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Chris poses an interesting question. Was Tom Bombadil evil? Nah.. more indifferent, I'd say. Oh, good natured certainly, in an abstract way, but human affairs weren't his worry.

Isn't that what you'd expect in a godlike being, really? Dictators and saints try to manipulate or compel people to live in certain ways, but that's because their chief concern is other people or because there's no other source of power to accomplish their ends. A God wouldn't be limited to working through human agents, and probably wouldn't concern themselves with humans. We think God's biggest concern is getting us to Heaven or sending us to Hell or numbering the hairs on our heads, but certainly a God who had created the whole Universe would have more important things to worry about than us. Thinking God is watching us so closely is just our vanity speaking.

Hmm, bunny grazing in the yard- no, two bunnies. Cute! I bet they think the yard was created just for their benefit.

The bunnies think God made me
To tend a lawn
So they can nibble
This sweet, dew-dropped grass.
I wonder, are they right?

Of course the Jesus People say the whole universe was created for our benefit. Ridiculous. I remember something about that Intelligent Design fraud the Jesus People tried to pull in Pennsylvania that time, some priest blathering that to believe anything else destroyed human dignity. What kind of dignity is it if it has to be based on a lie, and a stupid one at that? But then he's a priest, he's used to such things.


A hundred billion
Galaxies, made just for us?
If you say so, Ace.

Well, it's haiku in form. But I think I can do better.

Maybe redo the bunnies too. I can't do them both as one haiku, not clever enough for that today, but I can do a pair to go together.

Bunnies nibble grass
Think I was made to tend lawns
For their convenience

We look at the sky
And think the infinite stars
Were all made for ours

What do you call a pair of haiku that have to go together? Are they even haiku? It's really one poem, not two.

Oh well, it is what it is.
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As an illustration of one facet of my particular insanity, today I was soaking in the bath when I remembered someone remarking that so-and-so had a ton of money. Just how much money would one ton be?

Well, anything to think about would be good if it would keep me soaking in the nice hot water instead of going out to mow the stinking lawn. So I pondered the question a bit.

It's going to depend on what form the money takes, obviously. The heavier the money, the less the value of a ton of it.

It seemed, remembering how a stack of five pennies is bigger than a nickel, and a stack of ten pennies is definitely heavier than a dime, that pennies would be the heaviest form of money. I don't need to consider larger coins since they are based on designs that were silver once, and thus should maintain the ratio of face value to weight that a dime does. In short, if an equivalent value of pennies outweighs any "silver" coin, it should outweigh them all.

I got out of the tub in the end, dried off, dashed to the coffee maker (first things first!) and then did a bit of research. Indeed, pennies are the heaviest US money for their value. (They also cost the US Mint 2.41 cents per 1 cent coin to manufacture. If you needed any other evidence that it's silly to keep making the things.)

A penny weighs 2.5 grams, according to Wikipedia Which is Never Wrong, Right? Doing the conversions, this comes out to $3,628.74 per ton. If you want to make sure a thief can't steal your retirement fund, convert it to pennies and dump it into your basement. Thief would just about have to get earth-moving equipment to steal a few thousand dollars worth of pennies that way.

It's not that simple, though, since older pennies were heavier. Pre-1986 pennies go 145 per pound vs. 181 per pound for the newer ones. According to this standard, the new pennies are $3,260 per ton (close enough to what I got) and older ones would be a relative swindle at only $2900 per ton. On the other hand the older pennies have collector's value and their materials are worth more, so you'd probably be better off with them after all.

The other end of the spectrum is a bit more straightforward. All US currency weighs about the same, whether it's a $1 or a $100. Right now the biggest bill printed is the $100. It weighs "about a gram." If it was exactly a gram, then rounding to the nearest hundred dollar bill, a ton of them would come out to $90,718,500.

And you could carry it all in one fairly ordinary pickup truck! Such a deal.

And now I have to go mow the stinking lawn. Dagnappit.
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In my opinion
Nature's beauty would be fine
Without mosquitoes


May. 11th, 2012 07:26 pm
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We have a Save-A-Lot in town. Save-A-Lot sells groceries cheap. They sell mostly their own distinctive house brands, and their selection is limited, but it's a great place to stock up on basic canned goods, sauces, crackers, that kind of thing.

We also have a lot of tourist grocery stores. These places are usually out by the lake or where the "main" County Road crosses the river. They sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that, like convenience stores, only considerably more run down (since most of them have been there and unchanged for many decades)and with fishing licenses and live bait.

Canned goods at these backwoods stores are usually the big national brands, labels faded because they've been gathering dust for years; the only thing on them that is up to date is the price tag, which is regularly updated to keep up with the rate of inflation and keep the prices at highway robbery levels. Otherwise that 30 year old can of beans would be quite the bargain by now.

Today I worked late in the field. Coming home from the opposite direction from usual, I remembered that this particular lakeside tourist grocery used to have pretty good pizza. I pulled in and ordered one to take home.

While I waited for my pizza I wandered around looking at the shelves. About half the shelves were empty; it appeared the store wasn't doing too well.

Then I noticed something else. The mustard, ketchup, and steak sauce were Kurtz brand. The beans were Cowboy Billy's. I will stop now before I list every brand Save-A-Lot sells in their discount grocery store a few miles north of this market, but that's what they were, Save-A-Lot brands.

Apparently what the Backwoods Tourist Grocery Store of Today does is goes to town, stocks up on the specials at Save-A-Lot, marks the prices up by 300%, and re-sells them.

I guess that would work.

Oh, trillium? Why that? Haiku, that's why.

Ghost of snow that was
The forest floor is white with
Trillium blossoms


Apr. 29th, 2012 02:58 pm
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Melange Books has issued Hilltown as an e-book, with print books available. Here's the site: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/billrogers/hilltown.html

http://www.furaffinity.net/user/fishyboner/ Fishyboner did the cover for it, which is just wonderful. I've told her, and I'm sure she knows it is meant as the highest praise, that the cover she created is nothing I would have ever suggested to her. It's far better than that. Take a look for yourself: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/7879084/

Many of my stories involve furry characters. Hilltown doesn't meet the usual definition of furry, although there are some nonhuman bit players. All the main characters appear to be human.

However, what has always interested me about furry characters is how their minds work. Sure, ears and a fluffy tail are lovely and all of that, but in my opinion the important thing should be how being other than human changes how the characters experience the world and, above all, how it changes how they think. If a written character is just a human in fox ears, and being a fox has no consequences to the story, I feel you should just write them as a human and be done with it. (I don't feel this way about comics, though. In a comic, even if a fox behaves exactly as a human, showing them as a fox gives you a shorthand as to their character- and besides, it's a visual art, so just looking cool counts for a lot. So a furry character who only appears furry without acting furry is acceptable. Not the best, but acceptable.)

In Hilltown, some of the characters appear to be human, but don't have a human perspective. That might make them interesting to furry fans in spite of their bland appearance. Anyway, Maggie Blood is a badass, and if you don't buy the book she appears in it might Annoy her. We wouldn't want that, would we?
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Ted Nugent says "If Barack Obama is elected, I'll either be dead or in jail this time next year."

Get rid of Ted Nugent. Vote for Obama!

I wonder if there's anybody else we could get to sign that pledge. You listening, Rush?
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The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams
Short Version

(Scene One: Laboratory)

Powell: Dr. Boycott, why are you drowning that dog?

Boycott: Why do you think? I'm a guy who does animal testing in a lab! I do it for the same reason ANY such researcher would: because I'm EEEEEVIL! Everybody knows there's no reason to test anything on animals in labs except because you're EEEEEEVIL.

Powell: OK, that explains everything.

Boycott: Also, since I do animal research, I'm stupid. That's why I named the laboratory ARSE and remained completely oblivious to the idea that this combination of letters might have negative connotations.

Powell: That's pretty subtle. Do you think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Boycott: Probably not, but it's OK. We'll emphasize the point some more later. Now, are there more dogs for me to drown?

Powell: Right here-- hey, where did they go?

(Scene Two: The Wilderness)

Rowf: Boy, we're lucky to get out of there. But I'm hungry. Here's a car with a bag of potato chips inside! (jumps in and grabs the chips)

Snitter: The driver's coming back. Run! (They run)

Wescott: Those mutts stole my potato chips! I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life to hunting them down and killing them, because I'm EEEEVIL! Let's see. Here's my gun- see, I own a gun, so I'm EEEEVIL. I think I'll climb up to the crumbling unstable edge of this cliff so I can get a good shot. (Slips) AEEEE! That was predictable. That ground looks hard. (SPLAT!)

Rowf and Snitter: Oooh, that sounded like a bag of meat hitting the rocks! DINNER!

Driver: Hmm, what innocent creatures can I victimize by writing them up in a sensational story in my newspaper, because I am EEEEVIL? Oh, look, man-eating dogs! I'll say they killed Wescott before eating him. Call out the army! (scribbles madly in his notebook)

Rowf: By the way, I'm Rowf, and I hate all humans because they are EEEEVIL.

Snitter: I'm Snitter, and I knew a human who wasn't evil. He saved me from getting hit by a truck!

Rowf: That's cool.

Snitter: But he got hit by the truck himself.

Rowf: Bummer.

Snitter: Yeah. His EEEEVIL sister, Annie Mosity--

Rowf: As in "animosity?" That's pretty subtle. You think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Snitter: Probably not, but that's OK. We'll emphasize the point some more later. Anyway, she was really EEEEVIL. She always hated me!

Rowf: Well, I can see that. You are kind of annoying.

Snitter: And she sold me to the animal experiment lab for a lot of money!

Rowf: Wait.. that doesn't make sense. They could have gotten any number of shelter dogs for free. And anyway, I'm not sure that proves she is EEEEEVIL.

Snitter: But she did it to get money for a FUR COAT!


The Todd: Hi, I'm a fox who is here to show you how to hunt. Go grab those sheep and rip their throats out.

Rowf: Like that?

The Todd: Yeah.

Driver: Ooooh! (Scribbles madly in his notebook)

The Todd: Good, and now we should-- oh, sorry, there are some humans coming, and they're EEEEVIL. Fox hunters, you know. They're going to have their dogs rip me to pieces to show how EEEEVIL they are.

Snitter: That's pretty subtle. You think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

The Todd: Probably not, but it's OK. We can.. IEEEEEEEEE! (dies)

Snitter: Well, that sucks. Let's swim out to sea and drown.

Rowf: No way. I'm scared of water.

Snitter: But I have brain damage that lets me see an island that isn't there!

Rowf: Good enough. Let's go.

(The End of the original version)


Santa Claus: Hi, I'm here to rescue you. The EEEEVIL reporter had a change of heart and brought Snitter's master back from the dead, and they're waiting on shore for me to bring you to him.

Rowf: Aren't you mythological?

Santa Claus: Sure. But the readers wouldn't let you drown pointlessly at sea, so the author grudgingly arranged your rescue in an epilogue. He was mad that they made him do it and upset that they couldn't appreciate the hard-edged realism of the rest of this story, so he had a mythological being rescue you as a way of insulting them.

Snitter: That's kind of subtle. Do you think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Santa Claus: Probably not, but that's OK. We can emphasize the point more later in the story.

Snitter: No, you can't. This is the end of the book.

Santa Claus: Crap.

(The End. For real this time.)


Apr. 3rd, 2012 07:17 pm
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Here is how you make the substance known to the industry as Lean Finely Textured Beef, and to everyone else as Pink Slime.

Dump fatty bits and gristle into a vat. Heat it up and centrifuge it to spin out most of the fat. That takes care of the "lean" part of the name, and probably the "finely textured" part too, since the process seems designed to convert anything into goo.

Since most of this stuff was from near the skin of the carcass and, therefore, prone to be infected with bacteria, you now season to taste with ammonia. Then you compress it into blocks.

This stuff is mixed back into the hamburger you, or your local School Lunch Program, buys. Don't look for it to be listed on the label, though. The FDA has decided this stuff is beef, so the seller doesn't have to list it as a separate ingredient. If you're like me, you've been eating it for years and never knew it, until you discovered the fact recently, and were revolted.

Now steps in Iowa Governor Terry Branstead -- Republican, of course-- to call for an investigation of all this. Not an investigation of how the FDA could rule that reprocessed, ammonia-treated garbage could be called "beef," oh no. Rather he wants the head of whoever inconvenienced the Honest Businessmen by pointing out that they, the Honest Businessmen, were selling reprocessed garbage as meat.

He is a good honest politician, is Mr. Branstead. I'm sure the $150,000 he got from the company that makes this stuff had nothing to do with his stand on the issue. And it is so refreshing to see one of the leaders of our Democracy who has his priorities so well in order.


Mar. 13th, 2012 06:44 pm
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I have been overweight all my life, and I still am, according to any of the usual charts. I'm much less so than I once was, though.

They warned me before I lost that weight that I might have some psychological problems from it, for a reason you might not expect. And so I did.

See, after I'd lost about 80 pounds I began to notice something. On occasion, people would smile at me on the street, or speak a word to me, completely at random. When their eyes flicked across me, they might actually focus as if they were aware I was there.

When I went to conventions with my friends, some of them who had been unable to see me could actually see me some distance away, and would say hi. I had been invisible before. I had fun with it. I could walk up to people and wave my hand to catch their attention, and they would JUMP as if I had materialized out of thin air. Scared the hell out of folks. I actually enjoyed the effect, until I lost the weight and found out what had caused it.

You see, I now realize that I had been ugly, just a blob of fat in peoples' eyes-- and to be honest, in my own as well. People don't want to see ugly things, and what we don't want to see, we don't. I had been invisible. I had been a not-person.

When I came to understand that, I got furious. Not because people treat me badly, but because I realized how badly they HAD been treating me. It's bad enough to be trapped with a problem that is going to kill you early. It's worse to be despised for it.

Well, I got over the anger. You get used to being a person. You get used to having people see you, and when you smile at someone they might even smile back. You get used to having the Honest Businessmen you anger during an inspection have to dredge up some insult other than "fatso" or "lardo." It's kind of nice.

I still get angry sometimes when I'm reminded of how quick people are to judge and dismiss as worthless those who don't live up to the airbrushed ideals of a hair gel ad. The recent flap about Rush Limbaugh hit me that way.

I am not El Rushbo's greatest fan, to say the least. He is best described, as they say, with "a seven-letter word beginning with A, and it's not 'astronaut,' because that has nine." The fact that he is still wasting perfectly good oxygen on national radio is a prime example of the lack of justice in the world.

But it makes me furious that so many of his benevolent and enlightened critics start their reasoned criticism of the man with "that fat" whatever. Or as one columnist who is always so so careful to point out every possible instance of bigotry put it, "Limbaugh is no more careful with what comes out of his mouth than he is with what goes into it." Clever words, sir! How logically you have refuted any of Rush's words there, and I bet you don't think you yourself a bigot at all!

Don't be bigots, folks. The guy's a jerk. His weight has nothing to do with it.
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Today is our Presidential primary.

I went because this is a one-party town. Generally the Republican candidates for all the local positions run unopposed in the November election; the only time you get to choose between different people is in the Republican Primary. If then. A lot of the folks are running unopposed even then. Not that I mind too much. A lot of these small town minor positions are just volunteer work with a fancy title. I'm glad we have somebody willing to do them at all.

However, this was ONLY the Presidential primary, as it turns out. We have another primary election in August. Perhaps that was the one I remember, the one with the minor positions.

Well, having gone there, I had a fine choice. I could take the Democratic ballot and vote for our buddy Barack, who was unopposed. Also in this state the Presidential delegates for the Democrats are chosen in a closed caucus anyway. Why, then, we bother having a Democratic primary I do not know. Your vote wouldn't count or be counted, making it even more meaningless than in the usual election-- if that were possible.

On the other hand I could vote in the Republican side, where they do count your vote, where it does (theoretically, the usual electronic hocus pocus and other general fraud aside) choose the delegates. So which do I vote for? Ignorant inSantorum, who wants to force his bigoted and petty version of Jesus down our throats, or the Ghost of the Late Governor George Romney? Tough call. And no comment.

Might have gone for Ron Paul if I could have ignored the overt racism of his prior campaigns for President, but that's a lot to ignore.

-- I spent the day running a Full Administrative Completeness Check on a Renewable Permit. This is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

--On the way home I did some shopping and came up with one of those questions which doth trouble and perplex. Facing the Wall of Paper Towels, I asked the clerk "Which roll is largest, the Big, Giant, or Huge?" To this important philosophical question, he was unable to provide me an answer.
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Since Hilltown is coming out from Melange Books fairly soon, I have to do this whole Social Media thing. It's in the rulebook somewhere.

This I know from nothing. I suppose I must have a Facebook page, and Twitter. I have been avoiding both as I don't think I, at least, can come up with anything intelligent to say on them, but it has to be done, right? I just don't know how. I'm too antisocial for social media, perhaps.

Also there's the matter of review sites for SF and fantasy books. I don't know that many of them.

If anybody out there in the World of E has suggestions, I'd appreciate them.
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Every so often I hear about some new movie project and immediately start to hyperventilate. Eventually I calm myself by telling myself that it can't possibly be as bad as I think it's going to be.

Usually it is, of course.

There are remakes of movies that should never have been made in the first place. I suppose the rumored remake of _Starship Troopers_ rates as one of those, except you could argue that _Starship Troopers_ has never been made in the first place. Oh, yeah, the Bugs are there as they were in the original Heinlein novel, but the bozo who made the movie dressed all the characters in Waffen SS uniforms (apparently believing that he was being too subtle with his political viewpoint) and then left out the Cap Troopers' powered, armored suits-- which is rather like making an epic movie about Pearl Harbor without including any airplanes. Pitiful, really.

So maybe that has a point. I'm not sure that the upcoming movie _Battleship_ has any such point, though.

Battleship is supposed to be based on the game of the same name. "D-8, hit, you sunk my battleship!" That game?

The plot, so-called, is apparently a variation on the Strange Radiation from Outer Space theme. In this case the Strange Radiation is played by an alien force shield which somehow manages to seal all human weapons out of the battle area except for one battleship. Also, presumably, one carrier, one cruiser, one submarine, and one destroyer, all molded out of polypropylene.

To make it interesting we have the Screw Up Rebel Junior Officer, facing court martial, who is in love with the Hot Daughter of the Doctrinaire Admiral, who by chance also happens to be the commander of the ship where Rebel Junior Officer serves.

Now, the Strange Radiation Plot is usually along the lines of when the Ancient and Lordly Order of the Knights of Gonorrhea sally forth from their cathedral-citadel of Chikkun Noodl to bring order to the wastelands, they ride Shetland Ponies and carry Red Ryder BB Guns, because Strange Radiation from Outer Space keeps other weapons and other means of transportation from working. Or in other words, the author really liked ponies and BB guns.

In this case the author really likes battleships, apparently. All this appears to be an attempt to justify a CGI Battleship letting loose full broadsides on the wide screen, in 3D.

I gotta admit that would be pretty cool. Certainly offers more potential for pointless explosions than anything since Sylvester Stallone, and Pointless Explosions are the number one thing I look for in cinematic entertainment. But I'm not sure that even that is enough to get me to get me to watch "You're a disgrace to the service and I'm going to get you courtmartialled! D-8" "Miss! Bring me up on charges later! First I'm gonna save your daughter Jessica and all of Earth! D-7!" "Hit! What does Jessica have to do with it? You keep your hands off--"

But no, it can't be that bad.

Can it?


Dec. 3rd, 2011 08:32 pm
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If you haven't heard of West Branch, Michigan, I'm not too surprised. It's about a hundred miles from the nearest place I might reasonably expect people to know.

About three miles south of town, accessible only via the northbound lanes of Interstate 75, is a rest area. It has a parking lot, a few picnic tables, public toilets, and two or three vending machines.

As you walk toward the toilet building you will pass a sign which says NO SKATEBOARDING.

I have to look around at the miles of nothing in particular surrounding this rest area and ask "Is this really a problem here?"
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"If you should happen to need to go into the woods, don't wear brown. Or white." I paused a moment to consider. "On second thought, it would probably be better if you didn't go into the woods at all."

Teph looked at the calendar. "Oh, yeah. November 15th. Opening Day."

Ah yes, Opening Day, the Upnorth National Holiday, where there is nothing deadlier than a white handkerchief (if anybody carries those any more). Because when you yank it out of your pocket to catch a sneeze, it flashes and flutters around just like the white tail of a startled deer bounding away through the underbrush. It's likely to get your fool head blown off.

Not that this happens often, to give the hunters credit. Usually the drive up here is the most dangerous part of the hunt.

Back in the late 1950s, my relatives tell me, they closed the Upnorth schools for the first week of deer season because between the people gone hunting and the people working to sell things to the Red Army, as they were called back then, nobody was going to be sitting in any classrooms anyway. This was in the years before the freeway came this far north, and they'd close the state roads too, or at least the southbound side of them. Both lanes would be bumper to bumper traffic heading north, driving like mad, the night before Opening Day. If you wanted to go south, you'd have to creep southward along the gravel shoulder, facing the glare of headlights all the way.

Today, the Red Army has become the Orange Army (by law) and Opening Day isn't quite the big deal it was back when it was the only thing going on up here between Fall Color Tours and Spring Morel Mushroom Picking. But it's still pretty big. Last night the roads and stores and restaurants and bars were swarming with hunters.

Today, heeding my own advice, I took my noon walk through the driveways and parking lots of the box stores near my office, not in the empty woods out back. (We have urban sprawl here too, except without that "urban" part.) The parking lots were STILL swarming with people.

Which raises a bit of a question. If the hunters are supposedly hunting all day (although there is about as much all-night drinking and card playing and sleeping it off afterward as there is hunting, I'd guess) then who was doing all the shopping at noon?

Well, another tradition of Opening Day is that the lonely, upset, sorrowful wives, left behind when The Guys all go out to The Camp, stay lonely etc etc until The Guys are out of sight. Then they grab the checkbook and the credit cards, assemble in swarms akin to locusts, and Descend Upon The Stores.

In today's less sexist world we don't have quite the division of labor they did in the old days, but there's still a lot of that going on. Old Upnorth National Holiday Traditions die hard.
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"The problem with the Internet is the difficulty of determining the authenticity of quotes you read there."

--Abraham Lincoln
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An old story of mine. It seems appropriate to the season.

Second Story Man

Sunset comes and I awaken in the telephone exchange which was. This is where I spend most of my time now, in the second story of a storefront in the middle of downtown.

So why is he there? )
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I was visiting my mother and, out of fairness, decided to go visit my father too. They've been separated for years. (It was nothing personal, only death.)

The journey was as long as you'd expect, walking alone down empty country roads. The trees scattered along the roadside showed black, naked branches against the cold gray October sky.

I found him living in a small, plain house with a roommate he didn't take the trouble to introduce. Such a plain home didn't seem to trouble him as much as it would have once. He was sitting at the desk he'd built himself (I have it in my room) and working on his biography, which was half done.

He said "Every man is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody."

"Mom told me you'd said that, and I was surprised you had. It's Mark Twain."

"I never said it was original."

"I never said you said it was original. What surprised me was that you'd say it about yourself. And that you liked Mark Twain."


"But I wanted to tell you I understand what you meant. I understand you did your best."

"Good. Thank you." And he returned to his work, leaving me to return to my own.


Oct. 15th, 2011 06:47 pm
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My mother is lovable in such an annoying way I sometimes don't know whether I want to hug her or kick her.

I went on a visit to help with some family business. When I got there at 8:30 PM she had a home-cooked dinner waiting for me. No surprise there; We'd planned on this, and I'd skipped dinner. Everything's OK so far.

I sniffed. It smelled wonderful, but... "Is that chicken?"

"Yes. With carrots, onions, and potatoes." She had it simmering in an electric frying pan on the counter.

"I thought you were doing spare ribs in the slow cooker." The whole idea being, of course, that they could sit there all evening and would be fine whenever I got there, with no extra work on her part.

"I did. But they didn't turn out well, so I cooked the chicken instead. The ribs are in the refrigerator."

All this cooking for a guy with half a stomach. (Don't feel sorry for me, I didn't need the other half.) I ate a small piece of chicken and some of the vegetables.

We handled the business today. Then I went home with a few leftovers: The rest of the chicken dinner, the complete rib dinner, some leftovers from a restaurant we went to today, and what was left of the homemade apple pie she also baked, which was all of it, because we didn't get into it while I was there. And oh, yes, one Mason jar each of home-canned applesauce, tomato juice, and dill pickles.

I managed to get out of there without hearing what was wrong with any of it. To hear Mom speak she's never cooked a decent meal or, especially, baked a good pie in her entire life. It's always too runny or the meat isn't lean enough or the chicken is too dry, but everything is always great.

Well, that's not true, quite. She DID warn me, as I fled out the door with my loot, that the dill pickles are salty. But somehow I'll cope.
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Once upon a time, if you wanted something printed you'd have it hand-set, with movable type clamped into flat devices called forms. This took a lot of work, so it was expensive, especially for something as long as a book.

There was only a limited amount of type and a limited number of forms. You'd typeset your book (or just one section of it, I suspect) and print it, then knock it down and reuse the type for the next job. If your book was a hit you'd need to have the type hand-set all over again, maybe two or three times.

There was a way to "save" your hand-set type to avoid this. You would make a bed of wet clay and press the type into it, making a mold. You would then pour molten type metal over the mold, to make a page's worth of text in one solid block.

The only problem with this approach was that you could never change your page, once you'd set it. But if you wanted to print the same thing over and over again, without change, this was the way to do it.

The process was called stereotyping.

French printers had a word for one individual stereotype plate out of a set of them. My dictionaries differ on where the name comes from- might be a mangled version of the German for a mass of clay, such as you'd use to make the page mold, or it might be imitating the sound of the type form being pressed into the clay, or the type metal being poured onto the mold. In any case, they had a special word for that single plate. It was known as a cliche'.


Sep. 19th, 2011 05:55 pm
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In Grandfather's town you carried
a spark of time on your wrist
through a wilderness of trackless hours.

Lit from the kitchen clock
in the predawn darkness,
before work,

Setting hands, twisting the knob,
to wind the dime-store watch,
Finger and thumb with special ridges
Of callus, from decades against sharp edges
and the resistance of springs.

At noon each day the tornado siren wailed
And 532 sets of fingers
moved to reset 532 drifting watches
To realign another day
With eternity.
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