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Rumilluminations April 2009
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Wed, April 01 2009 - 8:24 am

April 30, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

After the follies and cruelty of April comes wonderful May!  If a person can get out of his misery enough to notice, May is a beautiful consolation - especially here in Valparaiso.

May is reality just as much as April is.  It makes me wonder why so many parents and so many lovers seem to want to protect their loved ones from reality.  Reality can be bad, it can be good.  The best way to be protected from reality's worst is to be aware that things we call "bad" and "ugly" exist.

The reality of most days has its beauty.  If your daily reality has no loveliness, then you are truly one of those to whom change can mean only good!  (Provided you want the beautiful and the good!)

I'm not so sure I can go along with Keats that beauty and truth (i.e. reality) are the same.

But I would rather have a little less illusion to rudely awake from than be devasted by tornadoes that I didn't know existed!   

April 29, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

All this furor over the swine flu kind of confuses me.  Didn't I read a report that said 36,000 people in the U.S. die from flu every year?  That makes 4,000 a month!

I guess I'm glad that there are people who are so far-sighted as to see the danger of a pandemic in a relatively small number of cases in a neighboring country.  Yeah, yeah, I'm washing my hands more and rubbing my eyes less.

But isn't all this hype a case of being more afraid of the evil we don't know than the evil we do know and suffer from - that generic catch-all "flu"?

Bird flu, swine flu - better watch out, maybe next time it will be wolf flu!

April 28, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

When Jay Leno got sick (and missed work for the first time since he started doing the Tonight Show) I was surprised by the pang it gave me.  Not for him (although of course I wish him the best of health and everything else!)

No, it was a pang for me.  Jay Leno's monologue is part of my daily life!  I mean, if I had to choose between my morning cup of coffee and watching Jay Leno, that would not be a rough choice at all - I choose both!

When one of the shows NBC ran during Leno's brief absence turned out to be recent, we decided to watch Letterman.  Well, he got a chuckle or two out of me, but I think he is neither as funny nor as appealing as Jay is.  I can't understand the reason Letterman seems to have more snob cachet than Leno (who, admittedly usually works at popular appeal).  Maybe it is just that Letterman is broadcasting from New York, while Jay is in L.A.  The whole East Coast/West Coast thing.

Admittedly, I've watched Leno much more over the years than Letterman.  When I have seen Letterman I haven't been wowed by the intellectual interest of his content.  If Letterman grows on you, well.  I admit I've never given him the chance.  Ho hum.

I'm thinking I may have a long drought this summer without Jay Leno, but at least we can look forward to his earlier hour in the Fall!

Long life and many laughs to you, Jay!  And from you, too!

April 27, 2009                                Valparaiso, IN

Could not get on the internet all day.  Too distracted by car-swapping, grocery shopping, teeth-cleaning and paralysis induced by the prospect of spending an hour on the phone with Verizon to realize until a little while ago that my modem got all confused and shut down!

Thank you, April!

Went out to the garden.  Found out I have about twenty pea plants and some lettuce growing out there after all, in spite of wildlife scruffing!

Thank you, April!

Don't need any cavities filled (but who knows, April isn't over yet!)

This month is going to think it is human!  There are lots of humans who think they are April, and so they are.  I am May, myself - the masochist who manages to survive April.

But oops, I am speaking too soon.  Just kidding, fate - if you happen to be named April!

April 26, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

Is it true that most novels have a lifetime of only twenty years or so?  That is terrible!  A person could spend five years of his life slaving over a successful novel which could become unknown and insignificant to most people long before the writer's life is over.

Why does that strike me as so awful?  I've spent many years toiling in obscurity in libraries, food service, agencies and a clinic and all I have to show for that work is my survival in relative comfort.  Sure, I have partially supported kids.  But I'm talking about work other than familial.

If a writer is successful enough to support himself and others, why does it seem just too bad that he should be forgotten?  It is the fate of most of us.

Maybe it bothers me because I write.  Maybe it bothers me because a writer puts so much of himself into his work.  "If a writer lacks himself, he lacks all."  Who wrote that?  Some forgotten author, evidently!

Oh, well.  God's creation survives despite all His touters' efforts to pull it down.  Maybe for a human's creation to last twenty years is not half bad!  (Would-be novelists might consider making quilts, though.  Sometimes they endure a hundred years and more!)

Like some novels, come to think of it.

Heigh-ho, transience!

Only four more days to blame my all-too-human folly on April!

April 25, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

I had a fancy last night that "intend" was a contraction for "in the end" so this morning I tried to google it.  Good Lord, what a plethora of ???!

The first definition of "intend" I encountered included one I never heard of:  "To stretch."  Well, maybe... but not without the word "toward" added to the end!

Another definition is to "turn your eyes to."  Archaic, of course.

Of derivation I saw (only after looking at a few sites, even though derivation was part of both my yahoo and my google (ha, ha, they sound like synonyms for "funnybone", don't they?)) Middle English and Old French, with an "e" instead of an "i."  Also, Latin "intendere."

Oh, well.  So much for my fun idea of the derivation of "intend."

My search is kind of an example of the internet experience, though.  What information is helpful?  What information is actually real? (Er, in the virtual and physical sense, of course!  Er, no, I mean only in the external physical sense, because obviously it is real in virtual reality.  Oh, Lordy.)

John Good, a doctor who used to be at Arroyo Chamiso, said that too much information just confuses.  And boy, is the internet a cosmic context intending to confuse!  At least, that is what it does in the end.

Is my failure to find the kind of "fact" I am looking for a sign that my "fact" does not convey the whole story?  Well, claro que si!  (That means yes, obviously.  (Where does the "obviously" fit in?  What I said?  The subtle (well, maybe obvious to the speakers of Spanish!) meaning of that particular Spanish phrase?  Am I confusing you?  Well, that's the point!))

But no, really.  I know things aren't as simple as they seem, but sometimes simple is all I can manage and I have to do something, I think.

Hmmm, but wait.  That is how torturers feel.  They have to do something.  Too much information (like that torture doesn't work) is just confusing.  And paralyzing.  Hmm... maybe that is sometimes a good thing!  We don't always have to do something!

Sometimes we can just... do nothing!  Just... wait.

Oh, and sorry!  I didn't int'end to lead to torture!  I was just stretching!  And waiting!  What torture!

Whew.  Will I get through April without winding up foolish?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  Trailing off into the distance.....

                                                                     Don't come after me!  Stay back!  Stay back!

April 23, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

I find it difficult to imagine that 1 of every 5 Americans believe states or regions should have the right to secede from the Union.  Why do they think we have had peace on our soil (for the most part) since the Civil War?

If states were allowed to secede they would.  Then a greater possibility of constant strife between all the smaller "countries" would arise.  Border wars galore.

It just shows how capable of double-think people are.  These days, if you raise your voice a little, people say you are "yelling."  Yet one/fifth of those same super-sensitive individuals would let themselves in for the same kind of provincialism and strife that characterizes the Mideast and Eastern Europe.  (Yeah, I know Western Europe has been relatively peaceful for the last sixty years, but not as long as we have had peace within the boundaries of the U.S.)

I'm not pretending it has been violence-free in the States.  We have our problems.  But ask a random sampling of citizens whether they would rather live in a big peaceful country or a small country beset with strife at the borders, and see how they respond!

(Of course, if they reply that they'd rather live in their own small, "free", war-swept country, I admit I would chalk it up to false pride or insanity and discount it!) 

April 22, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

Grumple-nuk.  Gritch gritch gripe.  April is being cruel in its own nasty cloudy rainy way this year.  April showers bring May flowers, maybe, but where are my veggies?

The day after I planted peas and lettuce and put a barrier between them and small furry pests, I found a hole in the ground inside my fence!  Torn up soil can mess up the most careful depth planting, and I doubt that I'm close to perfect.

There look to be some survivors; we'll see how many.

(Speaking of survivors, a few kale plants have survived the winter.  Is kale edible the second year round?  That's assuming it's edible at its best.  I know some of you don't agree.  "But it's so good for you!")

The basil I planted is mostly dead.  I bought a mix of seeds and they sprouted beautifully but I must have done something wrong.  Out of sixty-some hopeful little plants probably at most a dozen remain.  Oh well, there is time to begin again.  Even a dozen plants are a bargain for the price of a pack of seeds and a little seedling soil (I'm willing to discount the labor "costs!")

My veggies haven't been the only casualties of April 2009.  Last fall the city took out an old silver maple from the strip between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house.  Seeing all that good-looking friable soil out there, I planted a bunch of small blue iris plants a friend gave me last fall.

They managed to survive winter on the back porch, but I'm not sure I'll bother to try to salvage any of them now.  City employees came by and conscientiously raked out all that nasty dead-looking brown stuff and reseeded their beautiful black soil with grass seed.

I'm looking like a mud-bespattered April fool indeed.

Grump gritch knuckle-bust grouse!

April 21, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

Argument in favor of newspapers vs. computerized news:  newspapers have huge pages to hide behind if you don't want to be seen by or talk to someone.  Try hiding behind a computer screen!

New argument against the death penalty:  jurors in Texas using the Bible to help determine the sentencing of an inmate now on death row.  (Juries should not be using any religious text in making legal decisions, and I can't believe the Supreme tossed out this case!  (Maybe it was on different grounds.)  How is some religious text in any way relevant to our laws, except maybe historically?  Did the jury also read the part in the Bible about adulterors being stoned to death?)

April 20, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

Here's a health tip for you:  Read your history!

My partner has been reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandberg which tells about Zacharay Taylor's death.

Evidently Taylor, against his doctor's orders, ate a big bunch of cherries with milk after a Fourth of July ceremony.  (Was he celebrating the George Washington cherry tree myth, I wonder?)

Well, anyway, he fell ill that evening and died five days later.

Not a coincidence, maybe.  An acquaintance of mine felt horrible last summer and went to the hospital with some kind of obstruction in his intestines.  Without medical intervention he might have died.

One of his doctor's told him he had eaten too many cherries!  (Another of his doctors demurred.)

The one who counseled against too many cherries (and grapes also, by the way) said that thick-peeled fruit can create a gelatinous mass that is capable of impacting a person's intestines.

Zachary Taylor died five days after he pigged out on cherries.  That is about the right time-table for death due to an impacted colon!

Morals of the story?  Don't eat too many grapes and/or cherries at one time, and read your history!

April 19, 2009                                Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday we went for a drive in the country immediately south of Lake Michigan.  We saw a live red fox!  In the "wild!"  That is by far the best out-of-zoo fox sighting I have ever experienced in my life.  He looked straight at our car, but was taking his time until I slowed down and pulled over to see him better.  Then he took off running, including crossing the railroad tracks.  Good thing there was no train coming! 

We also saw glossy yellow marsh marigolds in abundance along with spring cress and skunk cabbage, all in and around the marshes.  The same area will probably be a lot dryer come summer.

The bloodroot my mother transplanted into her yard umpteen years ago is blooming.  Now is the time to look for it in your local woods.  It has medicinal uses, but is toxic, so just look at it unless you know what you are doing!  Bloodroot has red sap that Native Americans used in the old days for war paint and ceremonial purposes.  The leaf has an interesting relationship with the blossom.  Very tender!

Last year driving in the same area I stumbled across some old vehicles on Derby Road off highway 12.  We revisited the road yesterday.  The vehicles are mostly trucks, mostly very rusty, but very quaint.  There is an old Sinclair fuel tanker that looks like a toy compared to what you see on the highway these days!  So cute!  (I can hear the ghosts of the drivers of those trucks snorting at my patronizing comment.)

With the inevitable pull of the Lake luring us to spend a few moments contemplating its vast calmness, it was an all-around good outing manageable even by my 90-year-old mom.

I'm thinking of making a Saturday morning drive a permanent replacement for the Saturday stumper!

April 18, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

Back to the subject of the seven deadly sins and seven saving graces:

Lust - wildfire                          Disinterest - clouds, cool weather

Envy - tornado                         Goodwill - sunshine

Pride - Cold mountaintop        Modesty - small, fresh stream

Gluttony - quicksand                Moderation - flowers, gentle breezes

Greed - earthquake, mudslide   Generosity - harvests, orchards

Anger - thunderstorm              Compassion - quiet starry night

Sloth - swamp                            Energy - a geyser

After mulling these over for a week or so (can it be called "mulling" if it is mostly unconscious?) I ended up writing these down off the top of my head, for the most part.

Just ideas, just in fun.  Have any better images?  I'm sure I've left out some important natural phenomena.  What would a desert be?

If you think of something more appropriate in any category, Let me know!  It's been a fun, if foolish project, anyway.

April 17, 2009                                Valparaiso, IN

Oh, April, April, how you make fools of us all!

The spring return of light is bursting upon us, the green buds are bursting, and we are bursting with - folly.

The Governor of Texas, Perry, is confused about the meanings of the words "sovereignty" and "responsibility" and is too content with his own status, evidently, to fathom the potential volatility of people hurting in a scary economy.

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh can rant and rave all he wants with no visible audience to be responsible towards. If his listeners were all in the same room with him, he might have to not only witness their responses to his outrages, but also treat them with some respect.

(Nah, he still wouldn't see his audiences.  If you get used to not seeing, you can be determinedly blind to what is right in front of you!  Or, more probably, his audiences would be self-selecting and therefore worshipful.)

Of course the same goes for us bloggers.  We can't see our audiences either.  And every human folly is displayed in full open bloom on the Internet!

Actually, not "we."  I'm a self-designated "blahger" because I refuse to be limited to any one particular subject or verbal activity.  Do I imagine that my "blahger" label makes me more disinterested - or more humble?  What a Year Round Fool!

In fact, what a big old aromatic spring bouquet of April Fools we are!

I'd trade us all in for a bunch of sweet violets. 

April 16, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

All this brouha about Tea-parties has me confused.

I always thought "T" was for "two", but now I find out it stands for "tax."

My partner thinks it is amusing that some of the demonstrators dressed up as Revolutionary soldiers, because the original tea party colonists dressed up as native Americans!  (Known in those days as Indians.)

Ha, ha, fake Western Indians throwing out a product of the Indians of the East!

Well, that was then, this is now.  I was a little concerned about the environment - all those folks dumping huge quantities of tea into our waterways.  If you were a fish, would you like your water all stained brown and polluted with caffeine? (Hm, maybe that last wasn't a good example of an undesireable pollutant!  I think I need another cuppa!)

I guess I needn't have worried about the environment.

The only tea dumped into waterways seemed to be the word "tea" printed on empty wooden crates!

Let's see.  Fake neo-colonials dumping non-existent tea in an anachronistic demonstration inappropriate and definitely not parallel to the original protest in Boston Harbor.

Were they teasing us?

April 15, 2009                Valparaiso, IN

Just remembered this A.M.  I think Bin Laden did try to set up a permanent headquarters in Somalia before he had to go back and settle in Pakistan.  He lived there for several years, I believe.  (If you want to find out about this, read The Bin Ladens - that's the only book I've read about Osama bin Laden.)

One of my favorite laughs from Jay Leno is when he said, "I don't understand how someone like Charles Manson can get people to go out and kill other people.  'C'mon, let's go out and kill some people today.'  I can't even get four people together to go out for pizza!"

(My apologies for butchering your joke, Jay, but I am going somewhere with this, honest!)

I remember reading in the I Ching that if you want to succeed with the people, your proposals have to be in accord with what they really want.

Osama bin Laden's ambitions to kill make Charles Manson, in comparison, look like pretty small stuff (Uh-oh, his monumental ego will now require him to recruit someone to... well, say no more - if they are dumb enough to do something like that maybe they will be too dumb to figure out what I was going to say, ha ha!)

But maybe the success of these leaders to the kill is not because they are exceptionally charming and persuasive.  A chilling thought:  maybe these guys are so good at getting people to kill because that is what their followers really want to do.  Kill people.

(Is that why wars are started - because people just like to kill people?  Are all the other "reasons" superficial self-deception?  Grim!)

On the other hand, I bet if Jay went out on the street and started looking for a foursome for pizza, he could find some followers in no time!  Count me in! 

 

April 14, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

In Elizabethan times, there were pirates who were sponsored by monarchs.  As I recall Drake was a pirate for Elizabeth.  It was a fine line between crime and patriotism in those days, and what you were called depended on who was doing the calling.

McCain mentioned last night (on Jay Leno's show) the pirates of old on the Barbary Coast, and how they had to be - did he say "cleaned out?"

Now, in the last few days, I have heard them connected with - Al Qaida!  Huh?  What is the evidence for that?

There is no doubt, though (and I have been saying this since before Captain Phillips was freed) that now they have gone too far.  I guess they don't know that pirates were essentially unheard of for a long time because they were no longer tolerated.

Haven't they ever heard of hubris?  Ha ha ha, no classical education for those boys!  Of course they haven't heard of hubris!

I'm not laughing, though, about the fates of them and their hostages.  I fear it will be a real bloodbath, but I don't think the pirates will be able to make a mockery of law and order forever.  Kidnappers can't expect much from the social contract - even if they do have global positioning systems!

Maybe in the future we should judge the state of the world's economy by the well-being of inhabitants of places like Somalia and Mozambique!

(Oops, I didn't keep yesterday's promise.  I need more time to think.)

April 13, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

Today I decided to google for some antonyms for deadly sins.  I didn't look them all up, and stopped after what I considered some bizarre inaccuracies about the nature of lust, along with very different ideas of the saving grace antonyms, especially of lust.

For kicks, I googled seven saving graces and got the seven saving graces for managers by George Hallenbeck.  These might be good for any of you who are in managerial roles, but not quite en pointe for my purposes here.

Oh, goody!  I get to formulate my own.  In no particular order:

pride - humility, modesty

envy - self-sufficiency (a better one I saw might be "goodwill.")

gluttony - moderation

greed - generosity

lust - disinterestedness

anger - love, charity

sloth - energy, alacrity

Now I will muse on natural phenomena and weather corresponding to graces.  I hope you will join me and let me know what you come up with!  I'll report tomorrow.

'Bye, now!

April 12, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

One time I wrote a poem about the seven deadly sins and color.  It was inspired by a dream I had, and perhaps the expression "green with envy."

I haven't put it into this website yet, partly because people didn't seem to like it much - it was too "academic" according to one reader.  Maybe I'll go ahead and put it in there anyway.

But recently it occurred to me to play the same poetic game with forces of nature.

What deadly sins correspond to what natural phenomena?

I guess the idea was inspired by the classic representation of lust as fire.

That is such a vivid symbol that it comes into my mind first.

But, really, aren't there really many worse sins than lust?  (Okay, okay, maybe not worse - more common?)

What would envy be - a tornado?  Would gluttony be a quicksand?  Got any ideas for such stuff?  I'm sure many authors have used a good deal of this kind of symbolism.

Do you have a favorite image?

Lawrence Sanders wrote a series of novels about the deadly sins.  I only read one - it was about the sin of pride.  It was so creepy I didn't read any others!  Now that I think about it, though, the character of the other books in the series could be very different.  The nature of the sin might have inspired Sanders to create an atmosphere to fit the crime!  Maybe I'll take a chance and read another.

(I do love his McNally series!  So light-hearted by comparison to thoughts of deadly sins.  Hmm... there's an idea.  We've all heard of virtues.  Are there seven saving virtues?  If so, what natural phenomena would they correspond to?

What fun!)

April 11, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

Last night Rachel Maddow was refraining from speculating on why some people would eat the tail off their chocolate Easter Bunny first.

My theory is that some people don't want to ruin their bunny's appearance from the front until absolutely necessary!  Maybe it is a leftover from childish thievery - bite the tail off first and the crime goes undetected!

All this is purely theoretical speculation, of course.

Honestly?  I used to always start at the top and work my way down.  Anyone got a psychological explanation for that?

This morning I transplanted sixty-odd basil seedlings into a variety of pots.  If anyone around Valparaiso wants an Easter basil, let me know!  (It might be smarter to wait a month or two and let me do all the work of keeping them alive for a while, though.)

I always plant more basil than I can possibly grow to maturity myself, though I do my best!  I'm very pesto ambitious this year.

Hardly presto pesto, unfortunately.

April 10, 2009                                    Valparaiso, IN

So many dramas happening in the world at the same time!

Piracy and hostage-taking on the high seas (wonder how a siege on the water would work?  The only trouble is, the hostages would be under siege, too.)

Wildfires creating havoc in Oklahoma and killing people across the border in Texas.

People in Florida being evacuated to avoid the flooding Suwanee River.

The newest, high-drama twist in the world right now, though, has got to be the Somalia pirate business.  Did the pirates in Somalia get the idea from The Pirates of the Caribbean?  Have those pirates ever even seen movies?  Why do we know so little about these individuals?

Of course, pirates existed long before the movies.  But it is interesting that the onset of the most recent, high-profile piracies happens several years after the world-wide screening of the movie series.

With regards to social mores, we have the drama of people getting all bent out of shape because Obama leaned over more in his bow to the King of Saudi Arabia (about thirty degrees from the horizontal) than he did before the Queen of England (about twenty degrees from the vertical).

I have never before seen a President so damned-if-he-does-damned-if-he-doesn't!

I'm sure Obama knew just how deep a bow to make appropriate to the culture he was in.  A deep bow in England would have seemed obsequious, a shallow one in Arabia would probably have seemed insolent.

And in the United States, I am beginning to none of us can do anything right!

Melting pot, my eye!

On the other hand, maybe it is a good thing.  Here we don't bow at all.

April 9, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

The first sound I noticed when I woke up this morning was one of those defensive car horns honking away rhythmically at some distance.  Almost instantly its rhythm slowed to once a second or so.  This is almost worse because you keep wondering if it has stopped.

The honking ceased.  Then it started up again.

Instant karma - just yesterday I was observing that people who obsess about sounds are just focussing (unintentional pun, ha ha) too much on them.

I tried to unfocus, let it go, go back to sleep.  I heard a cooing mourning dove and thought it was the car horn.

I heard the car horn again, and at first I thought it was the mourning dove!

Are the local doves feeling oppressed by this huge, megaphonic cooer who is invading their sound-space?

A new answer to terrorism - irritation, or irritantism.  You don't need guns or bombs.

Rush Limbaugh makes a living practicing it.

Irritate your enemies to death!

April 8, 2009                                      Valparaiso, IN

Style is really laughable when you think about it.  Aristocracy or rich people can afford to hire experts to make them look as good as possible.  The hairdresser of a very rich woman might create a hairstyle for her that is unusual and innovative, inspired by the shape and effect that looks best on her.

She, being a trendsetter, is imitated by more and more people who may or may not look so good in that hairstyle.  Before you know it, thousands or even millions of people are wearing the hairstyle designed to make her look very good.

By then she has abandoned it for a new, even more flattering, do.

Same goes, of course, for everything else fashionable, including weight requirements.

It is ironic that those who are not fashionable are often laughable.  What I find laughable is the fact that we will make ourselves less attractive to be fashionable!

Or is it just an unfortunate fact of life that we must?

If so, a musty old fact of life, say I!

Toss it out with the pedalpushers, sleeveless blouses, and all the other stuff that doesn't look good on me! 

April 7, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

This morning the plumber is supposed to come and fix the faucet in the kitchen.

I called the same folks as usual.  They have sold the business, so even though the name hasn't changed, they have a new number.

I thought about the previous owners and wondered how they felt about their retirement.

Have many men have written about this?  There are certainly enough men who have gone through it, but I remember hearing about them, not from them.  I would like to hear from them.

Sorry, writers don't count.  If a writer is still writing, how can he be called retired? 

April 6, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

I've been eating a lot of fresh pineapple lately.

Why is this fruit called a pineapple?  It doesn't grow on a pine tree (it is a bromeliad), and the fruit isn't a pome like an apple.  It is more like a strawberry, with its seeds on the outside.

Maybe it is called a pineapple 'cause it looks like a pinecone, kind of.

Today we saw a century plant, an agave, that is taking off to bloom for the first time - on a plant that has been in the botanical gardens in East Chicago, Indiana for fifty years.

It is not blooming yet, even though panels have had to be removed to make room for its flowering stalk, which looks like nothing so much as a stalk of asparagus.

A big stalk of asparagus!  So why don't we call it an asparagus plant?

I have seen these agaves blooming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they are impressive indeed.  Their yellow blooms look especially stunning against an intense blue sky.  Even in Santa Fe they are not a common sight, they bloom so rarely.

It is not too late to see this one bloom - it is way too early.  My guess is - June, maybe?  You can call the East Chicago Parks Department to keep track of its progress.  With any luck, we will be able to see that stunning bloom against a blue sky!

In the meantime, as my partner said as we drove away, "That would make a lot of asparagus soup!"

April 5, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

It is only appropriate that on a morning in early April I should wake up with the thought, "Oh, no!  Maybe Tom Lehrer was not the singer of the "dangerous knob" song!  They are linked in my mind, maybe incorrectly!

It reminds me of my fears in bacteriology class almost forty years ago.  I was the first one chosen to inject a little white mouse with a solution.  I forget what the experiment was about, because it was a failure.  The mouse died immediately.  It was devastating.

The prof encouraged me to try again.  I did, and a second mouse died.  I would not try again, and later I entertained the idea that the fatal solution (which turned out to be the wrong concentration) was a solution made up by me a summer or two earlier, when I had a lab job with the University.  Wouldn't it be ironic if that is what happened?

That was probably a fantasy, but the fact that I was so insecure about my ability to make the right solution (based on chemical values, not just a simple recipe) makes me realize that working in a laboratory might not have been the best occupational pursuit for me.  What if I had become a lab person and my mistake had resulted in not two dead mice, but several dead people?

That's a very grim thought.  Especially for one who is not sure that the death of those mice was even my fault!

What an April fool!

It is comforting though:  the idea that at least some of what we perceive as our failures might ultimately have proved to be the best for all concerned.

I try not to consider the possibility that my error was discovered earlier and I was allowed to administer the deadly solution to teach me a lesson.  Wouldn't they have told me directly of my mistake?

Definitely a paranoid idea.  Nano-story material!

What an April fool!

April 4, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

I think I need a servant.  The Fifties were relatively easy.  If you couldn't afford servants you had a washing machine and a vacuum cleaner.  Children (such as I, alas) took up the slack between what you were willing to do and what the servants used to do.

But domestic life is no longer so simple.  Forget the challenge inherent in taking off lids from vaseline and moisturizing cream containers.  That's nothing compared to trying to put them back on!  After the first few times I just give up and rest the lid on the top of the jar.  Even if the lid doesn't get knocked off into the wastebin to socialize with dirty toilet paper and used dental floss, air can still get into the container. Then I have to give my moisturizer a moisturizing every few days to keep it from getting off-color and goopy.  I could use a servant just to open and close things for me.  (The same servant would be kept busy opening child-proof bottles, figuring out how to change the filter in the furnace, and testing the smoke alarms.)

The computer that makes it so easy to do Internet research (so that I don't even have to lift an encyclopedia volume or run off to the library (both of which are tasks I can manage)) when it goes on the blink requires some body other than me.  Given my patience with unseen telephonic people whose accents I can't understand and who can't understand mine, I think that someone might best be an in-house geek.  He could also operate and keep functional the DVD player.  (Learn how to do it myself?  I never even bought a VCR!  (Or if I did, my kids operated it for me.  The least they could do, considering that they didn't do much servants' work around the house.))

The automobile!  Home repairs!  The tragic state of the economy now provides many people at loose ends to offer us all kinds of services.  I wonder if any could be persuaded to be my servant?  After all, not all ex-financial managers can earn six figures a year dancing scantily-clad around nightclub poles!

I need one servant?  Hell, send over five or six! 

April 3, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

Sounds like Iowa is the place to be!  First the big win for Obama in the caucuses there, now the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling that the ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional.

Who would have thought Iowa would be more progressive than Oregon and California?

Maybe the country is becoming more internal!  Maybe the soul within is overtaking the external coasts of the U.S.A. in being at the forefront of human rights!

Admittedly, Connecticut and Massachusetts also allow same-sex marriage, and they are East-coast states.  But where is New York, that proud arbiter of everything cultural?  Maybe the Big Apple is too stuck in the past, the old story of Adam and Eve.

If the soul is our central being, why shouldn't souls be able to unite under the law?  Who cares about the external - the random idiosyncratic sexual organs?

The Queen of Introspection speaks!  Mature souls have the right to unite!  May the States of your souls emulate the example set by Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut!

That goes for you, too, Oregon!

April 2, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

Today I was hanging around the credit union waiting for a friend, and started thinking about "sw" words.

Sway, swing, swizzle, swirl, swarm - they all seem to have to do with motion.  Swindling a client, swallowing a mouthful, swatting a fly.  The list goes on and on.  Swab the deck, swagger down the street - the motion seems to be swoopy, not completely straightforward.

Swerve, switch, swap.  Do all these words come from the same source?  Some seem to derive ultimately from the Dutch language.

Words that don't seem to fit into the pattern are swarthy, sweet (motion of melting on the tongue, maybe?) and swelter, although swelter does evoke the image of dripping sweat!

I think I'll swill down a drink, swaddle myself in a blanket, and swim into a good book!

Swell!  

April 1, 2009                                    Valparaiso, IN

I look out the window and see little teeny green buds on the mock orange.

A neighbor walks by, out of sight at first, but his morning shadow stretches the whole length of the house.

Obama gets to go meet the Queen today - is it just a coincidence that this visit was scheduled for April Fool's Day?  Sometimes I get the feeling that nothing he does is random!

If the economic summit begins today, it is an opportunity for many heads of state to play the fool.  God knows that the economy is making fools of us all!

I wonder if many older people begin to really appreciate April Fool's Day?  We have had so many opportunities (all too often jubilantly seized!) to make fools of ourselves.

Is Fooldom the realm of the Queen of Introspection?  Is my navy a ship of fools and my knave Tom-foolery?

What fun!

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