Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stuff Around The House #14

This is number 14 in my never ending series of stuff around the house. These are some objects placed on a shelf behind where I sit when working on the computer. Some of the stuff was put there on purpose, other things just ended up there. The Russian on the box means "bird" - it had a metal windup bird in it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I received an award

I received an award from Heather the other day.  Its the first award anyone's given me and I was caught off guard.  I appreciate it, but still I stared at it for awhile.  And thought about it for awhile longer. This is what I do, even if it does not come out in whatever I write.  I tend to think about things.  Not important things so much, just things.

So anyway, if I understand correctly (a big if), I'm supposed to list 7 things about myself and pass it on.  I don't know about passing it on - I mean who am I to give someone an award?  Most blogs I read are a lot more involved & require a lot more work & insight than mine does.   I don't feel qualified, so I may pass on that part of it.   (Pass on passing it on.  I was reading this over and that struck me as humorous).

But anyway - here's 7 things about me anyone who reads this may or may not know.

1)  I am 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall, more or less.  For the rest of the world that's 1.88 meters, give or take, I reckon.  I'm going on what a conversion program tells me, I'm not fluent in metric.  I have basic conversational abilities in metric, I could go into a metric restaurant & get something to eat, find my way around a metric town without too much problem, buy some metric groceries perhaps, but I'd have problems with metric dialects or regionalisms.  I know miles per gallon pretty well, but kilometers per liter just freaks me out.   At any rate,  I'm  taller than average, but not freakishly so....1.88 meters sounds small to me, but I'm sure that's just my provincialism showing through.

2) I spent 7 interesting years in the US Army.  Looking back on it, I had a complete disconnect between what my job was, and the extreme amount of danger the tactical portion of it could have placed me in, given the right conditions.  Being young & inexperienced probably had something to do with that.

3) I'm conflicted about whether I'm a dog person or a cat person.  I have one of each.  And even though Pickles the Dog gets more words in this blog than does Snowchief the Cat, Snowchief has been around for about 17 years now, and is much more affectionate than Pickles.   Pickles is more "needy" than Snowchief, but that's only because Snowchief couldn't give a flying you know what about what you think about anything.  He's a cat.

4) In 1990 I bought an entry level Saab 900 3-door hatchback, and proceeded to put over 250,000 miles on it during the next ten years.   I miss that ol' Saab.

5)  I have a sense of humor, sometimes it shows.

6)  My favorite book is "Life: A User's Manual" by Georges Perec.  Its translated from French into English, and I feel a bit lesser for the fact that I cannot speak or read French.  I hate depending on translators, 'cause you have to depend on them for all the nuances & cultural references and stuff.   I have tons of trouble with Kafka, more than any other author on earth just about.  I just have trouble following his stories and logic, and I've always blamed myself, my own limitations.  But what if its the translator, not me?  Yeah, that's the ticket.   Dumb ol' translators.

7)  I'm married to Patti Anne, sometimes referred to as Miss Patti.    

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pickles & Me Walking Home

Just a lazy Sunday afternoon in Valdese.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's A Recipe - But For What?

I came across this old postcard that had a recipe on back, but since both the sender & receiver knew what it was for, the sender did not think to enliven later generations.   It's postmarked Boston, Mass., Sep 7, 1934, and the front is a picture of Jamaica Pond in Brookline, MA.   It was sent to an address is Belmont, MA.  Click on the picture to make it larger (at least that works for me).  

I'll transcribe it here so maybe someone can figure out what it means.   It'd be cool to try to reproduce it.  Perhaps.  

Here goes:

You forgot the recipe on Thursday evening & I am writing it along.

half cup of butter; one cup of sugar, two cups flour sifted twice, two teaspoons baking powder, two teaspoons vanilla, half cup milk scant(?), salt, three eggs, the whites beaten stiff and added last.  Bake in 350 F. for one hour.

I think it's a cake of some kind, but I'm not positive.  And if it is, I'm not sure what flavor it would end up being, but most likely some form of vanilla.  I'm also not sure what the word after "milk" is. 

I liked the interesting turn of phrases in it - "I am writing it along", instead of I am sending it along.   And "Bake in" instead of bake at.

Anyway, this is a 75 year old recipe for something, with no need to mention how much salt was required.  In I think a lot of stuff in this recipe is "assumed".  No need to explain something that everybody would know.  

Chalk up another one for postcards.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cigarette Smoke

I've bought 2 semi-large lots of items this month, from two different sellers,  one about 15 CDVs and another 52 Cabinet Cards. I paid more than I really wanted to for these items, but they looked like good quality items, and I felt that I could probably make a profit on them.

They both came saturated with cigarette smoke.   I cannot resell these items when they smell this way.  There are ways to get the cigarette smell out of paper items, but it takes awhile, and I'm not sure that it's ever 100%.  In the mean time I've got some really nice inventory that I dont feel I can sell for awhile.

Add two sellers to the list of sellers I will not buy from again.  I think my list is up to 4 now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flu Shot

Got my seasonal flu shot today - at the lovely Food Lion Supermarket - a place where at least 1/4 of the people are insane 1/2 the time.   I don't really like going in there, but at least I wasn't buying groceries.   In the aisles, between the shelves, amongst the rows of food is where most of the insane things in Food Lion happen & I avoided that.

So anyway, this is the seasonal shot, and as far as I know there is very little if any seasonal flu going around right now.  Swine flu is another story, there's quite a bit of that about, but there's no vaccine available for it yet, at least not in these parts.  

When I was standing in line, I noticed that almost everybody else in line was older than I am. That made me feel good.  And when I got to the table, they didn't even ask if I had medicare, which made me feel better, since I'm nowhere near old enough to qualify for medicare.   Not even close. Closer than I was last year I guess, but still, not close.  

So, I'm protected against something, for awhile at least. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I need a haircut

I looked at myself in the mirror today. It's unusual for me to look at myself in a mirror - I tend to avoid mirrors, and not because of any supernatural reason, like being a vampire. I'm not. I just prefer not to look at my reflection if I can help it. So I may be standing in front of a mirror for some reason, but make no assumption that I'm looking at myself.

But yesterday (or the day before, I can't remember) I shaved, and I looked in the mirror then. I looked and I thought, goodness, my hair's getting long. I need a haircut. Society demands it.

I personally have nothing against haircuts. In fact I've been mulling over the possibility of getting one for almost a month now - don't want to rush into things. When I do get a haircut, I'm usually satisfied with, or at the very least ambivalent about the results. I never ask for my hair back, even if it doesnt turn out the way I like it.

But I don't like getting haircuts. I despise the act, in fact. Its all the socialization involved, sometimes the people cutting your hair want to talk, and normally I'd prefer not to. I'm also not that happy with strange people so close to my face, especially with sharp objects. I feel the awkwardness of leaving tips, never really knowing if I'm leaving too much or not enough. And there are other intangibles involved - the biggest one being that once you get a haircut, everybody knows it. I'd prefer not to give people a reason to notice me too much - and a fresh haircut gives people a perfect excuse to start talking to you about things.

"Oh you look so much better with a haircut"

Hmmmm. What did I look like before? Anyway, I need a haircut. And before too much longer, I'll take a deep breath and go get one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Poem About Pickles the Dog, with apologies to Patti Anne, who thought of it.

Sung to the tune of Wayfarin' Stranger (the Emmylou Harris/Ricky Skaggs version).  Roughly.   And please forgive any inconsistencies - I don't spend a lot of time on this stuff.

Oh my name is Pickles Anne, I do not live in that trailer park,

If I did, I'd be Rover or Rambler, or maybe Spot, I'm glad I'm not.

Oh I love my view of the Mountains,  I love to chase that Snowchief Cat,

I love to sleep next to my window, and bark at squirrels and stuff like that.

Now the trailer park is tempting, with good things to sniff and smell,

With that road to run around in, and a nice doghouse to dwell.

But there aint no view of the mountains, and there aint no Snowchief Cat,

I like my name, I like my people, I think I'll stay right where I'm at.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overheard in Valdese

"She's so uppity, she just HAS to do all her shopping at Wal-Mart."

Yep, Dollar General just doesn't cut it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Study in Scarlet - My first Sherlock Holmes Novel

I've seen Sherlock Holmes movies (Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce), and of course Sherlock is a cultural icon, but one of the holes in my education is I've never read, until now, anything written by Arthur Conan Doyle.   So I decided to fix that, and I started with "A Study in Scarlet", which I found to be interesting, on a couple of levels.

In part 1 of the novel, we meet the main characters.  Its told in the 1st person from the point of view of Dr. Watson, and this is their first meeting.   The good doctor gave a bit of his personal history, (recovering from wounds received in Afghanistan), and Holmes is introduced.  The plot spirals into a murder mystery, and at the end, Holmes captures the murderer.  This left me scratching my head because the author did not provide any clue whatsoever as to who the murderer was or how Holmes figured it out.

In part 2, something strange happens.  In stead of being told from the point of view of Dr. Watson, it's told in the 3rd person by some narrator off to the side (or perhaps in the sky).  Also, it takes place 30 years earlier, and the location moves from London to the American west.   For a page or two I was lost - then I understood.  Part 2 turned into a history of the murdered men, and of the murderer and his motivations,  and the murderer turned out to be the good guy.  It was a historical novel of sorts, with some historic figures, and was quite critical of Mormon society.   Whether it was valid or not, this part was very well written, & a very good story, I thought.   I suspect the criticisms reflect mainstream 19th century thought - especially about polygamy.  It would be interesting to research that.

Part 3 returns us to the 1st person & Dr. Watson, and most of this section is taken up by the murderer telling his story to the police, Holmes & Dr. Watson.  In other words, this is where the author tied up some (not all by far) of the loose ends.  This is every old western or detective show you've ever seen, where the bad guy sits around and confesses everything, just before the good guy is rescued.  In this case our murderer, who wasn't such a bad guy, was very ill and died within a day or two.

It wasn't hard to read, and the 2nd part of the book was very interesting.  And I'm still not sure what the title - A Study in Scarlet - had to do with anything.  But I miss things.

On to "The Hound of the Baskervilles" I reckon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Five Different Thoughts

1.  I did not sleep well last night.  I'd have strange dreams, then wake up for awhile.   In one of my dreams I was talking to someone about a dream I'd actually had earlier that night.  I have no idea who this person was and the whole concept of discussing a dream within a dream makes my head spin.

2.  I've never read a Sherlock Holmes story before, and I decided I'd change that.  So I found an anthology, and began reading, starting, believe it or not, with the introduction.   I'm midway thru the first novel, "A Study in Scarlet", and I have to admit, I'm baffled.   Jefferson Hope appeared out of nowhere, as the murderer.

3.  I seem to get a kick out of very poorly translated jokes - especially the one about slapping Steven Spielberg.   There are more than their fair share of those out there.  I think the reason is because humor is very difficult to translate from language to language.  I remember once when I was in Germany, finding myself quite by accident at a Christian Democrat rally in Augsburg.  I thought it was a beer tent at some sort of small fest, and went in and sat down & ordered some festchicken & a beer.  The speaker was telling a joke, in which the characters were Helmut Schmidt, and Helmut Kohl - one was a member of the Social Democrats & the other a member of the Christian Democrats (think Democrats & Republicans, except more extreme).   I could actually follow the joke right up to the punch line & the whole tent exploded.  But I didn't understand - because the punch line was probably a pun or some cultural reference I had no clue about.   I also came very close to winning a lottery drawing that night, and apparently it was a big deal, the people at the table were very excited when they saw my numbers, something I never would have bought except at their urging in the first place.   I suspect if I had won, that information may have made its way to the SGM & the battalion commander.   I'm not sure how that could have been good.

4. Yesterday as I walked the dog, it was very sunny and the mountains to the west of us towered over a low bank of clouds.  Today as I walked the dog, it was overcast, and the mountains were perfectly visible.  I'm trying to decide which I prefer.

5. I'm planning my mowing the grass end game.  If I do this right, I can probably get away with mowing it only one more time.   I have to think strategically.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How Do They Do That?

I'll read anything.  It's my nature, for some reason.  So the other night I picked up this book that I brought back from my weekend in Kentucky, and started reading it.  It's called "How Do They Do That?"  Or at least I think that's what its called.  The book is upstairs right now, and to be honest, I don't care enough to make absolutely sure that's the title.  I also do not know who wrote it.

So this book has essays of various length answering questions that perhaps most people have not thought about in awhile.  Like, how do they measure the distance between the earth and the sun? How do they build subways under cities?  How do they stuff all that shaving cream into a can?  I flew through most of it last night.

This book reinforced something I already knew about myself, and that is, I pretty much don't care. I never have, for the most part.   When I get in a car, I want it to start and take me where I want to go.  I don't have the least interest in how it does it.   I have never been mechanically inclined, I've never wanted to physically build anything, I've never cared how an engine worked. Even as a young child that stuff BORED ME TO TEARS!!!  

Instead I'd read Robin Hood and wonder what it must have been like to live in the middle ages, amongst the winding cobblestone streets and castles and crap.   Or what would it have been like to be an assistant to the Doge of Venice, especially the blind one, plowing through the halls of San Marco's in the service of some 16th or 17th century bureaucracy, eating whatever they ate for lunch on the warm late winter days in the Plaza.   Of course I know that living in those time periods would most likely have sentenced me to a short and brutal life - I know that now anyway.  When I was young, it seemed like a lot more fun than airplanes.

My general apathy to the way things work may seem a strange quality for someone who worked so many years as a computer systems engineer.   As an SE it was my job to figure out how things worked, so I could fix or modify them, or heaven forbid, create things out of thin air.  And it was not easy, it was complicated, difficult, abstract, computer junk, the kind of job where it did no good to try to picture a solution in your mind, unless you can think easily in multi-demensional type tables and such.  I can't.  You just made your peace with the world and accepted that the computer could deal with it.

So, maybe I should become a Sherlock Holmes scholar in my spare time.  Except old Sherlock was very good at chemistry, very good at figuring out how things worked.  

One question that HAS  always puzzled me though, is when builders build a building (say that fast) how to they keep it straight?  This is technology that has existed for thousands of years, but I don't have a clue how they get it right, how they keep the building from leaning.  There's lots of stuff like that I don't know.  I could write a book.