Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just an observation.......

In my travels around various blogs, I notice a lot have advertisements on them.  I have no problem with that, (and who would care if I did) but one ad in particular keeps showing up - the one showing the before and after close ups of teeth and gums.  I really, really don't care to look at that.  Not that I'm squeamish, just that I have my preferences.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Connecticut Yankee, Bejabbers


I'm busy reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain.  I've never read it before, I must have missed in my reading travels.  Anyway, as I'm reading it, I began to think of all the things a person show know, in order to get full enjoyment from the book.   So here goes.  Please understand, I'm in the middle of it, so the list may not be complete.

The King Arthur Legends

It would be good to know at least a little something about the legends of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Merlin & the Knights.  It is surprisingly adult in character - lots of character flaws & tragedy.   Also lots of magic and mystery.  These legends have been around for centuries upon centuries, but a good and easy start for a beginner would be T.H. White's Once and Future King.  It's a pretty thick book, lots of pages with lots of words, but you get a good overview of things.   One of the more famous series of books is Sir Thomas Malory's, Le Morte d'Arthur  but be aware, this one is not for the faint hearted.  It was written back in the 15th century or there abouts, and it is not an easy read.  At least not for me, back when I tried to read it once.

British History  

You should also know some British history.  Broad surveys are better than nothing, but the more detail the better.   At the very least you should read something that covers the period from the withdrawal of Rome from Britain to Edward the Confessor - that's a period of 600 years or so.  And Twain also mixes is epochs a bit, so you might as well continue on until at least the early part of Henry VIII's reign.  Pay special attention to Henry II.  That's another 500 years, give or take.   It helps to know about civil and religious institutions in place during these times.  The most powerful institution in Europe during most of this period was the church, and though much of what I read so far, the protagonist expresses fear of the church.   Altho I haven't seen Feudalism mentioned by name in the book, it sure is described in actions, and that was an institution that was around in one form or another for quite awhile.  It would help to be aware of the different strata of medieval British society, from the Monarch on down to the Serfs.

19th Century World History 

The thing is, Mark Twain was not re-writing the Arthurian legends.  He satirizes them a bit, but he's also taking his shots at the world he knew, both in North America and Europe.   You should know something about the Industrial revolution, especially in the USA, but also in the world at large.  You should know a bit about the politics, institutions & attitudes of the late 19th century, both in the USA & Europe.  And also the technology.  It was a very innovative time.

Have a sense of humor 

Mark Twain writes some of the funniest things I've ever read, and they're just thrown in here or there.  This is where the 'bejabbers' in the title comes in, it was used in a couple of paragraphs in which Twain pokes a little fun at the literary world.  I'm still chuckling about it, but then my world may be a little insular than most (sigh). Sometimes his humor is very obvious.  Other times his humor is very subtle, and you have to be on your toes to catch it, which is why the more awareness you have of his culture or what he's writing about,  the more likely you are to really understand.  This is turning out (I believe) to be kind of a 'dark' book, not a happy story at all, but the biting humor is still there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stuff Around The House #12



Ok, so this is really a dumb way to load this little post. But this is the way it's going to be, and it is because 'blogger' is playing it's little game with my head and I don't have the desire to figure it out. I simply want to put two pictures side by side, and write stuff to the right, but apparently it can't be done. Or perhaps it can but I'm just too dense.

So. 12th in a never ending and irregular series about stuff around the house. There are 3 nice little items taking up space in one of the many corners in our place.

The chair was hand made, by my grandfather (my mother's father). I'm not sure when it was made, probably no earlier than the 1940's, or no later than the 1960's. Grandpa & Grandma farmed, had large gardens, kept a cow and a mule, occasionally pigs, always chickens, and were extremely self-sufficient compared to the way I currently live. The draw back, and this is straight from my Grandma when she was in her 90's, was they "worked like a dog" every day of their life. Anyway, this chair has been well used over the years, somehow I ended up with it, and it is quite a memory.

Behind the chair is a cane we picked up at a Pawn Shop in Hickory, North Carolina in 2007 I think. That's all I know about the history of it. It has a head shaped like a wolf, and it is fairly solid. Good for whompin' things I reckon.

The bottle next to the chair is something I got in Germany, when I was stationed there while in the Army. It actually was not mine, a friend of mine had it, and when he was finished with it I asked if I could have it & he gave it to me. It is a 3 liter bottle which was once full of something call Asbach Uralt. I took a picture of the label on back, which I'm sure was written by the German equivalent of Madison Avenue. It tells you how good it is, how you can drink it hot or cold, in coffee or tea, tho surprisingly, no recipe for putting it in beer - but then why would you do that to a German beer? I have no memory of having drank any of it, but I thought the bottle was interesting.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My thoughts on Cincinnati, Ohio


I've traveled thru Cincinnati several times.  Straight thru the city usually,  always on my way to or from Indiana.
The neat thing about Cincinnati is that it is larger than any city in Kentucky, and it's not even in Kentucky.   You can look at it from Kentucky, but there it is, in that foreign land north of the Ohio River, where, as you must know, the whole world is different.
The contrast is not quite as sharp as looking at El Paso, Texas from Ciudad Juarez, which I have also done with more than a little wonder, but there might be some very slight similarities if you use your imagination.
Thus end my thoughts on Cincinnati, Ohio.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Apparently Brains Can Be Imprinted, A Fable

Imagine the part of your brain which governs memories & thoughts is a page filled with words, and all your other brain functions are more pages filled with more words, large and complicated words, and all toghether these pages full of words comprise a very large and heavy book.  
Now imagine someone has picked a pretty plant from a field, a plant with yellow flowers, and decides they want to dry it out and press it in the book.  They don't have wax paper or anything, so they open the book at random and stick the plant in, close it and forget about it.  It just so happens that the plant was placed, quite by accident,  on the page filled with words that govern your memories and thoughts.
They forget about the plant for years.   During that time the plant becomes part of your memories and thoughts - it is very real.   You can touch it, feel it, smell it because it is there, pressed into your thoughts by the weight of the entire book.  It is part of your existance.
Years later someone pulls the book off the shelf and stumbles across this dried, pressed plant, and thinks it's beautiful.  They remove it so they can display it so that others may enjoy it.
But the outline of the plant is still there, on that page full of words.  Maybe particles from the plant remain too.  And even though the plant is no longer there, is no longer real, it remains in your thoughts.  Even though it is physically gone, the ghost of it is still there.  Like when you close your eyes after staring at something bright, you can still see a shadow of what you were looking at.
It has become imprinted on your brain.  It may cause obsessive thinking, perhaps rumination or even hallucinations.
The moral: always use wax paper when pressing plants, cause you never know whose brains you're messing with.
I made all this up, just now.  I know nothing about obsessions, ruminations or hallucinations, no matter what Patti Anne says.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A great-grandfather


This is my mother's mother's father.   My grandmother's father, in other words.  One of my 4 great-grandfathers.  I just came across this picture and thought it was interesting.
His name was Fayette Bishop, from Southwestern, Virginia.  I think Wise County, or maybe Big Stone Gap.   He died before I was born.
The picture I remember of him most was a picture that was taken when he was sick in bed.  He had white hair and a thick white mustache, and they put an old cain type chair upside down at the head of the bed, and put pillows on the back of the chair so he could prop himself up.
This picture is completely different - he's young & strong here, and just a little tough looking. This picture has to be from the 1880s or 1890s.   I'm a direct decendent.  As are multitudes of others.  So.  Got that going for me. Me and the multitudes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trojan.Refpron is Back!!! But not for long, I hope.

Last night before I went to bed, as an afterthought almost, I ran a Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (MBAM) quick scan, and left it to run on its own.  It takes about 12-15 minutes to run, and I have my computer set up to go into stand-by, then shut down after 30 mins of inactivity.   It's really a careless & maybe sloppy thing to do.  

I also have Windows defender scheduled to run everyday, and Norton runs in the background off an on pretty much continuously.

So this morning when I powered the computer up, there was my MBAM report - and it had found Trojan.Refpron and Backdoor.Bot, and was waiting patiently for me to look at the report.  

Another WTF moment.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Files Infected:
C:\WINDOWS\system32\msrstart.exe (Trojan.Refpron) -> Quarantined and deleted successfully.
C:\WINDOWS\system32\FInstall.sys (Backdoor.Bot) -> Quarantined and deleted successfully

The last time I had Trojan.Refpron on my computer, my computer about bought the farm.  I don't know Refpron's relation to all that, but I do know I dont want it anywhere near me.  

So this is what I did:

  • Gave MBAM the go ahead to quarantine and delete (or maybe it just did it.  It's several hours ago now, and you know how my attention span is)
  • Checked to make sure that the Win32 service was still checked in the Data Execution Prevention section in the control panel.

This is how I did that:

  • Went to control panel
  • Clicked on Performance & Maintenance
  • Clicked on Systems
  • Selected Advanced Tab
  • Selected Settings button in Performance Box
  • Selected Data Execution Prevention Tab
  • Made sure that button for "Turn on DEP for all services and processes except those I select" was still active
  • Made sure that the box next to Generic Host Process for Win32 Services was still selected.

The reason I did this was because last month, in conjunction with this malware, I had a terrible problem with data exception errors (syshost32.exe), and this seemed to solve that problem.  I wanted to make sure it hadn't changed.  One of these days I'll unclick that box and see if anything bad happens.   

I also looked to make sure soxpeca.exe was NOT running on my computer.  It is associated with Trojan.Refpron, and if it's running that means trouble.  I wish I had looked before the MBAM delete, but I didnt think to.   Anyway, it's not there.  At least I can't find it.

So, everything is working normally, I've seen no symptoms.  

I wish I knew where it was coming from.  And I wish I knew how it's getting past my firewall, and the virus scans of my normal virus protection software.



Monday, March 16, 2009

An Old Service Station in Knott County


My uncle ran a service station here for a while back in the 1960s, and lived in the back.  I can remember playing there, and I think quite a lot of characters from the area (its surprising how many people live in the middle of nowhere) hung out there.  It was a good source of illegal fireworks around Christmas time.
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Later it became the Hindman Monument Company, even though it is several miles out of town.   They made headstones for graves & other cemetery related stuff.
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Now I just think its abandoned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Marshal Law in Valdese


This showed up at our neighbors across the way a few days ago.   I like it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My cousin died yesterday

I have a lot of first cousins. I have so many that I think of them in generations, or tiers. I am in the 2nd tier, but that is only from my point of view. There is a group of first cousins a little older than me, but my younger cousins might lump me in with them. My father was the oldest of 10 children, my mother is a couple years older than my father, so, I'm among the older of this partiuclar population of first cousins.

Angela was the 2nd daughter of my mom's youngest brother. She is younger than me, and I thought of her in the 3rd tier or generation of my cousins. I was a teenager when she was born, and it was hard for me to think of her as grown up and making her way in the world. But she did. Her last job that I know of was as a scheduling assistant to Ernie Fletcher when he was Governor of Kentucky. She did well for herself.

We werent particularly close, and I'll take the blame for that. I sometimes have a tendency to distance myself from my family. That's completely my fault, and my tendency.

I last spoke to her in March of 2008, at an Uncle's funeral in Hindman, Kentucky. I remember thinking what a nice person she had turned out to be. I have trouble making conversation sometimes, and she put me completely at ease. I would think that top notch communication skills would be a requirement if you are a scheduling assistant for a state Governor, and Angela apparently had them. I still remembered her as a child, and like most children (including yours truly) she was a handfull. I remembered her crying and so upset when her older sister got married. Angela had a good singing voice and she sang as part of our Uncle's funeral service. She also sang at our Grandmother's funeral many years earlier, when she was a teenager. Of course all of us were sad that our uncle had died, but it was tempered by the fact that he had lived about as long as a person can expect to live (somewhere between 92 & 95 years, depending on who you talked to), had stayed alert, mentally sharp, and active right till the end. If you are a serious pocket knife collector, chances are you've come across one of his catalogs. His final illness was very short. He lived a good, long life. I remember thinking at the time that in the next 5 to 10 years, there's going to be a lot more funerals in my family. No one in their wildest dreams thought next one would be for Angela.

Angela lived in Lexington, Kentucky - she had worked her way out of the eastern Kentucky hills. One morning back in January her house caught fire. Some people who were passing by saw flames through the living room window, one of them ran to the front door, heard a noise on the other side and broke the door down. They pulled Angela out. Her hair was on fire, and her clothes were melting into her skin. There was an sort article in the Lexington Herald, copied later by the Troublesome Creek Times, a local weekly paper in Knott County, Ky. The article was mostly about the people who pulled Angela out of the house. At the time I wondered about that, but now it seems reasonable. Angela couldn't talk to them, she could not give them any kind of a story.

From that day until yesterday, about 7 weeks, Angela was in the University of Kentukcy Medical Center. She had 2nd & 3rd degree burns over 55% of her body.

She spent part of the time in a drug induced coma, and all of it, until the very end, on life support systems. I cannot imagine the pain, horror, sheer terror and agony she suffered.

The skin graft operations did not take. There were infections after infections. Her kidneys stopped functioning, apparently, but then started again. A few days ago she suffered a seizure, but pulled through that. Then her lungs collapsed, and the operations to correct that did not work.

She had a friend who was keeping everybody posted via Facebook. I really don't know much more than what was posted in there. It doesnt matter.

When do you make a decision to take a person off life support? When do the doctors know that there is nothing more to be done? Maybe it's one of the things you just know, when the time comes.

Last year at our Uncle's funeral, no one had an inkling that Angela had less than a year to live. Not one single person anywhere on this earth. She should have been good to go for 40 more years without even trying, and most likely more than that. I wonder what I would do differently, if I knew that this time next year I would not be alive. I really don't know.

When I was little, I thought I would never die. Literally. I figured that they'd come up with a cure for death by the time I was grown up. Well, I can feel the slow deterioration of my body, and I supposed that is a symptom of my eventual demise. I have had it thrown in my face since I was very young that people get old and die, and sometimes they die young from illness or accidents. No promises about a lifespan.

I feel very, very sad about Angela. She didn't deserve this.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stuff Brewin', Books & a bad pun

I really have this stuff brewing in my head that I want to write about, but I can't figure out completely what it is.    So maybe I'll just read.

Speaking of reading, I'm closing in on the last 400 pages or so of "The Rise & Fall of the 3rd Reich" by William Shirer.  And the sick thing is, I've read it once before.   And the even sicker thing is, this is what I consider a break from reading 23 straight (literally) Harry Turtledove alternate histories (11 volumes or so on the civil war, and 11 or 12 on WWII interrupted by alien invaders.  I've got one more book to go........arrrgggghhhh).  And sicker than that, before I started the 3rd Reich, for some reason I picked up a Dick Francis novel, and read a little mind candy mystery.   That's the sickest of all, so I'll write about that.

Dick Francis is a very good author.  What I like about his novels are the detail that's in them. Some stories are better than others - he's a mystery writer, so that's what you're gonna get, a mystery.    A mystery is a mystery to me.  I don't really like them.  So, it's not the genre, or the story, and I sometimes think the characters are a tad on the shallow side (or perhaps stereotypical) BUT, there is a lot of detail. I like detail.  It's not my first Dick Francis novel.   From his novels I have learned the business of running a pub, the business of transporting horses to various racing venues all over Europe, and the business of gambling (especially on horse racing) and all that entails.  I also learned about how a really top of the line prosthetic arm works.   Those details are worth the read.   If there was another Dick Francis book floating around I'd probably pick it up and read it, just to see what business I could learn about this time.  What's that ol' Dick Francis up to now?  

Here's my favorite book of all time.  In English it is called "Life: A User's Manual", by Georges Perec.   I think the French translates literally to "The Way of Life", but I'm not sure.  I don't speak French.  Period.  Anyway,  if you read it from cover to cover, it will blow your mind.   You will freak.  You'll say "No he didn't", or some such words.   I shook my head in disbelief, and sat their stunned (or astonied, as it says in the 1611 version of the King James Bible).  But then, I'm sensitive.  

Anyway, "Life: A User's Manual", by Georges Perec.  Get it, read it, sit around astonied.  And rent your clothes if you need extra money.  

When I figure out what I wanted to write about, I'll be sure to write about it.  For now, today is a wrap.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Postcard Article

I ran across this article about a postcard exhibit in slate.com.  Click on the title to go to it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Annapolis, Maryland



These are a couple of pictures I took in Annapolis, Maryland a few years ago.  Annapolis is the state capitol, also home of the US Naval Academy, and a beautiful place.  These pictures are from the historic section.  I think the street is either East Street, or just off East Street, I can't remember.  If you go to the end and look to the left, you'll be looking directly at the State House.
The posts on the side mark off a small, tree shaded, brick paved public area with a couple of benches for people to sit.  The picture drawn on the side of a building is at one end of that public area.
Annapolis is maybe 30 miles from Baltimore (or maybe not), and not too far at all from Washington, DC - so it's in the midst of a large metropolitan area.   Its a very pretty place, especially when you finally figure your way around.   Somehow, I always managed to find a parking space.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speaking of hair.............


This is me at age 18 or 19.   Gettin' to be awhile ago.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting a haircut

Like everybody else in creation, I have my concerns and worries. But one thing I will never have to worry about, is losing my hair. I am NOT going bald, take my word for it. I have plenty of thick hair that won't stop growing. Unless I contract some sort of illness or have to take some sort of medication that causes me to lose my hair, going bald is not even on my list of concerns. For whatever reason, just the luck of DNA I guess, I will not be going bald in this lifetime.

My problem is, I hate to get haircuts. I tend to let it go too long, to put it off a lot longer than I should. Well today, I finally had to face reality, and the fact that I'm not a kid, and go get a haircut.

So, I went to a place in Morganton, I like to go to. It's just down the road and they're usually not too busy and usually I come out of there looking fairly normal (at least for me). But I could feel tension building in me as I was driving over there. It's not quite as bad as going to the dentist, but it's up there. I was dreading it.

I wonder what it must be like cutting hair for a living. Touching people's heads, being so close to their ears, hands in their hair. It's not quite as intimate as a pat-down in an airport security checkpoint, but it's a bit more intimate than I care to be with strangers. And from their point of view, they're dealing with whoever walks in off the street. Ya never know what you're gonna get. Ever so often they get me.

Also, I'm not a talkative guy - it takes a lot of energy and effort for me to hold a conversation with someone I dont know, especially when they're hovering about my head with sharp instruments. Most people seem to have no problem with this, but I do. The conversation just kind of flows around me when I'm getting my hair cut. Usually there's a comment about the thickness and/or length of my hair, and that's about all the conversation they get out of me. Instead whoever's cutting my hair tends to get involved in the conversation going on next to them. Or in the case of today, going on across the room from them. This is all I remember of it: "Caint hardly afford it", and "See y'all later". Oh, and a couple of old guys arguing politics. It would have been like an old time barber shop, if it were an old time barber shop.

Add it to the list of things I don't like. Computers, cars, haircuts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A 19th century family


We've had this little picture for a long time - I'm not sure where it came from, most likely it was in an auction box lot. We've had it for sale way back when we had a store, and it was in a booth we rented forever. We don't have a store or rent a booth anymore, so now it's on eBay. If you're interested just follow the link to our store on the sidebar, then look in photographic images.

It's an interesting little picture, obviously 19th century, altho I don't know exactly when. Everybody, right down to the baby, has a hint of a smile, which is unusual for pictures made in that era. I've spent a lot of time looking at this picture, just trying to figure out what was going on, what the relationships were. The assumption is that it's a family, husband, wife, child - but that's just an assumption.

The woman looks physically bigger than the man - but that could be an illusion. The picture was taken outside, she may be a little closer to the camera than the man, or perhaps the ground isn't quite level. Also the man has close cut hair, while the woman's is swept back and extends out. The sleeves of her dress are kind of billowy (is that a word) too, and there's that dark cloth around her neck. Everything she's wearing makes her look bigger than she probably is.

The man of course has a heck of a beard and mustache. Though you can't really see his smile, you can see the amusement in his eyes. Did they just share a joke? Did the photographer say something funny? I wish I knew.
There is no information about these people on the picture. The only thing I'm sure about is that none of them, including the baby, are still living. I have no idea, but I imagine that baby grew up, had a life, got married, had children and grandchildren, perhaps great-grandchildren, and died as a very elderly person in the 1970s or so.

I wonder who they are and what they did. They mattered to somebody, they lived. They were young and strong when this picture was taken. They probably worked very hard, physically demanding jobs. They are most likely responsible for people who are living now, more than 110 years later. I'll never know. I'll have to be satisfied with wondering.