers in libraries for the public is a wonderful thing, but it is no match to having access at home.

At home I often log in at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. so that no matter what unexpected responsibilities or pleasures the day brings, I have already had the pleasure of saying "Hi!" to you!

Heh - and/or venting to you!  Plus I have some of my best ideas early in the morning!

After being turned away to walk back home in the heat to get my library card (and quickly riding my bike back) I gained access to a computer.  Luckily I didn't have to wait.

But honestly, this is a small city if not just a mere little town!  I used to use the computer at this library almost daily.  I have spent hours over the course of several months shelving books gratis, I work in the Book Sale Room once a month (and donate books by the bagful to the library), and we have a book club here now (I'm told because of my offer to start one.)

I have tried to get a job at this library a couple of times and been turned away (I get the impression because I talk too much) even though I have worked hard and efficiently at jobs that would reduce some of the soft small-town staff here to a puddle of misery.  Just because I talk a lot normally doesn't mean I talk a lot on company time when there is work to do!

I know the name of the employee who turned me away.  Even if she is scared to bend the rules and didn't know my name, did she have to call me "Ma'am?"

Dang, it's irritating!

July 3, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

Why are people so willing to be so cynical about Presidential candidates?  Why do we seem to think the only good one is the one closest to being ourselves?

I don't want a President just like me.

I'm addicted to chocolate.  I want to spend hours either playing computer games or reading escape literature.

I want to have some fun!  I can't imagine spending my whole life at serious pursuits, where even a social occasion is a potential policy or fundraising discussion.

Why are we so cynical about candidates' motives?  Especially the rich ones!  Who with the financial freedom to do anything they want would choose to sit in meetings, for God's sake?  Those get old pretty fast!

People like Mother Theresa and Ralph Nader prove that people who have an incredible stamina for hard, serious work dealing with the more difficult sides of life do exist!

And those of us who like our sleep (when we can get it!) and our down-time trivial pleasures should be thankful that there are people with the dedication and caring of these folks!

We should appreciate that they are willing to do what we are not willing to do!

Thank you, Hillary Clinton and John McCain and Barack Obama!

But I'm still gonna vote for the one of you most like me!

Er, I mean, the one who holds the values I most espouse!

Er, that is, who I think holds the values most like mine...

Well, you know what I mean!  The one most like me who is also smarter, wiser, more hard-working, dedicated, and self-sacrificing...

Most likely, most any of you!

Thanks, guys and gals!

July 2, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

This morning I accessed the world wide web via a search for Sallie Mae vampires.  Why?

Yesterday morning, while I was still flushed with success after writing a dynamite article here, the phone rang - at 8 o'clock in the morning.

My daughter, I thought.  Or possibly a particular friend.

Neither.  There was a pause, and then a tape recording came on, which wished me a good morning and then proceeded to "tell" me that it was "important" that "we" speak with "you" - meaning, presumably anyone who might be visiting - etc. etc.  Important to whom, I wonder?

What do you do when you get an anonymous recorded telephone message on a cell phone?

Hang up, of course.

Five minutes later, the phone rings again, the same message begins, and I hang up again.

The third time I heard the telephone ring (after my trying to call the number back to at least find out where the calls were coming from and getting a busy signal (of course - tape recordings don't get out of breath and they don't get tired!)) a human being was on the phone.

She said she was calling from Sallie Mae about my daughter's student loan.  I started expostulating about the rudeness of the tape-recorded phone call.

She interrupted me to tell me that it was "no big deal."  Ah, I am obviously a valued client that one must treat with a good deal of respect!

I said maybe not to her generation but it was to mine, that I am very aware that corporations think that their employees' time is more valuable than mine, but that for some strange reason I think the opposite, that my time is more valuable than theirs.

Somehow I ended up "screaming" and she said she didn't have all day to be on the phone with me.  I said "you called me" and told her I considered the repetitious phone calls with no identification harassment.  (I wouldn't swear to the exact order here - I'm sure the Company has tape recordings!)

She proceeded to tell me that my daughter was late on her payment, and she would owe late penalties if a payment for $88.62 wasn't paid immediately.

I asked what the late penalty would be.  She said she didn't know and said she would try to find out.

A man came on the line.  He gave me some gobbledegook about what the penalties were would depend on the nature of the loan and blah blah blah...

So let me see.  It is important that "they" talk to me "personally" but cannot give me any details as to what we are talking about.

I started to say something to him, and I was again interrupted so I raised my voice saying, "Let me finish my sentence!"  I felt like a guest on one of those interview programs where everyone just keeps talking over everyone else for paragraphs!

By this time I was so confused and agitated I couldn't think clearly, but I did see my way clear to making a payment via a credit card.

Now, of course, I'm afraid it was a scam.

But my daughter tried to call later in the day and was hung up on and bounced onto a tape recording loop.  Yeah, probably the same group!

I guess she finally got the message to them that they were to call her first.  They said they tried.  She said they did not.  She, too, has a phone that records attempted phone calls.

She informs me that she calls "them" the "Sallie Mae Vampires."

She is not alone.  One of the websites I accessed,, had a horror story by one MJA about his student loan experiences at the hands of Sallie Mae.  From his saga I learned that no, Sallie Mae will not garnish social security wages, but that one of the collection companies owned by Sallie Mae can.

He talked about the "new indentured servitude" and he is not kidding.

I've felt that way about my daughter's situation for a long time.  Paying off her Sallie Mae loan keeps her at poverty level.  (The phone call to me was about a small portion of her Sallie Mae debt that I co-signed for!  She makes payments big enough every month for a poet to live on!)  It would be nice if one of the literally thousand billionaires in this country would take pity on my lovely daughter, a hard-working environmentalist, and pay off her loan for her.

But they are all out there windsurfing or leaving a big old carbon nation-print jet-setting around.

Meanwhile yesterday, here at home, the song "Sixteen tons" kept popping up in my head - all day!

P.S. Another website, called sounds good.  I'll look it up next.

July 1, 2008                                         Valparaiso, IN

When I was living in New Mexico and in Oregon when I moved into a new neighborhood I was largely ignored.  (Unlike when I was growing up and my Mom would go visit newcomers, take them some cookies maybe to show good will, and then ignore them!)

I didn't really mind it until I had lived there for a while.  Then I realized it was probably a function of certain homes.  Why bother to get to know the people in that house when they are probably going to move out in a couple of months anyway?

And the people in the houses are more likely to move out if they are treated as if they don't exist!

Now we have new neighbors.  It is forty years later and I don't think anyone expects anything from new neighbors anymore, do they?

The feeling I get from most neighbors is that they mainly, aside from a certain neighborly attitude, want to be left alone.

And please don't blame this on my website!  "She's a writer, and she might write about me!"  I'm sure they don't even know I have a website.

For my part, I am hesitant to approach the clusters of young people that seem to be moving into my neighborhood.  They are busy, they have their own concerns.  I want to say hello and welcome but I don't really know how.

The closest I came to it was yesterday when I saw one of them doing what looked to be lawn restoration.  He was actually out there alone for a few minutes and I almost overcame my shyness and went over to introduce myself.

But no, he might think I'm a cougar!

Most of the people I know might scream with laughter if they read this.  Esther shy!  She's the opposite of shy!

Ever heard of overcompensation?

Anyway the reason I started talking about getting to know neighbors at all was to address the deplorable ignorance of many United States citizens (including myself) when it comes to knowing our neighbors in Africa.

What is the use of learning who is the "President" of Zimbabwe when in a few years there might not only be another "President" but there might be another country with another name in the general (but not exactly the same) area?  And it's all on the other side of the world anyway?

It becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon.  The more apparent instability and carelessness (or powerlessness!) these nations manifest, the more we ordinary citizen tend to throw up our hands.  The more ignorant we are, the less we care about what happens there, and the less influence we have.  (Oh, I know that isn't necessarily a strictly logical (or true or necessary progression!) but you get the idea of what I'm trying to say.

But boy, hasn't that 80-something-year-old teenager Mugabe put Zimbabwe on the map, though?

What a character!  Does he think he is going to live forever?

He has the teen-age gall to tell the "West" to "go hang" when it is only through the forbearance of older, wiser countries that he exists at all?  What a laugh!

When the Grim Reaper comes to his door, if Mugabe tells him to "Go hang" Death might just think Mugabe's making his choice from the menu! 

June 30, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I made a grisly discovery in our basement - a youthful dead rabbit on the widest ledge down there.

An unfortunately not too recently dead and not very small dead rabbit.  I had not been down in the basement (where we do laundry) for five days or so and was first alerted to the fact that something was wrong by the smell.

(My petite mom, who had been down there, does not see very well and does not smell very well either.  Unfortunately, the tens of slugs (or whatever they were - CSI where are you?) that were feasting on that poor little being's body could smell well enough to find the banquet of their lives.)

It was left to me to clean it up, since it was not a human animal and I don't think 911 exists for the likes of bunny rabbits.

It's too bad numbers don't have upper and lower cases like letters do.  We could have lower case emergency number like 911 for lower level emergencis and minor purposes.  We do have bigger and smaller fonts, though.  Maybe we could have a whole new tier of telephone numbers corresponding to the ones we have but with different functions.

911 for human and "higher level" emergencies     911 for pet emergencies and minor human mishaps. 

A regular sized number for adults.    The same number on the alternate system for the use of  their children - and pets (ha, ha!) 

Maybe with all the new physics of small coiled areas we can link 'em up and find new technologies for smaller considerations.

Maybe actors who play in crime scene investigation series could come take care of our small tragedies as training for their acting jobs!  Method acting with a vengeance!

This experience has certainly made their performances seem pale.  While dealing with this rabbity death, I found it impossible not to emit disgusted (and disgusting, I'm sure!) noises.  At first I tried to stifle myself, but then it occurred to me that maybe making such noises (all the while breathing out a good deal and in as little as possible) might be a good survival instinct.

Keep the noxious bacteria at bay!

It has really made me aware of why we care so much about proper burial and dignity for the bodies of our deceased loved ones.

I already knew I didn't want to die and leave an undiscovered mess for someone else to discover!  Imagine bunny multiplied by 100!

If I'm alone when I die, I hope it is in the ocean, in the ice, or in the desert! 


June 29, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday after the wonderful garden tour I went home, ate and rested a little.  But then that restless, gritchy, discontented feeling I used to experience every Sunday afternoon after a morning at church and dinner set in.

This is the week-end!  Time to get out and do something!

I resolved to go on a long bike ride.

Helmet on head, water bottles in backpack, I headed out!  Before I had gone a mile I knew where I was going.

So what if it was thirteen miles away?  I was going to Taj!

Taj is the closest Indian restaurant in the area, and I love Indian food.  I hadn't been there for months.

So what if it was already 3:15?  It was also one of the longest days in the year!

The ride is beautiful.  Once you get clear of town, you can take county roads that roll through cornfields, soybean fields, wheat fields and upper-crust suburbia.  Cars do not pass you so often you feel like you have to constantly look over your shoulder.

I saw vetch and red-winged blackbirds and muskrats (or beavers - they were on the other side of a green field) and a swaybacked horse with a mask over its eyes (to protect it from flies?)  The mask didn't stop it from eating its grass dinner.

It took me an hour and a half to get there on my hybrid bicycle, pretty much taking it easy the whole time.  I remember sweating, but not panting.

Taj was open earlier than I expected - yay! - and empty of customers.  I ordered an ochra dish that is wonderful (and okra is not normally one of my favorites) and chi, which is tea with hot milk and spices.  (A restauranteur in Santa Fe told me the magic ingredient is green cardomom at his restaurant, the India Palace.)

When I left for home an hour later, a few raindrops smattered and I prepared myself for the possibility that I might arrive at home very wet and very cold.

It didn't happen!  I did have to face headwinds for the last couple of miles that were so disorienting that I ran off the road, almost hitting a sign (!) but luckily I just did a curve on a business lawn and was back on the roadway with no trouble (except that the people in the vehicle behind me probably thought I was nuts!)

When I got home, flushed with victory and the joy of the ride with plenty of daylight left (7:50) and told my mother where I had been, she said, "That's insane."

Well, maybe she is right.  I went to bed in the dark and woke up not only with Barack Obama (in text form!) but also the clothes I had worn to the garden tour.

But when I got out of bed this morning I put on a pair of jeans that hadn't fit me for months!

Crazy, but skinny!

June 28, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I know I'm tempting fate when I say this - but I have only seen one Japanese Beetle this year!  Was it the cold winter?  Was it the rainy wet Spring?

Or are they just off to a late start this year?

I was walking along the street marveling at a beautiful pink hollyhock, and I started wondering why I was marveling.  No Japanese Beetles marring the blooms and chewing the leaves, that's why!

I went to several gardens on a garden tour today and did not see one Japanese beetle!  Now, admittedly, these gardens belong to fabulous gardeners who have tried (and pretty much succeeded!) to put their gardens in tiptop shape, but still... I haven't even seen Japanese Beetles along alleyways this year!

(Oh, now I know I have crossed the line and tempted the Fates just once too often!  I wonder how much area their retribution of me will cover?  Will my sins be visited upon the heads of my hollyhock-growing neighbors?)

June 27, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

Tomorrow there is a garden tour in Valparaiso, and I'm planning to go.

I wonder if that is why I was inspired today to pull weeds along the curb whose messy infringement of my territory failed to motivate me in the past?

Maybe tomorrow's tour is what inspired me to fertilize my pathetic Alyssum (grown from seed by me, I'm not particularly proud to say!) for only the second time since planting!

A friend of mine who came by a week or two ago was impelled to pull some weeds from around my veggies.  How come I'm not?  Maybe I figure my vegetables, a little too leggy from inadequate sun, need the weeds as a physical support!  (What will keep them from being crushed under a hard rain?  Certainly not those wimpy stems!  What a wonderful excuse!)

No amount of last-day grooming will give our yard and garden areas what they would need to compete with some of the best-groomed gardens in town, but they look better than they did this morning.

If this garden tour provided the inspiration I needed for garden clean-up, maybe it's time for me to attend a fashion show!

June 26, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

Maybe Valparaiso is beginning to grow on me.  Even though a map puts lightning bugs as existing all over the country, I have only seen them here (and in campgrounds in this region.)

Today I tackled the job of cleaning our extremely messy pest-infested garage and decided to take out some left-over construction materials (old lumber, plasterboard, and insulation - also old mops, a never-used grill, etc. etc.) to see if the recyclers would take them.  I fully expected to have to lug all the stuff to a landfill myself.

While I was out there a personable young man passing through to his trash-collecting work in another part of town stopped and asked me if I wanted him to call someone to come get the stuff "right now!"  I said, "Well, sure!  Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

Another truck drove up within a minute or two and the driver asked me if I wanted him to take the stuff away.

I couldn't believe it!  Cell phones have got to be better than ESP, everybody knows that, but this kind of trash pick-up service I have never experienced before in my life!

The man who responded so quickly to his "buddy's" call told me they have switched to a ten-hours-a-day four-days-a-week schedule.  (I had that schedule working at Flowerland in Corvallis, OR and loved it!)  He said he was happy to keep busy because the day goes so much faster.

Amen.  Nothing more eternal than having a job twiddling your thumbs - especially if you are supposed to look like you are busy!

Yeah, Valparaiso is impressing me these days.  Gorgeous gardens, soft soft air, and dreamy trash-collection!  (Hey, if I were thirty or forty years younger those "sanitation engineers" (is that the job title these days?) would be something to dream about too!)

Ah, summer in the Vale of Paradise!

June 25, 2008                                     Valparaiso, IN

The day lengths are at their height.  I'm lucky if I get five hours of sleep in one fell swoop.

The dog I have been walking lately has fallen in love with an over-the-hill female down the street and cannot eat or go on a normal walk without being carried out of range of her charms.  (Lucky he's weightless!)

The young birds are clumsily swooping around, learning to fly.

I saw my first fireflies of the year on Midsummer's night, and now they are plenteous - on our property!  (Recipe - lots of viney dampness and undergrowth - in other words, nature out of control!)

Yesterday evening I saw my first Japanese Beetle of the year -five days later than last year.  Got him! (I think.)  The "rose garden" part of Ogden Gardens has lots of lilies and pinks instead of beetle-blackened roses and it looks great!

God's in his heaven (where he belongs, thank you!) and all's right with the world.

Here, and now.

(The Cicada tintinabulus in my ears are singing like crazy.

Maybe I'm a little in heat myself!)

June 24, 2008                                      Valparaiso, IN

How many search engines are there?  I have seen four on the list Dogpile searches.  The one that seems to find me the best is the one I really never heard of - Microsoft's Live Search.  For that reason (because it seems to be the search engine that really gives me specifically what I ask for) it is going to be my search engine of choice for a while.

I read and hear that Microsoft is disliked by many for their business practices, but if they are doing what the other search engines aren't, maybe they deserve more consideration.

Maybe "Live Search" is not the best name for attracting attention!  Maybe Microsoft should consider the power of the "o" as Yahoo and Google have done!

Even "Ask" is more attention-grabbing than Live Search!  (I learned about Ask from TV ads.  Has Live Search been advertised by Microsoft?  I don't recall!)

"Found!" or "Ola!" would be a better name, but something with at least two "o"s, like say, "Fooey!" or "Looker" or "Boost" or "Moocho" or "Old broom" might be even better.

If I think of more I'll put 'em here!  Right exactly here - not under another date!  P.S.  Ha!  "Hooters" works for a restaurant!  How about "Boobs"?  That way people can insult Microsoft at the same time they use the search engine.!

June 23, 2008                                       Valparaiso, IN

My yesterday's rant led me to think:  what is the true function of a search engine?

Is it reportorial?  If I put in the word "Oooobama!" (celebrate the power of "o!") should I get first and foremost exactly that at the top of the search result list?

If search engines are supposed to be reporting (which I always assumed they were) that is what I think they should do.  Truth in reporting would mean reporting what is closest to what is requested as possible.

A T-shirt manufacturer who wants to make T-shirts saying "Maybe McCain - McCaint!"  or "Oh, mama - Obama" or "Ooobama!" might want to check the internet first just to make sure I (or someone else) didn't already have the slogan up on a website!

And, if it is an exact quote, it should probably appear among the first listed.  That would seem like the obvious place for any such search agent to place a specific quote, wouldn't it?

Maybe we need more names or subtitles for different kinds of search engines, like "The most comprehensive massive paternalistic wash of disordered info!" or "Exactly what you asked for in the most logical possible order!"

Well, I'm sure marketers could think of way more catchy subtitles.  But you know what I mean.

A search engine is not a search engine is not a search engine - it is an engineered search!

And the user ain't doing the engineering!

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