By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, November 01 2010 - 9:14 pm
November 30, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
November has gone easy on us here in Valpo this year. We have stuffed our way through Thanksgiving.
Now, on the last day of November, it has its last chance at tortuing me. Even the gray weather does not outgloom a trip to the dentist. Well, at least it is only for a cleaning. I hope.
How must it be to work in a dentist's office?
I read somewhere about a man who liked to be an EMT because people were always happy to see him.
Is it the opposite, working in a dentist's office?
It always seems bright, friendly, and clean. What strength of character does it take to always seem cheerful and friendly without partaking of the slightest tone of sadistic pleasure or joy in the suffering of others?
I would like to think that most dental visits are now painless - most of mine are.
But still. Given the choice between a visit to the dentist and a lonely walk through a pathless forest on a cold, blustery winter's day, I would take the walk.
Friendly office people notwithstanding.
But hey - what kind of patient am I? I don't even like laughing gas!
November 29, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Cardinal Fitness, my gym, has offered the services of an independent personal trainer, Kevin Boesch, for a one-time freebie. If you want, after that you can get three sessions for $99. Kevin, whose background includes yoga and Pilates (I think) seems to have come up with some thoughtful combinations.
I went for the $99 deal, and even the week after the free instruction I started feeling stronger through the middle, and more centered. I found myself rising from my bed rather than dragging myself out.
Last week, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I had my second lesson. Kevin's instruction for me (and maybe many people need this) involves exercises to improve balance, strengthen your "core", and work the top and lower parts of your body at the same time.
I was sorely in need of a change of pace, and these exercises seem to be very effective.
One thing I have learned, though is not to start a new exercise regime too close to Thanksgiving!
What with company and Thanksgiving dinner, another kind of course provides too much competition!
Oh, well. This is a new week and we are back at the gym.
November 28, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
We were having a discussion about Syriana last week at our Valparaiso Library movie club, and wondering about the lack of Americans' awareness of what our government and corporations are doing abroad.
One woman had a depressing but probably true answer to the puzzle:
"Americans don't want to know!"
November 27, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Sorry I didn't get around to writing yesterday. I was too busy shopping. Ha, ha, ha!
Nope, I wasn't too busy shopping, either. It is not my idea of fun to claw my way to a bin full of messed-up clothes. Hell, that is like loving dirty laundry!
It did occur to me, though, that maybe greed wasn't the sole motive for opening stores on Thanksgiving.
Maybe it was an attempt to regulate the flow of shoppers so there wouldn't be an incident like the one in New Jersey a year or two ago, when a security guard who opened the doors of WalMart for a Black Friday was trampled to death by the surge of the herd stampeding into the store.
If you open at midnight, maybe there won't be so many people. If you open on the special day itself, maybe half the potential customers will come that day, half the next.
All this thinking is, of course, speculative. And I'm not convinced by this game I'm playing in my mind, because for some reason people are motivated by some kind of irrational energy (hmmm, have I just committed an oxymoron?) to get competitive about really stupid stuff, and put energy into completely useless enterprises.
Makes me wonder if this year Black Friday was really black, or whether it came up red - in, alas, more ways than one!
November 25, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
My partner, a former chef who has spent years of Thanksgivings and Christmases on the job, is quite indignant at the opening of some retail businesses on Thanksgiving.
Sure, he says, people have to eat on holidays. But do they have to buy a T-shirt and jeans?
Give the workers a break, he feels. Let them have Thanksgiving off to enjoy with their families.
He was gratified to hear from my niece that the place she works, which was expecting $30,000 gross sales today, only made $3,000.
Isn't Black Friday enough?
Doesn't a black Thanksgiving sound rotten?
November 24, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
I walked into a store yesterday and asked where I could find a computer mouse. I didn't want to ask for mice because I was afraid I might be misunderstood.
Because which is it, anyway? Computer mouses or computer mice?
One can't make assumptions about these things. A mouse is cute, but oooooooh, mice are something else!
We don't have nice hice in the neighborhood, but the houses are pretty attractive. Shouldn't a mouse that belongs in a house be there with other mouses? Not to mention the mouses in other houses!
A louse, like a living mouse, is a pest. It is also, in plural, lice.
But what about nice? Is it a plural of us, which in some romance languages, sounds more like nouse? (Admittedly, not much more.)
But bear with me. Are we pests? Is that why we're nice? It doesn't make much sense, does it? I hope.
Is a grouse, in plural, a grice? I don't think so.
Do you have to be plural to be wise? And if so, what's a wouse?
Trice is a plural - but one of a kind, I think!
Well, no, there are also dice.
Why is the singular of dice not a douse?
And if the singular of trice is trouse, how come we're not three-legged?
I'm so confused, I feel I should go douse my singular head!
Yesterday, upon leaving the store, where I had not been served by any nice salespeople in a trice, I asked the cashier a fact question about my new mouse, then followed up with my more burning query. Are they mouses or mice?
She couldn't answer me. She did laugh, though.
November 22, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Some Eastern religions have talked about good and evil as two sides of the same coin.
I like to think of it more like a sphere, because I think most of reality is neither highly good nor highly evil - it just is.
Today I'm thinking that unnecessary suffering is the greatest evil. Isn't that what our normal idea of evil is - something that causes people to suffer?
But then what is the greatest good? The highest pleasure? Certainly not. That would be hedonism!
Heh, heh! Sounds pretty good to me!
And this year we are having a hedonistic Thanksgiving - turkey and dessert all week.
Er... as long as it doesn't lead to any unnecessary suffering.
November 21, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
I didn't get seven hours of sleep last night. I guess I'll have to stop drinking the four cups of green tea daily that I'm told will keep my muscles from hurting after I exercise.
Maybe I'll even have to stop drinking the coffee that keeps my arteries and veins and those eenie teenie blood vessels and my lungs' alveoli relaxed and open so that I won't have a heart attack or asthma.
(I've already dismissed the several cups of coffee per day needed to avoid getting diabetes!)
The dark chocolate I consume every day is, I read, higher than the national average of chocolate consumption, but you would have to shoot me before I would be willing to give that up! (Well, maybe I'd be willing to give up half of that to keep coffee on my breakfast menu.)
But honestly? Even when I give up all caffeine and exercise a good deal, my psyche stubbornly refuses to surrender to sleep for a continuous seven hours per day.
So, bring on the caffeine! In all its delicious forms!
That will help keep me on my feet, because I recently read that if you sit for more than three hours a day you are twice as likely to die within the next fourteen years.
Who doesn't sit for more than three hours a day?
Let's see, if I only spend twenty minutes a sitting for each meal, and do releves while I'm watching my daily movie, and read standing up, and play video games from a healthy squat, maybe I can still grab the time to sit and write at my computer.
Enough time for one Rumillumination, maybe, or -
Oops! Gotta go! My time's run ou.....
November 19, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
MapLoco has a temporary upgrade that allows you to zoom in on the continents. These are really dramatic maps depicted from interesting angles.
I just wish I had seen them when I actually would have had some hits from them! I don't believe there is a continent I haven't had a visit from at one time to another, but now all is dark.
Is this the result of the new Google/Verizon business arrangement?
I don't know, but I'm beginning to think that my toad trillium offering has wasted away during the summer and might not even resurrect itself with the Spring.
Writing longhand in a journal and hiding it in a dresser drawer is beginning to seem preferable to self-publication on the Internet! At least, if I put some twenties in it, my journal might be of interest to a sneak thief!
Oh, well. I will plug away at my writing project unrewarded and (sob) unattended. Just call me Eyore!
And consider MapLoco for your own site. I saw it on a German city's site and it had 130 plus hits in one day. MapLoco is a lot of fun!
November 18, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
I read recently that something like 57% of Americans don't believe you can be moral without believing in God, whereas in China and Japan over 70% of the people believe you can.
What a hoot! The most moral people in my life haven't necessarily been believers in God. In fact, it seems to me that people who believe in God often think they are a member of some club that is pretty darn forgiving.
Religion and ethics are two different subjects, and while most deistic religions officially encourage good behavior, that good behavior is not necessarily forthcoming.
And of course, if you automatically define people who don't believe in God as immoral, the matter of behavior doesn't enter the equation at all!
Makes me want to go live in China.
November 17, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Snobbery is a funny thing.
You might be committing adultery, but never with a dangling participle!
It might amuse you to pedantically part semantic hairs, but never with a split infinitive!
Pile on rude insults - but only with comments appropriately garnished with commas!
With regard to Jesus' admonitions:
Do your eyes have motes or moats in them?
When your eyes are obstructed by a beam, did Jesus mean a warmish emanating light?
November 16, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Jung wrote that some of our psychological functions are toggles: the more you perceive, the less you judge, and you can't do them both at the same time. Those who live more on the basis of sensation are correspondingly less intuitive.
I found those ideas of his really helpful in trying to concentrate on perceiving what is going on with people rather than judging them.
But now I am beginning to wonder about his ideas with relation to thinking and feeling. It seems to me that my partner both thinks and feels more than I do! Well, maybe I am spending more time sensating! (Yes, I do believe I just coined that word.)
I am perceiving something about hoarders, though. As portrayed by the TV show Hoarders they seem to me, on the whole, to be drowning in emotion. There appears to be very little thought going on in them that isn't about their own feelings. It looks as if hoarders possess no function of objectivity at all! And isn't objectivity the result of a thoughtful process?
Oh, but that's a judgment. What else could I be perceiving about these folks that might change that?
Well, in a way it doesn't matter. A judgment has to be made, ultimately, in order to take action. And the only ones who think action unnecessary are the hoarders! The majority rules, and I believe, rightly so.
Anybody else have any perceptions and/or judgments to offer?
November 15, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Interesting that nature means everything out there, and also everything within (I mean psychologically, of course, although our internal organs are also part of nature!).
Yet we use the word "nature" with complete comfort, bounding back and forth from the external to the internal.
Maybe man-made objects are not part of nature, although some philosophers would definitely say they were!
It is, though, definitely man's nature to make them.
Strange how we can use words in so many different ways, when there are so many unused letter groups we could have invented to say the same thing.
It's enough to make non-English speaking people trying to learn English crazy, I would think.
Does it drive you crazy?
November 14, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
The week of unwonted (but not unwanted!) November balm is gone, and the cold weather commences.
Shrubs that in the past week I could mistake for blooming forsythias, in the new cold are revealed for what they are: victims yellow with fall leaf-death.
How weird it would be if our hair turned another color in the fall and fell out during the winter! We would be deprived of warmth at just the wrong time. But wouldn't that be a welcome sign of Spring - a new crop coming out on our heads to beautify us once more!
Being bald all winter would be a humbling experience - either that, or we could use it as an excuse to hibernate and sleep the long-night season away.
We would wake up in the spring from the itching and poking caused by new sprigs of hair.
Wouldn't it be wild if my hair came out looking like fiddlehead fern sprouts?
Wonderful. Especially if it developed, then, into a complex leafy cap instead of plain old ordinary strands.
The kids who spike their hair and dye it green would have nothing on me!
November 13, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
We had a concert at our house last night that really underlined my absence from musical scenes in the last decade or two.
Shades of Gray, a local folk group which includes our neighbor Harlan Bjornstad, played in our living room for a dozen or so people.
Harlan played an instrument I had never seen before. It reminded me of my Kindle, because just as Kindle can comprise many books in one, he played an electronic instrument that sounded variously like a clarinet, a flute, an oboe, a cello, a muted trumpet. Purists may not be satisfied with the quality of tone of these instruments, but I found no difficulty in hearing the different timbre of the voices.
In addition to his electronic woodwind (cum stringless strings!) Harlan plays a really mean recorder. At least I think it was a little soprano recorder.
The lead singer, David Farris, is also a songwriter and guitarist, and the other four members include Paul and Jane Schreiner of the Front Porch, bass guitarist Joe (alas, he sat in the back of the group and there also his last name sits in my memory!) and one of my favorite local musicians, who has sung French songs with her diminutive accordian and lovely full voice at local restaurants on (or near) Bastille Day in some recent years.
How do you feel about the new electronic multi-instruments? I myself am charmed by their versatility, and after all, when the performer is in your living room, they are still very much live music!
It's almost enough to make me want to try one myself!
November 12, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Why reread stuff you read fifty years ago?
I have just really learned today.
We were sitting around noticing how many leaves are left on the trees even though it is the middle of November.
I was reminded of a short story I read in high school, "The Last Leaf." You may have read it yourself long ago.
I told my partner about it. Or thought I did.
I had the main idea right, but aside from that, it was a totally different story.
For example, it was set in Greenwich Village NYC. The images conjured up by that location are numerous now, zero when I was in high school.
The Last Leaf mentions Washington Square, which I was to see for the first time a couple of years later. Now that setting means something to me in real visual memory. When I read the story as a high-schooler, it did not.
But that is not all, by any means.
The two artists (whom I think I understand much better this time round!) were transformed in my memory to a family - one of them into a child!
I could go on, but I would hate to ruin the story for you!
I also was reminded of its author - O Henry! (Not the candy bar!)
All thanks to the Internet!
You can read this wonderful story on the website www.shortstory.com without inclusions or condensation.
Takes no time at all. Enjoy!
November 11, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Are squirrels querulous? Are they quarrelsome? They certainly seem to enjoy chucking and chattering!
Are chipmunks gambling holy men or do they love banana chips?
If a wastrel is wasteful, does a minstral minister? To our souls?
Can girls be flamboyant? Can a flame be bouyant? Does something flamboyant have to be a male fire ant?
Is a fractious being something that is breaking apart, or something that breaks other things apart?
Do eels arouse squeals? If you're squeamish are you squirmish?
Do you prefer squirrels or skittles? Squires or tea-kettles?
Shish-ka-baubles! I'm egg-noggles!
November 10, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
November has taken a powder lately, and I don't mean snow!
It is easy to imagine that winter is going to just not bother this year - just not show up.
While I don't want the icecaps to melt, I really would appreciate it if winter just wouldn't bother here!
There are still beautiful roses on the rose bushes. People's ornamental gourds and chrysanthemums still look bonny. The outlook doesn't seem grim.
But it is. Jack Frost is skating in the wings. Winter is not going to go cuckoo and lay its frozen eggs in somebody else's nest. The days are getting shorter, not longer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) and I am not getting excited at all about being a small warm juicy inclusion in the head of the world's snowcone.
Anybody have any ideas about how we can all dribble down under for the winter?
Is South America considered part of down under? It certainly is in the Southern Hemisphere! Or is "down under" there called "abajo d'abajo?"
Hey, I like that! I want to go abajo d'abajo for the winter!
November 8, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
We are always wondering what makes humans different from other animals.
How about discontent?
People who are poor and ill always think that if only they were rich and healthy they would be happy.
The evidence points to the contrary.
The rich and healthy do not realize how happy they should be to be rich and healthy (according to those who are not) and make themselves unhappy longing for love or a feeling that they are contributing in a significant way to society or a bigger house or nicer friends.
The person who is not frustrated, unhappy, or discontent is very uncommon and to be frank, would probably strike us as very much like -
November 7, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
We gave away the parakeets. I can't honestly say I miss them. Maybe it was because they were so self-sufficient. I think I have read that if you want your pets to relate primarily to you, you should only have one of a kind.
The next on our giveaway list is the zebra finch. The woman who wrote Wesley the Owl had seventeen (or at any rate, lots) of zebra finches and now that we have one I can't imagine why they didn't drive her loco.
Our zebra finch is calling almost constantly during daylight. Not even gunshots in movies make it shut up. (Well, honestly, I'm not sure, but that's how it seems.) The owl lady also had a barn owl, so maybe the oppression of his presence silenced the zebra finches. After all, he was a predator of theirs!
We, who have no owl (not even a small burrowing one!) have no such deterrence against Zebra's bossy omnipresence.
To tell the truth, I even thought (er, jokingly) of killing him/her. Maybe making a nice hot finch soup!
But no, we will have to find the noisy bird a new home. We will send the squeegie dog toy with him. Maybe a child would enjoy conversing with and dominating Zebra.
One can only hope.
November 6, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
First snowfall of the year. Brrr.
Only two months until epiphany. Why is it that the two months ahead seem eternal, while June 6 to August 6 seems the ultimate in transience, like the bloom of an iris in hot weather?
Well, of course we know why.
It's fifty-five degrees in Rome. If I roam to Rome, then I guess I'm not roamin'. It's for sure I'm not Roman!
Or am I? I use Roman numerals sometimes, and we use Roman names for months and days of the week.
Oh, well. I'm tired and my mind is roamin.
November 5, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
This morning I was ruminating about my Elderquette letter of the day, "U."
Strange. All the words I was thinking of were under- words. Not a single time did the word "upper" enter my mind.
While I was thinking about underwear and other "under" words, I thought of underground and realized, for the first time in my life, that an "undertaker" was a person who takes you (so to speak) underground.
Why did I never think of that before?
It is amazing how we learn words as children that we just accept, not even at face value, but just as sounds with meaning.
So understanding something means we have gotten to the bottom of it, or perhaps can support it.
An understatement is, of course, "under" in the way of being less.
Sometimes, I guess, we don't analyze the obvious - or even notice it!
November 4, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
I spoke to my friend about the American public yesterday. She agreed that they are not stupid - they are busy! Well, that is the truth.
Everybody is too busy scrambling to earn the pennies they get from their jobs to realize and learn about the dollars they (and our government) are giving to the rich.
And why do they (we) spend so much time obsessing about the entertainment world? Well, hell, I can answer that one, and she and I are in agreement. Escape! One must have one's compensations!
It's too bad, though, that our inability to see the larger picture is going to keep making our personal picture smaller and smaller.
November 3, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
Well, here we are in November and the third is cold and gray as only November can be. Admittedly, the cold is not bitter, and there is no snow yet, but we will be outside for a three or four mile hike, so I will be in a position to observe them if flurries come!
The political outlook provides me with an equal chill. I want to say Americans are really stupid, but I don't think they are. So what explains their voting for a reactionary party?
Reaction. Emotion. Ignorance.
Well, each of these words I'm tossing out are like snowballs. They will probably irritate more than induce change - outrage more than hurt.
But honestly, a people who knows all about entertainment and nothing about economics; all about horse operas and nothing about history; all about texting and nothing about taxing - well, what else can I expect?
Bread and circuses are evidently what the people want to know about, and even the efforts of George Clooney and Michael Moore are not going to make Americans open their eyes.
November 1, 2010 Valparaiso, IN
This morning I took my mom on a drive through the countryside South of Valparaiso.
In one area we saw several dogs ranging from two Great Danes to what looked like a little long-haired Chihuahua. The big dogs stayed well back from the road, but the teeny on seemed on the verge of crossing in front of us, so I slowed down.
On the other side of the road there were several more interesting dogs! A regular coterie of canines!
I was passing the little dog, but still driving at a crawl when a large dog came charging past his purebred friends as if he would chase the car. I moved just a little, to keep him interested. I wanted to see how far he would come.
He didn't. Were there electric fences restraining these pets?
A little farther down the road we saw a woman walking yet another dog, so I stopped and asked her about it. She said that there were electric fences, but she has known some of the dogs to "break through" them at times.
I told her thanks, that I was particularly interested because I was a bike rider and liked that road, and disappointed to hear that electric fences weren't a foolproof defense against a highly motivated dog.
She agreed. Even if the dog isn't a mean one, it is disconcerting to have him come too close when you think you won't have to deal with a confrontation.
Bikers and walkers beware! Electric fences are not impregnable!
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