Notable Characters (Today I cuddled kittens)

Here’s a journal I kept from July-August of 1989, aged 7 & 1/2 years. The clarified text preceding each photo is grammatically [sic], though I did choose to normalize the capitalization choices. A few notes, when applicable, are added, in brackets, following certain entries. Notable characters: Emily is my sister. Mama is my mother. Willy and Grace and Robyn were friends. Judging from how it ends, going to school made my days much less interesting to write about.

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Witch’s Note [Your Dreams Come True]

7/5/89 – Today I got this book. I also got two penny books. And then I broke it to my Smurf bank and then I found 1,000 pennies.

7/6/89 – Today I stayed at home all alone and played with my pennys.

7/7/89 – Today I listened to music all day.

7/8/89 – Today I went on a picknik.

7/9/89 – Today me and Emily played under the tree.

7/10/89 – Today I signed up for swimming lessons.

7/11/89 – Today I stayed in bed until 9:30. And then I went bikeing with Mama.

7/12/89 – Today I went to a birthday at Willy’s.

7/13/89 – Today I read all day.

7/14/89 – Today I got a library card.

7/15/89 – Today was the last T-ball gameIMG_20170722_120319

this year.

7/16/89 – Today I rode my bike.

7/17/89 – Today I played with Willy

7/18/89 – Today we didn’t go to M.W.A.. [Modern Woodsmen of America]

7/19/89 – Today we were all sik.

7/20/89 – We set up our yard sale.

7/21/89 – Friday was the first day of the yard sale.

7/22/89 – Saturday was the last day of the yard sale.

7/23/89 – Today I plaed in the tires

7/24/89 – Today Emily had Robyn over.

7/25/89 – Today was Grace’s birthday.

7/26/89 – Today I got a haircut

7/27/89 – Today there was a rainestorm.

7/28/89 – Today we went to Massachusetts.

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7/29/89 – Today we went to Thornton W. Burgess House.

7/30/89 – Today I went swimming in a pool.

7/31/89 – Today I got sick.

8/1/89 – Today we went home.

8/2/89 – Today I cuddled kittens.

8/3/89 – Today we looked for canoe paddles.

8/4/89 – Today I was left all alone.

8/5/89 – Today I went to the Bread and Puppet Circus.

8/6/89 – Today I went to the pageant.

8/7/89 – Today I went to the dentist.

8/8/89 – Today I worked on the canoe.

8/9/89 – Today we paddle to Colebrook. I was really excited!

8/10/89 – Today I was even more excined!

8/11/89 – Today I went fishing.IMG_20170722_120338

8/12/89 – Today it rained all day.

8/13/89 – Today I cleaned up a bit.

8/14/89 – Today my friends came over.

8/15/89 – Today I went to the Bread and Puppet Museum.

8/16/89 – Today I went to the Maple Museum.

8/17/89 – Today I went to the Barton Fair.

8/18/89 – Today my car broke.

8/19/89 – Today I played Monopoly.

8/20/89 – Today I got sick.

8/21/89 – Today I got Emily a present. [Emily’s Birthday was upcoming]

8/22/89 – Today I went to the beach.

8/23/89 – Today I went to the library.

8/24/89 – Today I walked.

8/25/89 – Today I was back before Mama.IMG_20170722_120345

8/26/89 – Today we burned some pianos.

8/27/89 – Today we got SOME PINENEEDLE!S!! [actually, they were balsam, for making pleasant-smelling scent-bag gifts]

8/28/89 – Today we went to M.W.A..

8/29/89 – Today was my last day before school!

8/30/89 – Today I went to school.

8/31/89 – Today was my second day in school.IMG_20170722_120357

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Eaten by Sally

I haven’t posted here in a long while, but I felt inspired to share this rather unimportant snapshot of my youth. This was a writing exercise from what I’d guess was my freshman year of high school, (’96-’97) but may even be from earlier.  My only alteration in the transference is in my addition of a title.

 

 

 

Eaten by Sally

 

 

Sally eats salty pretzels as a snack.

The snack Sally eats are salty pretzels. [sic]

Sally’s snack of pretzels is salty.

Salty pretzels are Sally’s snack.

The pretzels that make up Sally’s snack are salty.

Sally’s salty snack consists of pretzels.

Sally’s snack is of salty pretzels.

The salty snack of pretzels are Sally’s. [sic]

The salty snack of Sally’s is pretzels.

Pretzels, which are salty, make up a snack for Sally.

Sally’s pretzels are a salty snack.

The pretzels that Sally eats are a snack that is salty.

A snack of salty pretzels are what Sally eats. [sic]

Pretzels eaten by Sally are a salty snack.

Culture to chidingly

Here follows a long-overdue reflection of my travels arund the UK and France last May, on the gentle, if not persistent prodding, of one Clayton Cameron. thank him for it, if you enjoy reading this.

 

Scotland! (and England, Ireland, France!)

 

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The Loneliest Telephone Box, somewhere between Fort William and Oban. Decommissioned, but willing to be reconnected if someone wants to adopt it and fund its maintenance.

In the fall of 2011 my sister dropped the line to her general social circle about accompanying her to Glasgow to see Elvis Costello in concert. She had gotten the tickets through a serendipitous turn of coincidence. By December, I was seriously considering that bait, and by January, it had occurred to me that this is the kind of thing tax returns are designed to pay for, and I bit.  And so, it was settled. And if you’re going to Glasgow to see a man perform, be it only for one night, well, you might as well stick around the area and see what else is around, right? Such logic is only flawed in that it begets itself and begets yet again and again, until you’ve decided to go on a mad-cap bender of single-day visits to most of the major cities and country-sides in your area of choice. We had the resources: A spirit for adventure, freshly minted couchsurfing.org accounts, and a willingness to bear most, if not all of the  hardships of constant travel with good humor.

The first compromise came quickly, as our international funds availability became clearly much less convenient that we had anticipated (even with research & planning). Emily had better access to her funds, so she fronted the brunt of the first half, while I scrambled at various internet cafes to find a way to make my own digital currency accessible to me. Kind of makes me wonder what good these invisible lines which define and separate countries (and the governing forces which maintain them) are doing. But, I choose not to digress.

Less a compromise, and more of a straight hang-up, were the unbearably indecipherable bus schedule signs. I really, REALLY wish not to come off as an arrogant American tourist who feels an unwavering sense of entitlement regarding any and all inconveniences thrust upon him. But, it was interesting for me to be dealing in what is functionally the same (and only) language I speak, (and arguably most similar culture) and to have so much still lost in translation. I’m tempted to say that the similarities were more deceptive for these reasons, than were I truly visiting to a more extrinsically different culture/country, where differences would be more expected by my ignorant eyes than the place where my forebears hailed from. In this sense, it’s all about perspective: minor differences in many ways can make a greater impression in some ways than grand, sweeping differences, which are so in-your-face at the outset that they are more easily accepted for what they are. (All this from a bus schedule? Jeezus, don’t get me started, apparently)

A quick realization and compromise we came to, also, was that spending one day-night only at a string of locations was just not enough. We spent 9 hours in Dublin, on a layover, and then about 26 hours in Manchester, all according to plan, before we ventured north to Glasgow for a two-night stay there (in favor of ensuring that Mr. Costello get his due, and we get ours as well).  This two-day approach was clearly a better plan of action, and our experience with buses so far convinced us to drop the loftier ideals of the thrift-minded, and rent a car (and learn the art of other-side-of-the-road driving). North of Glasgow, roughly speaking, are the west highlands, which are as gorgeous as one would expect, at 50 mph. Upon finding our host Piotr in Fort William, he quickly asked us how long we were planning on staying (we were only planning on one night, but quickly persuaded ourselves to make it two, at least, given his congenial openness to it) and so set the tenor of the trip: if memory serves, all of our following hosts either were asked, or offered, to keep us for a day longer than planned. Even extending each visit as such, I’ll draw on my experience in the American chain restaurant culture to chidingly refer to our trip as largely an “Appeteaser” of the sights, sounds, smells, savories and sensations of our destinations (and the travels in between). I’ve said it before: regret is for those who could have done better – and as a first-time international travel, I’m confident I did my best – but I will also say that future travels will involve more immersion, and less variety of saturation. In my experience traveling the states, this has been a preferable state of exploration.

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“Over the years elevators have had their fair share of ups and downs in popularity, but thankfully the idea has not been shafted.” – in Edinburgh

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of things which are notable to the trip but don’t need much in the way of overzealous narrative: 1) It rained every day in the UK. I brought leaky, crappy shoes, fully expecting to discard them quickly in favor of buying some while en route; this transition couldn’t happen soon enough. 2) there was virtually no time spent stationary in the countryside anywhere, unfortunately. The smallest city visited was Oban (not a city at all, but for our purposes, purely the location of the single-malt distillery visited there), the largest was London. [Spending less than 24 hours in a string of historically and aesthetically interesting cities, all of which one has never visited before, gets a bit numbing. Our method of exploration wasn’t all bad, but it became annoyingly routine, in a certain sense, even if 98% of travel-time was still spent wide-eyed in wonder at the varying majesty of specific locals.] 3) Half-way through travels, we had unpreparedly planned to mail back to the states a good deal of what we had collected for souvenirs; this quickly proved cost-prohibitive, and so instead we ended up lugging horribly large amounts of stuff around, everywhere. Too bad. 4) France, I was told, has the second-highest population of smokers in Europe, (Turkey is first) and compared to my northern New-English upbringing, I can empirically, if not anecdotally, verify that 100%. It seemed like everyone was smoking. 5) As predicted, the more tourist-attractive the location, the smaller the thrill upon seeing it. Case in point: Stonehenge, unfortunately. I don’t mean to douse the excitement for such an interesting and important relic, but there’s something about bus cavalcades of package bus tours that really kind of completely destroy the mystique of visiting a place that could mean so much more, in a different context, than it did.

The standout of the trip for me was the unexpected cultures, and, secondarily, that we encountered. Here’s where I become a beaming billboard for what I feel is easily one of the best things the internet has yet to produce, couchsurfing.org. I don’t necessarily mean to isolate the couchsurfing website, itself, but the concept, and its current execution, has more restorative power in one’s faith in humanity than pretty much anything else I’ve encountered. It is a very well constructed system, and possibly the best use of social networking that’s in effect. Our hosts in the UK and France were only three times actually locals: Others were Spanish, Polish, Iranian, and Turkish, respectively. And they were all wonderful, warm, welcoming hosts, each a unique joy to experience and share experiences with. [A brief side-note, I have of course, striven to return this karmic good nature to folks traveling around my own home area, to equally satisfying results.]

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Spotted while walking the streets of Paris.

 

One of my most brazenly intended goals for the trip was to be a food-tourist as much as possible. Eating things I had not eaten before, or which were better than ever before, owing to varying degrees of perceived authenticity, or proximity to source of origination. Here’s another list: Dublin – Guinness, Moroccan grill; Manchester – Teas, Ciders, Homemade dishes which sadly elude my memory at this point; Glagow – Curries (Americans call it Indian food), Ginger Beer (the soft drink, imported from Australia), ginger Beer (alcoholic, from Scotland), Scottish Breakfast (incomplete, but what the hell); Fort William – home made open-face melts on home baked (and leavened) sourdough, Haggis, Blood Sausage, Neeps and Tatties; Oban – 14-year single-malt scotch, paired with crystallized ginger; Edinburgh – Un-American Chinese food, More Tatties, Hendrick’s & tonic; Paris – antipasti spread, and “beer” (no more specific – light, tasty), Croissants, Cheese plates w/ baguette and Avocado mousse, home-style 6-course Korean cooking for a dinner (a contender for best Korean available outside of Korea), and of course a “Tous fondus de son fromage: Royale Cheese”; Angers – more meat and cheese spreads, more croissants, pastries, etc., oh how delightfully the French seem to tend to consume; London – A Full English Breakfast, more curries; Marlborough – Fish and Chips, with mushy peas and brown sauce; Manchester once more – more home-made delights.

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Buddha has a bright idea – eat at this Korean restaurant.

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Bread, Cheeses (Butter, too), Avocado Mousse

The food was all good. I won’t go into many details, because words, in this case aren’t just, (at least not mine), and a better option for anyone reading this would be to go over there and get some their selves. I have a very high gross-out tolerance, so the blood sausage and haggis didn’t faze me much, though I understand for some it might. The sausage definitely has an unusual texture (based on my experience), though not an unpleasant one. Haggis is a psychological gross-out. If one didn’t know there were sheep organs involved, they could easily dismiss is as a less-offensive ground lamb or pork offering mixed with oats and some tasty spice combinations.

Here’s an anecdote: On the flight from Boston to Dublin, I was sitting across the aisle from a 70-year old Irish man who proceeded to consume all of a fifth of whiskey on his own, and attempted to engage me in conversation about 3/4 of the way through. He interpreted my admittance that I am mostly of British descent to mean that I was in fact British. He has this to say: “How far does our hate go when the plane drops? You’re British, I’m Irish, we hate each other. You don’t agree with a word I’m sayin’. But I love ya, and I’ll shake your right hand.” And so he did. And then the Flight Attendant gently asked him to quiet down.

To sum up, I can say most confidently that my wanderlust has become elevated, from being a mere suspicion, to a true-blue goal of life. The toughest question now, is whether to return or push onward. I’m sure both will end up happening. That, and who (if anyone) wants to be my travelin’ pardner in future endeavors.

 

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Castle Doune, which bore the brunt of the castle-y duties in filming of Holy Grail.

 

 

The Inevitable

This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about the journalist’s opinion – I don’t agree with everything he says. This isn’t about the reasons for the protests, or the targeted causes for the protests. Those can be debated, until we’re blue in the face – fine. So be it.  This isn’t about anything, except for  the assault on peacefully acting people.

I don’t protest. Never have. Maybe I will, someday, but not right now, and most importantly, that’s not what this is about.  This is about immorally appointed authority, and the INEVITABLE abuse thereof. I say wrongly, because no amount of training, education or personal desire can possibly legitamize the authority of any person to use force on another. Self-defense may; this wasn’t self-defense.

Discuss.

Head-first into the cut-throat.

I recently owned up to the fact that my straight razor is suspiciously dull (for a razor that is, thought it remains quite a bit sharper than your average spork), and bought a new one. It was partly out of frustration with my average-to-good closeness of shaves, and partly because I knew that when I initially dove head-first into the cut-throat world, I did so on one hell of a tight budget.  Even with my most earnest desire to stop wasting time and resources, as a consumer, on disposable razors and their paraphernalia, to learn what I could do and do so without breaking my bank was essential; so, I got what I felt would be the best value for my allowance, but no more. And I learned A LOT.  I never wavered, steadfast to ascend the learning curve, with more patience than I have had to use on nearly anything else. It’s been three years, and a few months. I just got the new one in the mail. Just shaved with it. The difference is astounding. I don’t regret these past years, waiting, passively, to upgrade to a finer blade. But I’m glad I have. I’m glad I have.

 

These past few months have been pretty dry for my blog, for those who may not have noticed, and I intend to put a swift and painless end to that. In the meantime, here’s proof that I haven’t forgotten.

The Earth is flat/But I know that.

Recently, I was engaged in a spirited debate on the subject of Atheism v. Agnosticism v. Spiritual/Religious beliefs. It started over some craft bier at one my preferred locations for intellectual stimulation. First there was the quote of Magellan’s, which I have brandished on a tee-shirt: “The church says the Earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.” Last Call came too soon, as usual, and the discussion turned digital. My friend, who had been less vocal as yet offered up some articles he had found online, ranging from the sacred to the profane.  One, in particular, generated the responses which follow.  ( I have oh-so-slightly edited the conversation from their original form, in minor grammar and punctuation areas (’cause I’m that dorky),  and I have left out the less significant peanut gallery responses that happened along the way, with no disrespect to any of the peanuts involved.)

Sherwin: This author seems to have no faith in humanity to govern itself; he asserts that without moral law and absolute truth, the mass of humanity would drag itself into an abyss of death and destruction. Therefore, he maintains, God must exist because without god we would all kill each other and chaos would reign supreme. Without getting into it, I have to disagree with this argument. His further claims that as when we see a painting we assume there is a painter, when we see a building we assume there is an architect, and so the universe must also have a creator, namely God. First, paintings and buildings are known creations of humans; the assumption of a creator in these examples is based very much on observable fact and easily gained knowledge of human creativity and history, and also need not require belief in a contradictory being to have been any creator of such things. Second, I would never misuse scientific theory to assume or suggest that there “must be” a creator, or even architect, unless I can prove it. Without proof there is nothing, which is what I like about scientific method; there needn’t be an answer for everything, the unknown is allowed to exist, as a theory or as a true unknown. The real issue arrives when anyone asserts the existence of something (God) without proof.

Bill: “God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you’re taking away from God; you don’t need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven’t figured that out yet…” – Richard Feynman. This quote has been traveling in my head for a few days, simply because I look around and see all the things that God doesn’t get credit for any more. You say “Creator” and people know you mean God; not so much “Man Who Makes Fruit Fall to the Ground” or “Sun Riser.”

Orion: For me, any debate about the existence of God is mostly meaningless without first asking what is meant by “God.” And I do have to say that, although I have some sense of the existence of something that I call “God,” I don’t agree with the author of this essay on the basic attributes of God. For me, the existence of a creator of the universe is open to question. For that matter, the existence of the universe at all is open to question. The Feynman quote above says “God was invented to explain mystery.” I also disagree with that. I think that mystery and paradox are essential parts of reality, and that God is perhaps a celebration or embodiment of that mystery. A world that could be fully explained and worked according to rational understanding lacks something to me. Rationality and order are vital elements of existence, but only part of the whole. To think that human understanding can encompass all of existence is a vain wish, and severely limits the scope of what can exist. I like to imagine that we humans, our universe, our consciousness, and all we call reality are only a small fragment of what exists. At the same time, I feel that we have some connection with the infinite possibilities of existence beyond our usual confines, and that we are thus part of something that can take us beyond ourselves to new levels of awareness. All this, to me, is part of what I call God. Trying to prove the concrete existence of God, then, is beside the point. The reason that I say there is a God is that I want something larger than myself and larger than all the insanity of our human existence to look toward and reach toward. For me, there needs to be some deeper reason that I am alive than a simply scientific explanation of how our reality came into being.

Sherwin: So, your choice to use the word “God” is perhaps for lack of a better term, or a word used to make the conversation easier to flow and comprehend? Given the world that we all live in, and our participation as members in this society, I would that the word “God” has very specific connotations and meanings. America and the west is dominated by Judeo-Christianity, the east by Moslem, and Hindu beliefs. If you’re speaking English, and you say the word God, your personal definition is not implicit. What is implicit is a being that even in the most abstract (and thus all-encompassing) definition that a believer would comfortably agree to involves contradictions of measured existence, whether of an eternal nature, omniscience, omnipotence, consciousness without physical form, and so on. The attributes that make God contradictory to our world around us make God not exist, according to science and reasoning. Perhaps God will be perceivable at some point in the future, but if that is so, God will also at that time become a measurable, observable entity, and cease to have the qualities which so many apply to the term God.

To your second statement, I would have to respectfully disagree a bit, and further quantify my point. I really like the unexplainable aspects of life. Those are the parts that get me excited. I would indeed suspect that God was invented to explain mystery. I’ve got no proof, but it certainly seems that there is a fair amount of historic and current evidence of otherwise unexplained phenomena being explained (or really, NOT explained) through the claimed existence of God, which, God being an unknowable, contradictory entity in the universe, seems to me like a cop-out, an answer when there needn’t be one. I use science to explain what science can, and when it can’t, I say, “I don’t know” rather than “The sun moves across the sky because it is actually a flaming chariot which the God Helios drives” or worse, “God took my child’s life because He wanted to.” Both of these examples show a situation in which a person cannot explain, or cannot logically understand, and is thus filling in the blank with God. The scientific method, using reason and evidence, rightly, I feel, leaves the unexplained alone, until (or if) it can ever be explained. There may be theories, but they are under constant scrutiny, and are readily overturned in necessary. If human understanding could encompass all of existence I would be dumbfounded, I don’t think that could ever happen; I don’t expect it to. But, there are many people (yourself not included, I think) who would claim God’s will for it all. This is the view that severely limits the scope of what can exist. I, too, feel that we humans, our universe, our consciousness, and all we call reality, are only a small fragment of what exists. But until something has qualities that we can perceive, that thing does not exist. In fact, and as I’ve said before back when this whole discussion started, one does not need evidence to prove non-existence. rather, though, and absolutely, the reverse is entirely, necessarily true. This final statement, I feel, allows completely for the infinite potential of anything that may come about into being or into our perception.

You also said, “The reason that I say there is a God is that I want something larger than myself and larger than all the insanity of our human existence to look toward and reach toward.” I also want what you want, and I feel that we both already have it. I think humans are an incredibly unimportant part of the universe, and beyond. But I would never use a word, so absolutely wrapped up in assumptions, presumptions, and has books of nonsense and antiquated moral laws attributed to it, to explain the unexplained. A word that instantly conjures up the image of a bearded man living in the sky surrounded by winged humans (or other dominant religious descriptions), and in fact has its origins in such descriptions, and has always meant that, I feel should probably be the less used, the better, when describing the wonder of the Earth, Universe, and beyond.

Orion: It seems to me, then, that we are basically on the same page here, and the argument is mostly one of semantics. I am not terribly attached to the word “God” to describe the unknowable aspects of existence, but use it as you said, as a convenient term where other words could do as well. You are right that this usage necessitates further explanation to separate my intention from the commonly inferred meanings of the word “God.” However, I do think that very many other people share this more open perspective of spirituality, mystery, and meaning, and I suspect that many people use the word “God,” not having another good word for it. Why let narrow-minded people monopolize the use of a good word, if it can be claimed for broader meanings?

Sherwin: As we both agree, it is surely convenient. But is it in fact good? If its origins, and even modern uses, are still so dominantly detrimental to an open discussions such as this, why bother? I don’t feel empowered to use the word “god,” but there are many who rely heavily upon it for dastardly means. I think taking away their power, however insignificantly, in a way that enables greater discussion of all the known and unknown wonders of the universe is a greater benefit than to pander to their own terminology.
Here’s my final, final word (since this is my blog, and that’s how it goes) –
I am familiar with most of the arguments submitted by the great thinkers of our time on this matter.  I am obviously atheistic in my stance. but what I rather prefer is the terminology as such, which leaves less  to debate, and removes the word “atheist” which in its formation requires a god to be against, in theory at least, and in its suffix, generally implies belief more than it probably ought to. “I accept the proof that science has to offer. Further, I do not accept that which has not been proven.”

Progress at hand. (also of note)

Here is a quick update on my pianistic repair saga. I’ve made a second pass at her, and I still haven’t managed to bring her all the way home yet. She’s at a much more even temper, however, and I hope to have her 99% up to pitch at the next adjustment. So far she is holding steady at 66% of where I found her. In the video I played a simple C major scale, rather than chromatic, which I feel allows for a greater appreciation of the progress at hand. Also of note – this tuning was interrupted about 3/4ths of the way through, so rather than the whole thing in 4 hours, I’m less sure about how long it took. And, tuning the second half of the soprano and all of the bass section to an already-falling-flat treble didn’t really help my case. But it sounds alright.  The chord at the end (accounting for my noodly finale) is a C13 #11.

This tuning was actually done more than a week ago, but given the previous hullabaloo of the time, I opted to let this minor post sit until things had settled a bit.