Monthly Archives: November 2006

Book Notes – Hays, Mary – Memoirs of Emma Courtney

I realized recently that I was reading but not remembering a whole hell of a lot. My internal summation of “Madame Bovary” boiled down a single sentence and the image of someone eating a lot of poison. While that’s certainly efficient in terms of storage it certainly seems to miss the point. In an attempt to augment my tattered recollections I started taking handwritten notes in true luddite fashion. My notes hit the high points as I read through things and I’ll read through the notes and extract the high points from those. It’s the ultimate in compactification! (or compaction or compression if you prefer to be ‘correct’… pfft…)

Since I started halfway through Emma Courtney I didn’t make note of the plot (not to worry, it’s a simple Plot 1g: Woman meets man, woman likes man, man can’t marry woman because his uncle’s will forbids it, woman marries other man, woman still wants first man.) I did make note of a few cool quotes and words I found amusing. Aren’t you lucky to get them all without even having read the book?

splenetic – Basically, this just means spiteful but it’s handy as it might make people think you admire their spleen if you use it on them.

“The ideas, associations and circumstances of each man are properly his own and it is a pernicious system that would lead us to require all men, however different their circumstances to act by a precise general rule.” – William Godwin as quoted by Hayes.

captious – I DO so admire efficient words and this is one of them. A captious person is one who tends to stress the faults of a person or idea and constantly raise objections and argue. Much more evocative than the commonly used relative ‘nitpicker’.

specious – Another example of a highly efficient adjective, a specious argument is one that has an outward appearance of truth but is really just a load of crap, similar to sophistry.

gallimaufy – yet another of the many words for a hodgepodge.


Filed under books

Baby Mountains of Majesty

It’s now been two days. Two LONG days. Clearly, this baby is sick. Her countenance wouldn’t betray the fact but the four dirty diapers in an hour are a pretty good hint. I’m officially tired of cleaning up baby upchuck and baby downchuck. It’s high time for some mental exercise. Well… as close as one can get to mental exercise… you see, my life is pretty dull and I bet yours is too.

I think the assumption society makes is that there are two parts to a person’s life and that those parts play completely opposite roles. Person goes to work, does stuff, thinks, comes home, sits, does nothing, relaxes (or plays in some way). The work part is supposed to be hard and the not-work part is supposed to be easy and relaxing. After work is time for refueling, ‘sharpening the saw’ as the Covey people say. But I’m completely not buying that. It seems apparent that most people are a LOT smarter than their jobs. My wife goes to work and does pretty much the same mundane thing year after year. Her actual job isn’t mentally stimulating that I can tell. She’s not pressing any new neurons into service as she putters through each day because of her job duties. The things that really get her going are completely contrived and unrelated to her work. I have to wonder how many other people are in similar situations.

For my part, my job is immutably dull. The main crux of what I do is to pump out website after website that is 90% the same as the proceeding one with as much efficiency as possible. Every morning I get up and once again it’s “time to make the donuts” to use a now archaic phrase. Like my wife, the entertaining things are the ones I take it upon myself to just DO because they need to be done. My boss scratches his head at me when I take special pains to attend some vague “Planning Meeting” like I’m some sort of tech-head droid that’s run amok. Why the hell would a technical person want to go to a meeting? Isn’t that against the geek law? I think that technically it may be but honestly the technical questions are really too easy. The real nasty thought-provoking questions are much more complicated. They involve people. Damn. Can’t get much more complicated than that. People add a simply delightful level of complexity to life that one misses if one’s head is bent over a computer screen for too long.

I realized recently that I’d been programming for 20 years. 20 years. I’m pretty sure that aside from basic biological functions I’ve not been doing anything else for that long. I’ve long ago given up every hobby that old. My first computer was a “Color Computer 2” and while I’ll admit I had one game for the thing the BEST part was the “operating system.” Now those were the days:

20 PRINT “HI!”
30 END

Or if you were a daring self-assured sort:


Yeah, those were some great times. Wonder if I have any of those old tapes. Somewhere there’s a Bananarama tape with 90 seconds of *SCREECH* *SCRAW* *EEEEACK* recorded over the beginning that was a damn cool program.

So yeah, after 20 years, a lot of the mystery has gone out of the old programming experience. Guess I’ll go type up those book notes from the other day and get back to the old Greek. Nothing like studying a language that on the surface makes absolutely NO sense to keep the wheels turning.

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Your Personal Screwtape

“What in one instance might be a vice, in another may possibly become a virtue. A thousand imperceptible, evanescent shadings modify every thought, every motive, every action of our lives – no one can estimate the sensations or, can form an exact judgment for another.”

I avoid the inside of gas stations. I’m always appalled when I go into these places because invariably there’s at least one caricature from society to be dealt with. In this part of the country it’s generally the “Birthed Five but Mother to None.” She has disheveled hair, a dirty shirt, the very epitome of slatternly squalor from head to foot. Her child is similarly attired (if in fact attired at all) and wandering off in any available direction without so much as a nod from its “parent.” Typically she’s walked there from some nearby apartment to spend $50 on the staples or her life: lottery tickets and cigarettes. The stertorous, tortured rasping that passes for her breath echoes through the store proving that this isn’t her first encounter with Raleigh’s “gift” to humanity.

It is only with the utmost willpower that I manage to put aside my decidedly procrustean prejudices and dream that it’s just POSSIBLE that there’s some perfectly legitimate reason that this woman is in the state she’s in. From my decidedly affluent position in society, it’s difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I would allow myself to appear to the world in such an unflattering light. How can this woman respect herself at all in such a state? Doesn’t she realize that the reason she’s in this position in the first place may have to do with her day-to-day choices?

The answer is that of course she knows. She knows she’s not going to win the lottery but to her it’s the only hope. The only chance she has to extract herself from the mire of her own ignorance and poverty is to be that one lucky person in a million. To her, the choice is simple. She HAS to buy the lottery tickets because without those, there’s nothing. That’s ALL there is. The State certainly doesn’t help the situation as it speaks from both sides of its mouth. On one hand, the ads say “Buy Lottery Tickets! You’ll win a LOT of money!!” with big flashing lights but in small print encourage you to “Play Responsibly.” When you live in filth on minimum wage playing at all is automatically irresponsible. Yet the State continues to tax the hopes and dreams of those who can least afford it. It is an irresponsible society that taunts its lowest earners into giving up what little they have for an evanescent hope of wealth.

But does she not realize that by smoking she’s not only throwing away her money but her health? Again, of course she does. The tocsins of death have been ringing in her head for years as she wakes up coughing and breathless in the middle of the night. No smoker is unaware of the quag into which they wander when they continue to smoke. There is no paucity of warnings; any pretence to ignorance is obvious affectation. They knowingly and willingly throw their resources and health into the abyss because the twin demons of habit and dependence force them to. Smokers are slaves to their habit; what is once picked up is not so easily put aside.

While we do not all share the same vices, we each have our own that stand in stead of this woman’s. She dreams to be rich and does what she thinks needs be done to make it so. My hopeless dreams are no less lunacy than hers. I service them in my own way and feed them as much if not more than she. I too have my bottomless abyss to feed.

Dare I ask, lest your demons become my own, what masters you serve, dear reader?


Filed under people

Roll Call

Alright, brace yourselves. For those with delicate mental conditions I urge you to click “Next Blog” now because this is going to be one HELL of a boring post. Yeah, you heard me. Just like a year ago when I told you about Mike. You know, that big thing that lives with me? This is going to be even more dull so I advise you to just move on before you fall asleep.

Since I was a wee lad I’ve always had this bizarre fascination with green, happy growing things. I’m not 100% sure why but I suspect that it’s primarily a good healthy respect for the thought that a biological organism can take air, water, sunlight and trace soil nutrients and turn them into an entire tree. Ya gotta admit, that’s pretty impressive.

Because of this good healthy respect, I’ve acquired quite a few of our good photosynthetic friends over the years and now seems a good time to call the current roll. It’s sad that I don’t have any pictures of Mike or Paul from their youth so I’m trying to avoid making the same mistake twice. Anyway, here goes.

Oh, before you ask, yes, each plant has a name and it’s not merely because I’m completely insane and tend to towards anthropomorphizing things. There’s a thin ribbon of logic in all cases between the plant and its given name. Sometimes it’s a damn fine thread but it’s there. Anyone who can guess the reason for even 10 out of the 16 plants’ names wins a free lunch. Yeah, you heard me. Free lunch! but you’ll have to come to Indy to collect it.

Yes, here we have the ever-miserable Parker. He’s been around here for about 4 years. Given as a gift to my wife by one of her students as a mere tiny tendril…

Clearly the dry air of the house just doesn’t agree with him.
Ever on the lookout for irony, the next three were salvaged from the funereal planters from my Uncle Don’s funeral. That was about 3 years ago give or take.

There’s Archie…

… and Felix…

… and finally Joseph.

Joseph, like Parker, is not a fan of the dry air inside.

At one point, my daughter was envious of Mike so she purchased and bought the next subject, Pointy.

Okay, more irony for the next eight. The Lowes here in Beech Grove has absolutely NO clue how to care for the houseplants they keep in stock. I’m relatively sure that NONE of them have ever been watered. If they don’t sell within about 3 days they’re dead as door knockers. Well, with one set of exceptions. Ironically, the plants most capable of surviving such neglect are on clearance at 75% off so I picked up these 8 at $.54 to $.75 each.








and lastly, Buddy.


And the last set of three miserable specimens was saved from a botanical research lab. Well, actually, my wife the science teacher was experimenting on them. Same diff really…



and Stella.


Okay, that’s finally it. This’ll be so fun to look back on in a year when I realize I’ve chucked every one of these in the bin. Oh, and if you’ve actually made it this far, g’night! Rest well!

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Funny Stuff….

You know… once you get around the fact that the protagonists of this little show are the better part of a happy meal, this show is ridiculously funny. I’m not really sure I understand why.

I guess it’s probably just something about Carl. Though I’ll admit that the whole broom thing is a bit over the top.


Filed under humor?

Happy Anniversary to Me…

Yesterday marked an anniversary of incredible importance. I haven’t been to work for a year and a day. No, I haven’t been loafing about on my wife’s salary for all that time. I’ve been working from home; doing the same job as before but not actually doing it from the office proper.

Some of the changes wrought by this are pretty obvious. Sure I don’t have to commute to work any more and availability of lunch is absolutely assured. I’ve got an IP phone from my workplace so as far as the technology knows I’m sitting right there in the office next to Larry, Darrel and Darrel as I did before. My job is amusingly identical to what it was before: I have the same customers, do the same work, get annoyed about the same things and still bring home a paycheck. The ease with which this all happened is somewhat eerie to look back upon.

A few things, however, were more difficult to anticipate. Now I’ll admit that while I was in the office I was NOT the life of any party because frankly I don’t really understand parties and least of all office parties. I’m also pretty shitty at random office chit-chat as well so it’s really surprising that I would miss it. I consider myself an utter misanthrope but when it comes down to it I do (for some completely impractical reason) value the random inputs of other people no matter how bad I may be at metabolizing them. Even the most inane conversation was a welcome addition to my average day. This was not particularly noticeable until after I’d been away from the office for a few months and HAD no more random conversations. After a while I realized with a bit of a bump that I don’t really associate with anyone aside from my wife, her family and the people at work (plus or minus 1 or 2 previous co-workers who find their way into my life in some electronic medium or other). If you take away the people at work then I communicate with four different adults on a regular basis and three of them live in either this house or the one next door. That’s a terrifyingly small circle even for me. Clearly I need to go to a few more parties.

I also never thought I’d miss the drive but for some reason I do. When you commute for any period of time at all you learn the route with such clarity that most of your drive becomes a complete trance. It was during these moments of utter vehicular Zen that most of my blog entries came about. Without this ‘input from within’ my blog entries quickly deteriorated into vacuous personal garbage. I daresay even my work suffered as most of my truly inspired ideas originated in those 45 minutes of Zen coming home from work. Clearly I need to go to more parties where the guests all just stand around staring off into space.

All this said I’m more than compensated for any of these loses. Our laundry is ALWAYS done and our house has never been more secure from burglary since I’m here on guard an average of 23 hours and 50 minutes a day. I’ll simply keep replacing the background office babble with the droning of CNN and perhaps take up a nice redundant hobby to regain my Zen oneness of self… perhaps I’ll whittle myself a stand for this office phone of talk to these plants for an hour a day and explain to them our system of government.


Filed under personal, work

The Bench… Take 3

Alright… well finally, it seems to be done. I’ve officially washed my hands of the mysteriously slippery bench project. I told my wife that I’d help her take it in the house and after that I was no longer involved. It is my hope that the bench she wanted looked at least a little bit like the bench she got:

Total price on this thing including a LOT more red paint than I will probably ever find a use for: $60.


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