Sunday Scribbles #40 - Destination

#40 Destination

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

We often become so caught up in our destination that we fail to notice the methods we are utilizing to arrive at it. We disregard living in the present as we intently daydream of the future.

How do we approach our goals? Are they pragmatic? Are they obtainable? We push ourselves to achieve some great thing (be it a personal goal, the completion of a project, the closure of a chapter in our lives, the beginning of a new dawn) and at times permit ourselves to fall into despair when it seems as if we are no closer to the realization of that destination. We can reach the unreachable star, but we must harness mastery of ourselves to do so. We must allow our journey itself to prepare us.

“Slow and steady vs. now, now, NOW.”

If we stand upon a prairie and gaze at a distant mountain, it appears to be far from us. We set out walking, our eyes never losing sight of our goal, but after even a day the mountain seems to loom no closer. A week of walking may gain us fifty miles at a slow pace yet the mountain has not been reached.

We may be tempted to cheat. Why walk when we can drive? After all, object of our goal is paramount to our happiness! We have to reach the top! Thus we find a vehicle and climb aboard and find ourselves at the foot of the mountain.

We also discover that the mountain is higher than we thought. If we are to reach the top, we must begin to climb.

What have we failed to notice up until this point? We missed the strength we would have gained if we had kept walking rather than seeking the easy method of travel. Our goal is before us, but we are not conditioned enough to endure the lengthy climb.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~ Frank Outlaw.

Our character is built upon our methods. If we coast through life seeking the easy way out of things, we will quickly find that we have cheated ourselves out of the opportunities needed to realize our own dreams. Our habits will make or break us.

Whatever your destiny in 2007, I wish you success and progress.

In Praise of my Vue, and Saturn

We had a delightful Christmas, dear Readers. Thank you for all the holiday ecards and lovely toasts to our health and success for 2007. I will be posting about the holiday momentarily. I dedicate this post to my Vue. Ha!

It has been a very difficult weekend for Better Half and Autrice! It commenced on Friday morning, when our only vehicle ceased to cooperate. Our Vue, which we acquired new several years ago, simply stopped running. Thankfully, we did pay for the extended warranty and car care program (I highly recommend Saturn to all of you!)

The computer had malfunctioned, and had to be altogether replaced. No work on the vehicle could be carried out until Tuesday – which meant that we were unable to shop, attend mass, or drive about. The repairs were completed yesterday, and they are throwing in an oil change. Free of charge, dear Readers! Thank God something is going well as this year draws to a close. $400 saved.

I do find my little Blue Vue simply irresistible. It is a perky SUV that handles like a dream and has enough power to navigate the hectic streets and avenues of Pittsburgh, yet it glides like a luxury car over country roads. Our Vue is a 2003 4-cylinder with all wheel drive – the last year they equipped that type of engine with that particular feature. The continuously variable transmission gives it superior energy while ascending the steep hills of this area, and it handled the Rocky Mountain snow with ease. We have a tow package on it, and I was greatly pleased by how well the vehicle handled hauling a small trailer during our relocation to Ohio. It has been touted as a manageable and highly functional sport-utility that doe not guzzle gasoline or require a huge parking space. I consider my Vue a prized all-weather plaything.

It is not a sports car, but Saturn claims the standard model hits 0 to 60 in time of 11.1 seconds. I have pushed it to go beyond that (during heavy merging at the Ft. Pitt Tunnel); it jumps to 60 mph in under 9 seconds, thanks to the VTi continuously variable transmission. The EPA rating of 23/28 mpg City/Highway is accurate, but we do save on fuel by coasting the larger Pennsylvania hills. The Vue handles the decrease of demanded engine power well, and the Vti allows the Vue to keep up speed downhill through gravity without the engine winding through all sorts of changes to accommodate. For those who do not know what a VTi is – the vehicle does not “shift”. You do not hear it shifting, nor does the engine rev while the transmission clicks into “gears”. It is a smooth operation that releases power to where it is needed as it is needed. I am not too reluctant to say that I have pulled speeds close to 100 mph without experiencing any vibrations or whines of protest. (I have no desire to test what the governor is set to.)

People have groused about the Vue’s lack of sophistication, stating that they can hear road noise and sense vibration. Bullshit. The SUV operates smoothly. It does have good ground clearance and the suspension handles most road conditions rather well. The speed-sensitive power steering offers precise, easy steering in parking lots, yet adjusts for good road feel and stability on the highway. It uses a torque sensor to automatically boost assistance during emergency avoidance maneuvers (Pittsburgh allows you the opportunity to test that feature on a constant basis.) The anti-lock brake system operation is superior to the systems I have experienced on other vehicles.

The exterior is hardly racy. It understates the true grace of the Vue itself. I prefer that in my vehicles. Anyone can slap “Eddie Bauer Edition” on a car and make it look expensive. The Vue is inexpensive but operates better than an SUV sold for three times its price.

I enjoy having a cloth interior (with five dogs, leather would surely suffer) and the simple dash consol means that I do not spend a vast amount of time hunting for buttons. There are plenty of storage nooks and crannies for my drink, sunglasses, CDs, and other such items.

A 70/30 split folding rear seat provides more versatile stowage of longer items while carrying rear passengers. Even the front passenger seat folds flat. The back of that seat has a heavy grade plastic, perfect for a laptop. There have been many times where I have used my Vue as an office on the road, hammering out reports while sipping my coffee and listening to music. Three standard power outlets provide opportunities to plug in toys or tools. The HEPA filtration system keeps dust at bay; I have driven in windstorms in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and the dust did not get an opportunity to invade the Vue’s interior.

We have plenty of cargo room, as the rear seats fold flat thanks to the compact all-wheel-drive system. A cargo organizer folds out of the floor to corral smaller objects. There are hooks for grocery bags and a cargo net, and a pop-up cargo organizer with two compartments sized specifically for gallon jugs and plastic bags, a welcome luxury for our trips to Oakdale for monthly grocery shopping. Tie-downs provide for the safe transport of a wide variety of goods.

The low step-in height is a Godsend, and the doors open wide. Big power-operated mirrors afford good visibility rearward and to the sides, and the computer-operated rearview mirror automatically dims the glare of headlights from behind, while providing us the current temperature outside of the vehicle (it also flashes “ice” to alert us to slick hazards.) The Vue has a very open ambiance to the interior, and I am afforded a panoramic view from my windows. My “blind spot” is miniscule.

Saturn has always stood by its customer care policy and warranty. We have never paid for an oil change, or for diagnostics. They replaced a windshield for free after one of my treks to Grand Junction resulted in a rock chip (and eventual cracking) to the glass. They replaced the rearview mirror (which is computerized) several years ago, and they happily replaced the computer system today. “Oh, Mr. Wheeler, you are due for your road maintenance and fluid changes. Would you like us to do them while we have the Vue?” I should also add that Saturn paid for the vehicle to be towed from our hometown to Pittsburgh. I love being in good hands.

I know several other Vue owners, and they too seem pleased with their investment. We recommended this vehicle to our neighbors in Colorado, and they promptly bought one after a quick test drive. I believe Ian has one, and the OxLord has two. If you want flash, drive a label. If you want function and quality care, then buy or lease the Vue.

Autrice? Are you writing an essay for school, or simply performing a commercial spot on blogger? Forgive me, dear Readers. I am infatuated with my Blue! I was able to get to the dealership today, thanks to a friend with a big heart. It is now happily parked once again in our driveway.


Sunday Scribbles #39 - Change

The prompt for this week’s Sunday Scribbling is “# 39 Change”. “New Year's is coming up, and with it, maybe, resolutions for change, for growth, for achievements in the coming year. You might write about that -- whether you make resolutions or not (if not, why?) -- or about the idea of change in general. Is it scary? Is it possible for people to change in any fundamental way? Or are we stamped with our strengths and failings, cast in a mold, unable to change our natural shapes? What do you think of change?”

I do not think of “Change” when I think of the proverbial New Year’s Resolutions. I prefer to adapt – embrace that which is in order to achieve that which is not.

Many people embark on their New Year with great expectations, creating an entire paradigm of “resolutions” meant to recreate the body and soul. Some avow to increase their health, while others set determination towards improving their natures. “I WILL quit smoking!” or “I WILL eat less chocolate!” are tantamount to “I WILL spend more time with my children” and “I WILL read at least one book a week”. Empty promises, all of them.

We can not miraculously break old habits and restructure new ones in their stead. Our environment will remain as it was on December 31, and the mystifying harkening of the new year at the stroke of midnight will not suddenly revamp it, barring leaving our entire life as we know it behind and taking up existence in a new time and place far removed from what we held true prior to that fatal midnight chime. Should we seek to make changes, we must start with the understanding that it is we who must adapt while we attempt to place those “resolutions” into effect.

If one resolves to attempt smoking cessation, one usually runs through the house removing all the ashtrays. They throw out matches and lighters. They browse the pharmacy shelves and select a nicotine cessation aid. They perhaps toss a package of drinking straws, hard candy or toothpicks in for good measure because they know they must also break the oral fixation and habit alongside the dependency upon nicotine. Set and ready, eager for the stroke of the Midnight Toll, they jump and shout and proclaim “NOW!” as the moment of their planned resolution’s naissance. They are attempting to adopt a new behaviour by adapting their environment to fit that desired behavior. Failure is certain for many, while some do actually succeed.

Instead of attempting to adapt the environment to suit our desired goal, we need to focus on adapting to our environment to better reach success. In the case of the smoking cessation, all we have done is deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of a habit. The normal day-to-day stress will still be there, now coupled with the stress of habit rehabilitation. Once the stress becomes too extreme (kudos to the kids, the job, the spouse, the bills, and all the other little bothersome worries) we take on a “screw this” mentality, and race to our nearest mini-mart to purchase a pack of cigarettes. “Just one,” we chide ourselves, “just one to get past this stressful moment!

Rule Number One: that which you are stressing over is causing you to stress.

Emotional stress (for I am not speaking of physical stress, such as lifting weights or running a marathon, or physical duress such as being physically held hostage at knife point) is cause by our reactions to our environment. We do not want to accept that which is beyond our ability to change.

Example: I break a cherished Christmas ornament. I have two options now.

1. I can cry and wail in angst over the loss of the ornament (which will do nothing but make me more upset; it will not bring the ornament back to a state of being whole. How stressful!)

2. I can acknowledge the ornament is broken by briefly mourning its loss, and then sweep the pieces into the waste bin. I should not punish myself for my moment of carelessness, nor should I hate myself. My feels should be pure, a simple grieving for the loss of something material rather than a emotionally filled diatribe over the stress caused by self-abuse and self-punishment. (How often do you allow that which you stress over to spill into the lives of your loved ones? Do you often find yourself taking out your “feelings of stress” on others?)

Option #1 is an example of us being unwilling or unable to accept – to adapt – to a situation. Option #2 is an example of adaptation – the acceptance of “that which is” so that we are ready to advance to the “that which shall be”. Option one leads to the oppression of true feelings – we depress – instead of allowing us to feel as we need to in order to move on.

Rule Number Two: perspective is everything.

How we see something is how we react to it. We can not hope to see the positives when we concentrate only on the negatives.

Example: a woman struggling with maintaining a “diet” in order to lose weight.
The woman has chosen to “diet” for several reasons. She may see herself as ugly and useless. She might wish to shed pounds to wear the latest fashions. She may be seeking a mate. She has a variety of reasons to alter her normal diet routine in order to achieve her goal of a slimmer person. How does she approach it?

1. She looks at her image in the mirror and loathes herself. She sees only a repulsive, obese person staring back at her. She sees what society has told us to believe about people who are overweight: a lazy, useless individual who is unable or unwilling to cease stuffing her face with carbs and refined sugars. She throws out all “bad food” and purchases carrots, celery and appetite suppression pills. She hunkers down for the horrible ordeal that she knows lies ahead. This woman punishes herself for every “slip”. She may allow herself to degrade into an eating disorder. She is depressed; she is stressed. She may lose weight, but it returns over and over – the dieting yo-yo effect.

2. She sees a woman on the verge of rebirth. She acknowledges the thin person inside of her. She gazes upon her own eyes and sees that they are beautiful. She looks at her face, and pulls skin and fat back to show the promise of a cheek bone or jaw line. She likes what she thinks can be done, and sets her mind towards liberating the body shape she knows that she can achieve. She knows it will be a challenge, and she seeks out her doctor to rule out any disease or illness that may have attributed to her weight gain over the years. She then sets up a simple diet plan, fully aware that she may not always be able to stick to it. Her weight loss is slow but healthy, and she adapts to her new way of eating over the course of time. She celebrates every new change and she revels in the gradual loss of inches. Her goal was simply to liberate herself for the pure pleasure of “change”.

If we tell ourselves that something will be bad, it will be horrid. We should acknowledge that we will have to struggle with coping while we adapt, but we should never think of something as being insurmountable simply because we fear the challenge.

Rule Number Three: live, laugh, love.

Once we learn to let go of the things we can not change, and accept the things we can – and once we learn that our perspective is the key to our success – we have plenty of time to take pleasure in life itself. We preserve our healthy coping skills by suffusing them with abundant doses of delight and positive thinking. Life will not always be rosy and bright, but we quickly ascertain that we can handle the stresses of our environment simply by seeing them for what they are – our own reaction to the world around us.


Christmas 2007 - Decor at Pembroke Cottage

Pardon the pictures, dear Readers. Out of town family wished to see our holiday decorating, and I grew weary of sending out jpg files.


Random Thoughts

I felt the mad urge to blog today. What is worse is that I am also fighting the mad urge to blog in the third person. That style of writing is one of my Naughty Habits, and I often engaged in it during my college years. That is not to say that I find it an incorrect style of writing – rather, it is simply a Guilty Pleasure that Autrice happens to enjoy.

“Autrice, are you actually going to write this in the third person?”

Never fear, dear Readers! I shall resist that compulsion!

This has been a somewhat productive week for me. Better Half and I have finally finished the Christmas decorating. In my more formative years, the entire project would have taken me a few short days. Having to pause and rest every twenty or so minutes really does drag out the whole process. My Mum has been begging for photographs of the house. I haven’t the heart to tell her that I’m too pooped to put away all the empty boxes.

Better Half managed to eat bad pork last night (or so he claims, as I ate the pork and I am not having any difficulties.) With my handy Pack Mule down for the count, there is no chance of getting everything set to rights downstairs today. We are also putting the commissary shopping off until tomorrow.

My biggest issue at the moment is not the state of affairs in the house, but the sad state of a special box that was to have been shipped to Canada last week. It contains a holiday delicacy for TFMM, who is leaving next Thursday for a mini-vacation. How on earth can he enjoy this gift if it is perched upon my dining room table, a monolith in tribute to my lack of energy this month? Surely he will forgive me for not shipping it sooner, as long as the thing doesn’t grow fuzz between now and it’s arrival at his home.

In other news, I am gearing up for my trip to CO. Mum is having surgery the first week of January, and I am flying out there to take care of her. I am more nervous about my own lack of strength than I am about her surgery. Mum is a Tough Italian Lady, and nothing stops her when she puts her mind to something. Dad and I will enjoy some male bonding (for lack of a better term!) for a few days, while she recuperates in the hospital. I’ve already planned on cooking my famous barley chili for him.

Better Half will have the house to himself for a week or so. This is about as worrisome as leaving a teenager home alone with the keys to the family car. Better Half doesn’t always use his Better Judgment. Should Better Half misbehave and demolish our house or car, I shall promptly throttle him upon my return. Don’t misunderstand me, dear Readers. Better Half is a very kindly and intellectual man. However, he is also a doofus and sometimes does things that give me reason to pull out my hair… or reasons to load a gun. I have already arranged for our Goodly Neighbors to keep an eye on him, and I have instructed them to call 911 if the newspapers pile up in the driveway more than two days.

Situations like that always remind me of my exbest friend, Droolie. She threw a typical “kegger” during her teenage years, unbeknownst to her out-of-town parents. The party would have gone undetected had she remember to look under the living room sofa. She did not remember to do this, and the tell-tale clink clink clink of bottles rattling together as her mother vacuumed effectively announced that heavy drinking had transpired.

A note to future generations: always check under the sofa and beds.

Because It's All About Meme

Roadchick tagged me with this Meme (The Chick rocks!) and I am passing it along to several of you. Roadchick is my favorite "third person blogger" and I have elected to do this in third person for the very spirit of it.

Here are the rules:

Each player of this game starts with the "6 Weird Things about You." People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog!"

Six Weird Things About Autrice:

1. Autrice has issues with fruit flavored miniature marshmallows. Does anyone remember these horrid things? They came in a variety of pastel colours and were sickly sweet. Autrice's Mum brought home a bag of these little treats (along with a bag of the regular large white marshmallows) and some toothpicks. Autrice was to make sculptures! O! Toddler Heaven! O! Joy! She made dogs and birds, giraffes and elephants. Mostly, Autrice ate a lot of sugar. Never, ever overeat miniature fruit flavored marshies, dear readers. Puking them is a sinister feeling that will haunt you until your dying day. Autrice can not even look at a bag of them, and she is fighting back her gag reflex as she writes this.

2. Autrice can not stand having her hair out of place. She wore it very short (in boyish styles; no Butch mullets here!) for over twenty years. Better Half asked if Autrice would grow it out longer. Autrice has complied, although her hair is naturally bulky and flat. She thought herself to be a clever woman and had it permed to give it volume. Now Autrice's hair is a fright wig of epic proportions! She is tempted to have a nuclear meltdown every time she steps in front of her mirror. Her obsessive Hair Neatness Issue fuels her appearance anxiety, yet Autrice refuses to chop it all off. Curiously, the chaotic mop on her head seems to give Autrice a morbid rush. "Autrice, you sadist!" There is bliss to be found in self-denial and punishment.

3. Autrice's husband, Better Half, analyzes radio telescope data from SETI in his spare time. She finds this fascinating and weird - and geeky! Having said that, she also runs the program when she is online because "every little bit of effort helps!" (If you would like to participate, click here. It is from Berkeley.)

4. Autrice can not stand all the little cardboard ads and cards that are inserted into her magazines. They hinder her reading pleasure by causing the magazine pages to lay oddly. What is the first thing Autrice does when her magazines arrive in the mail? She frantically flips through the issue, tearing out anything that resembles cardboard. Perfume samples, subscription cards, adverts for medications, mail-order gifts - all hastily removed. Autrice will even cancel a subscription should a magazine contain too many of these items. Autrice no longer orders any secular magazines (with the exception of Reader's Digest, and even that is on the chopping block.) Gone are "Red Book" and "Better Homes". She will hesitantly shake Better Half's food and wine magazines before reading them, just to make sure those nasty cards will not jump out at her. Autrice's trade journals do not contain cardboard ads. The expense of the journal means that it need not rely upon Viagra ads.

5. Autrice reads her newspaper starting with the comics. She then reads the advice columns and from there she progresses to the news. She never reads the sports pages.

6. Autrice does not know how to be a girl. Autrice's good friends often find humor in that horrible fact. Autrice does not know what creams to use to make her face pretty. She can not pick out an outfit to buy. She prefers to dress in a boyish style and can not tolerate skirts or pantyhose. She has no idea what her skin tone is. She does know not to purchase cheap skin care products, but she has no idea what "good" products to buy. Autrice was a tomboy as a child and did not get along with the other little girls at school. She has never had a "giggling girlfriend" to gossip with. Autrice is quite saddened by this, and her fondest wish is to have a mentor enter her life to better teach her how to be soft and beautiful. She is torn between her favored boyish styles, and the desire to embrace her beautiful Italian features. She settles for mop hair and the occasional bottle of perfume.

If you happen to be reading this, and have reached this paragraph, consider yourself to be "tagged". The following three people have been chosen: David, Annieelf, Paris Parfait. Several of my other friends have already been tagged with this Meme. Damn.


Sunday Scribbles #36 - In the last hour...

Today was the first opportunity that I have had to unravel the Tapestry of Weirdness. (Dear New Readers, that is my email in-box. Just about everything in life can be defined by enhanced terms. Generic is so 1990’s.)

I have become quite the haphazard email responder. (“Haphazard, Aut? Try hardly ever!”) Unfortunately, this creates two primary issues for me: people believe I do not want to hear from them - or - people feel the need to flood my in-box with the details of their every waking moment. I have spent the last hour sorting through the various messages, and I decided to treat you to some snippets.

(Yes, this is also a Sunday Scribbling. I am killing two birds with one stone.)

BibsySqueak finally completed her beautiful, queen-sized afghan, a project that has taken her countless hours. The cat, Varnish, gave his honest critique of it via prompt urination when her back was turned. Had my owner named me “varnish”, I would announce a life-long agenda for revenge as well.

PaulineUK is living for holiday break, where she can finally sleep in. This is excellent news, as I have been quite worried about her.

A friend of a friend of a friend wished to know if TFMM arrived safely at his destination this past Thursday. I have it on good record that a different friend (one who actually is a friend!) reports that he arrived and enjoyed playing in the snow. That (actual) friend has been too sick to bother to come online to report to all the “friends of friends”, and I really couldn’t be bothered to do so myself as it just smacks of gossip.

Speaking of that friend! He emailed to say that he was cold. He then emailed to say he couldn’t breathe. He followed that email with one asking of “blue lips” were a normal occurrence. I promptly contacted him back to give him a resolute “NO!” whereupon he emailed in reply that he was going to drive himself to the ER. He has not emailed back yet, which has me sincerely concerned.

The Cutesy Angel (Tee Hee) Chain Mail Fairy has stuck again. I have finally blocked her email. Please make a note of this: Autrice does not appreciate chain mail. Autrice reports it as spam to her server.

My father is on the mend. There is no lasting nerve damage to his hand, and his face is healing nicely. (Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes.)

GGyrl’s turkey finally thawed. Do I think that it would be safe to eat after two weeks in the refrigerator? I have to answer “no” on that.

One hour. This is all that I have accomplished. Place another log on the fire, boys. It is going to be a long night!

My Dad

Better Half and I had the most wondrous afternoon. It was a total pleasure waking up late, without a care in the world in regard to schedules. The only solemn shadow was a fair bit of miserable news from Colorado.

I woke up to find that Better Half had already prepared the celery and onion for the stuffing mixture, and had toasted all the bread. It was a simple matter of combining everything together (with five dogs desperately hoping we would accidentally drop morsels) and getting the capon washed and loaded. Our other side dishes were quick to make, and we opted to put work on them off until later that day.

We had just settled down for a quick game of cribbage when the phone rang. I was not expecting any calls today, and so I was rather surprised to hear my Mum’s voice echoing through my Dad’s business cell phone. (They had gone to Sonja’s house for the holiday, and were not due home until much later on.)

“Dad’s in the hospital,” she said, and it took a fair bit of questioning to sort everything out.

Apparently, after the dinner, he had missed a step while carrying two loaded platters of food to their friends’ kitchen. He fell forward, smacking the countertop headfirst, which shattered the porcelain plate, lacerating himself in the process. First of all, my Dad is as cute as a button, and the thought of him incapacitated in any fashion sends chills down my spine. At this point, the news was that he had cut his hand and face.

That was bad news Round One.

Round Two: he did not just “cut” his hand and face. The porcelain severed a nerve and tendon in his left hand (his dominant hand, and the very one he had recently has surgery on!) In addition, they had to remove bits of china from his face. One of the guests, who had EMT training, helped to stabilize my Dad (who is prone to going into shock over the sight of blood), and their friends called 911. The paramedics and firemen walked in to view a scene of absolute gore: a nearly full plate of turkey scattered all about the kitchen floor and blood everywhere. They assessed the situation and transported Dad to Penrose in an ambulance. Sonya drove their car so my Mum, who has panic attacks in traffic, could be with him.

My father is a noble man, and I think that his pride was the worst casualty of the evening up until that point. We are very well mannered as a rule, and I could almost visualize him apologizing for ruining a cherished china plate (and for making a mess on the tile) as he lay on the floor. I certainly know that he felt terrible for it, and rather embarrassed. He tired to make light of the situation by offering a polite laugh about “never thinking he’d spend the afternoon laying on their friends’ floor”, or something like that, according to Mum. At the hospital, he also asked how long it would be before they would discharge him, as he really had hoped to have dessert.

Round Three: (our dinner is over by now, and we are eating our pie) The surgeon attending to Dad has urged him to call Dr. Bach ASAP, as the damage to the hand is extensive. Dad went through two hours of suturing, both to his face and hand, under local anesthetic. They removed the porcelain from his face, and reattached the flap of his nostril where it had been severed at the septum (that is the middle of your nose, where it attaches right above your lip.) He also had lacerated the inside of his mouth (no broken teeth), and those wounds needed to be addressed. His cheekbone is intact, but his face is terribly bruised. They placed a temporary cast and Ace bandage on the hand, and Dad needs to return to Penrose tomorrow so that the Attending can reevaluate the sutured areas; there is concern of blood supply to the torn nostril.

I am stressed. I would fly in to Colorado Springs in a heartbeat, but booking a flight would be near impossible as there is nothing convenient for them. My father is 71, and still works, and they have only a few vacation days left. My mother can not drive in traffic (she is a road hazard, in my opinion), and if he has to undergo surgery, they will have to rely upon cabs or friends.

A very large part of me wants nothing more than to get in my car, drive to CO, and load all their possessions into a U-haul. There is no reason on God’s green earth as to why they can not move in with us, other than their protest of “not wanting to be a burden to us.” My frustration at this situation goes beyond simply “not being able to help”. They are clinging to “proper”. PROPER, do you hear me? They must have a separate office for my mother, who is a writer. They must have a separate TV room, as TVs do not belong in the parlor. They must have a parlor. They must have this, they must have that – and my father, at the age of 71, is busting his balls to make certain they have things set properly.

I will keep you updated, Dear Readers. Should you not hear from me for a few days, it is because I am in Colorado.

Please forgive the lack of usual polish to this entry.


Hello Blogland. This is your host, the Bemused Muse, signing in after several months of wretchedly sporadic posting.

I do feel badly that I have taken such a long sabbatical from this blog. I have lost several readers, to be certain. I wish to offer my admiration to those of you who have “hung in there” with me. Your thoughts, email, ecards and thoughtfulness are very much appreciated. Better Half gets my biggest hug, for he has taken care of me, and occasionally slips out to buy me the sweetest cards.

Quite a few of you have asked if this illness was a temporary thing. In all honesty, I can not say. Were we to study illness in a healthy person, the graphed results would be very similar to a “‘V”, with the lowest tip of that letter indicating the “bottoming out” of those feelings of being sick, and then a sharp rise back to peak health. I have calculated that my own graph would resemble a flight of stairs leading down. As I descend, I hit a landing and plod along at that level for quite some time before I eventually descend again. The well-wishing phrase “get better soon” seems to not apply suitably to my situation. I do have a dear friend, whom I call “The Ox”, that often states “Don’t get any worse soon.” I find that pretty much sums it up. Thank you, Ox.

I have been somewhat discouraged recently. That is not to say that I am feeling depressed, but rather that I am encountering frustration in that I seem to be unable to get anything done around the house. I am one of the few people who would prefer to convalesce in a hospital, as it has room service and remains fairly clean! Thanksgiving is right around the bend, and I hold back tears as I glance around my office: dog fur rolls on the gentle draft from the heater vent, a layer of dust smothers all my books, whilst papers and articles (SHIT and SCHMUTZ) are piled on the floors. My bedroom fairs no better, with its own coating of dust. The upstairs hall makes me wince. The bathroom resembles (in my mind’s eye) a shrine to a truck stop men’s room. Debris rules the top level of this home, and it will take some exertion to set things to rights.

I can take enormous pleasure in stating that my downstairs has remained pristine. It required little else but a good polish and vacuuming in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and although I was left rather fatigued for my efforts, I am pleased that I can invite company inside without fearing stern calls to my Mother over my lack of good housekeeping. (Said guests shall hold their pee, as no one will be permitted to use the bathroom upstairs!)

When one has no control over their own body, one is often in a situation where one craves control of other things instead. If only I could get Better Half to comprehend how much easier I would breath knowing that the office, bedroom, spare room and bath were clean. HINT HINT to Better Half. For Christ’s sake, throw me a rope, will you?

I shall be fair and say that much of the debris by my desk is there because of my own doing. I have newspapers that I had intended to read, as well as a mix of books ~ they are only on the floor because Better Half piled shit in front of the bookcases. My bedroom nightstand has it’s own pile of books in front of it, and I actually am reading all of them. The bathroom counter has a few odds and ends cluttering it up, and a bit of laundry on the floor. My house is not disgusting by social standards. However, I am a “neat freak”, so even one stray glass sitting on a table will piss me off. As I look around, I can count (in my office, which is also our TV room now): 2 glasses, 4 mugs, several plastic water bottles that have not found the trash, and my bowl of soup (which I am currently eating.) I tremble just having to type this.

What would it take to grab up all this junk and haul it downstairs? Unfortunately, it would take a hell of a lot of effort on my part, as even the simple act of breathing hurts.

Now we come to those landings that I mentioned earlier. I create them, in part. I get to the point where I actually do say, “Fuck this!” I allow my stubborn side to take over, even if it kills me, and I “DO” whatever it takes, not matter the cost to me. I believe the best term would be “Suck it up and drive on.” The alternative is to allow depression to creep in and settle.

I faced this challenge yesterday. I was almost to the point of admitting defeat, of giving in and not bothering to try anymore. I had pushed myself to my maximum level on Friday, and had emerged from the struggle bearing nasty wounds and sharp reminders that I am not able to push myself as hard as I used to.

I should explain:

Better Half had to undergo a root canal on Friday, and his clinic is up in Pittsburgh. He would not be able to drive himself due to pre-treatment medications. This meant that I had to not only drive him, but I also had to operate the vehicle sans any pain medications. I have already been suffering the muscle spasms for several weeks, but fate decided that I should also go through my normal 28-day angst. (See this entry here for an explaination of that hell.) It was with a insincerely chipper face that I loaded Better Half into the Vue and sped off to Pittsburgh early Friday morning. I maintained my dignity, chatted cheerfully with the doctor and her assistant, and smiled kindly as we stopped off at the Harp after he was through. I had tuned out my body; this mental state is critical when things Must Be Done. Is it a skill that I mastered long ago, and it consists of 3 parts meditation and 1 part theatrical talent. In a social setting, no one will hear me scream.

I sucked down my meds minutes within arriving at home, and retreated to my bed as better half hunkered down in the spare room to rest after his ordeal. Needless to say, I spent several hours crying and rocking, my mind too weary to play the “I don’t feel it” game. There is a numb feeling one’s mind experiences when one is in pain. It is called shock. Although my muscles were relaxed and my physical pain had subsided, my mind was still shocky when Better Half got up from his nap. I thoroughly appreciated that the apex of his molar was throbbing like a son of a bitch, however I just was in no condition to do anything about it (and were I in such a condition, there would be little that I could have done as it is.)

Better Half opted to sleep in the spare room (no skin off my nose, thank you very much) and I found myself feeling the first twinges of depression as I looked around the upstairs. There are walls to be painted, in addition to the need for general cleaning. I had hoped that we would at least have all the painting done prior to Christmas this year. I did what any normal person would do at 3 am. I went downstairs and rolled up my sleeves, determined to let the pain fuel me instead of sucking at my resolve. “Besides,” I lied to myself, “I took my meds. I won’t feel it.” The upstairs, as a matter of principle, would have to wait until Better Half was awake and feeling more like himself.

Saturday, I awoke with the intense desire to beat the living shit out of myself for my spontaneous cleaning efforts earlier that morning. I glanced at the clock, which proclaimed it to be well after 10 am, and rolled back to sleep. I decided to just give in to the depression.

At 2 PM, Better Half came in with a smile and a box. “Wake up! Wake up!” What a curious thing! He found a pair of scissors and helped snip away the packing tape, and I opened the lid to find the most beautiful bouquet of mixed roses and a vase.

Needless to say, I was floored.

I have a delightful friend in Canada, whom I affectionately think of as The Fabulous Miss M (TFMM or MM, for short, though many know him as Mw or Michael), whom had heard that I was going through hell. His timing could not have been more perfect! I love roses, to begin with, and having over a dozen of them arrive in the post yesterday afternoon was just the thing to beat back any silly notions of “giving in”.

Better Half snipped the bottoms of the stems for me and I did my best to arrange them in a pretty fashion in the vase. (Note: for those who do not know me well, I will tell you up front that this is a feminine skill that I apparently lack.) We placed them on the bar in the living room (and I have found all sorts of excuses to go all the way downstairs in order to look at them or inhale their aroma.)

I had no choice but to get out of bed and call him, of course! I couldn’t locate his number, and I made the resolve to pick up the books and papers and look for it later that day (but I did go online and offer a quick email of absolute gratitude!) Then it occurred to me: I had resolved to do something.

It was not a resolve made to stave off depression; it was an honest resolve spoken from my heart out of a desire to achieve something. I had a tiny goal.

What other tiny goals could I build upon that single desire? It would not be too much effort to ask Better Half to help me sort out the bedroom and bath. It certainly would be no effort to bake that pumpkin bread on Monday. As a matter of fact, Better Half and I made a huge pot of chicken soup yesterday evening, and then I rested my body and worked on a short review of a friend’s book for Amazon (Pastor Rad, it posted this afternoon.)

Tomorrow, I shall endeavor to get the upstairs straightened out. If Better Half would be so kind as to bring up some boxes on Friday, we can begin decorating for the Holidays, as well.

I am not back fully, but I have returned. Thank you, TFMM!


Sunday Scribblings #34 - Hero

"Hero". That is the topic of Sunday Scribblings: #34.

Main Entry: he·ro Pronunciation: 'hir-(")O
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural heroes
Etymology: Latin heros, from Greek hErOs
1a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b : an illustrious warrior c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d : one that shows great courage
2 a : the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work b : the central figure in an event, period, or movement
3 plural usually heros : SUBMARINE 2
4 : an object of extreme admiration and devotion : IDOL

I am sure there will dozens of entries concerning God, fathers, husbands, mothers, wives, sons, daughters, siblings, grandparents, teachers, mentors, coworkers, firemen, policemen, friends, sports stars, pets - a nearly endless list!

Rather than participate in hero worship ~ become a hero yourself. Heroes are necessarily strong, brave warriors with noble qualities and a Dudley Doright winning grin. Heroes do no swoop down in the nick of time, plucking you from certain doom. A hero is someone who humbly steps out of his own walk in life in order to be of benefit to another. A police officer helping a young child would certainly be a hero to that child. A fireman saving a kitten from a tree is likewise a hero. A mother who tenderly kisses her child's kneecap after she cleans a skinned knee? Hero!

Do not look for heroes in the world around you. Instead, become a hero. Seek not glory, fame or recognition, but act out of the goodness of your heart.

1. Volunteer to read to children - that child may grow to love books.
2. Go
to a senior center and offer to sit quietly and listen - you may be the last
person who takes the time to visit with them before they pass on.
3. Mentor
someone - teach them skills they will use for a lifetime.
4. Donate a toy
for a Christmas toy drive, or donate food - your gift may be the only treat they
have on Christmas day.
5. Offer to give someone a ride to the dentist or
doctor - you might spare them driving in a bad state.
6. Allow someone to go
ahead of you in line at the grocery market - those precious extra ten minutes
might get them home to their family much quicker.
7. Offer to hold a door
for someone - your lesson in manners will help the younger generation learn that
one should never be so busy and self-absorbed that courtesy can be tossed aside.
8. Look for ways that you can improve things around your community - there
is always a need!
9. Set a good example by living the good example - never
ask more from someone else than you would be willing to give personally.
10. Laugh often.

That is my two-cents this week.

REVIEW: Triptych of Terror

It is with trembling pleasure that I give you (FINALLY) my review of Triptych of Terror, a horror anthology featuring the works of John Michael Curlovich, Michael Rowe, and David Thomas.

Michael Rowe's "In October" is by far the most enthralling of all three tales. It is delightfully disturbing and dark, with realistic main characters and a well-paced plot line in which readers find themselves drawn into Mikey Childress' world from the very first page. Michael Rowe is the Rembrandt of his genre, painting a mosaic of teenage angst amidst the backdrop of a small town insular high school populace subjugated by pitiless tormentors. His approach is both superbly erotic and chilling, and the ending unquestionably tugs at the heartstrings.

I graciously recommend this anthology. Rowe fans will not be disappointed.

Triptych of Terror - buy it now at!

Triptych of Terror


Sunday Scribblings #33 - I don't want to be a passenger in my own life."

The prompt for Sunday Scribblings this week is a quote: "I don't want to be a passenger in my own life." (Diane Ackerman, picture on left.)

Ackerman has a few quotes out there, and of course it is always best to read her entire works to obtain a better grasp of the concept she is attempting to flesh out. She is an intriguing author to me, if only for priceless gems such as "When I go biking I am mentally far far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart."

I have chosen to focus on the quote, rather than launch into her work itself. Whereas we could interpret the quote from a variety of angles, contemplating everything from our desire to maintain control of our lives to allowing a supernatural force function as our co-pilot, I think it's best to consider how we often surrender our lives to the winds of fate, be it by our own will or by a cruel twist of life itself.

Long ago, I discovered that I can not become the master of my own destiny. I could set a goal for myself, and strive to complete it. If I poured my life energy into that task, I would certainly achieve my desires, but at a cost. We, as humans, demand order. We desire stability. We thirst unquenchably for the ability to take the reigns and set our own pace. We, as humans, are fools, for we beat our heads on the wall when our pathway to achievement is interrupted. We allow ourselves to become depressed - to have something depress us into a state of non-doing. We thrash and lament and scream curses to God, or fate, or our neighbor.

I am a firm disciple of
Tao and Chaos Theory. To hell with being in control.

What exactly is chaos? The name "chaos theory" comes from the fact that the systems that the theory describes are apparently disordered, but chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data. To make a long story short: it's the butterfly effect. It's fractals. It's setting out to do one thing, and taking a side journey. It's a pool table where the ball never rolls exactly the same way twice, due to imperfections on the surface of the ball as well as the felt on the table.

Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? It is quite possible. Is it Tao? Most certainly.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

Please do not confuse the philosophical thinking of Tao with some strange Buddhist chanting or religion. To be Tao is to be one with everything, while being one with nothing. It is to bend like a blade of grass in the wind, but to also be the wind that bends the blade. Tao is the way. All things are Tao.

Chaos itself is a buffeting, hard-to-project force. A = B = C and eventually C will divide into C1, C2, C3, which in turn each shall branch into C1AB, C2AB etc. We can not hope to plot the entire course, as we do not always know when life will toss in a fractal. In a single sneeze, a parallel universe can be born or destroyed.

Tao (the philosophy) is the ability to go with the flow of chaos theory. If your favorite tea cup shatters, all the screaming in the world will not restore it. You have two options: you may scream and rant and pick up the pieces, or you may acknowledge that the cup is forever broken, grieve a moment for that cup, and continue with your life.

For the benefit of my own sanity (for my mother will surely call and give me an earful!), I will also address a principle that helps many people deal with the chaotic nature of life: faith. To a Christian, Faith is Tao, for God is Tao. God is all things, and the Way. Only God, a supreme being, can know the order of Chaos, for it is his hand which sets things in motion. His will is done because his intelligence far outstrips our puny, mortal minds. When Christians pray, they should pray to seek an understanding of God's way; to be one with his will. We will never receive what God does not already have in store for us. That is only Tao. We are trusting God to get us through the chaos in motion.

Ackerman does not wish to be the passenger in her own life. I prefer to sit back and experience things as they happen. I go with the flow, and hence I have very little stress. I could never be so foolish as to think that I can drive my own fate.

As an example: I have been working on several short stories, with no real agenda, timeline or purpose. I am ghostwriting an adaptation of a three-act play my mother wrote, as well as working on some Paleontological musings, in addition to a fantasy genre novel. I have certainly felt as if I am beating my head on the wall, for there isn't enough time in the day to do it all, and I have felt no real desire to write anything. Chaos takes over, and I throw up my hands and say 'it is Tao'; I ride the winds of fate and allow the stress cause by my inability to focus to simply melt away. I give in to fate, and apply a little faith.

A week or so ago, a dear friend, Michael Rowe, read through a parody I was toying with (for shits and grins. No real desire for it to ever see the publics' eyes.) He offered to include me in the third series of a well-known horror anthology that may or may not get off the ground (it's up to the publisher and other powers-that-be.) First, I was honored and humbled that he believed in my talents. Second, I have never written horror, and the challenge to do so has inspired me. Third, by focusing on this new genre, I have allowed my mind to settle concerning the other works in progress. I can now flip back and forth between the horror short story (which is quickly becoming a damned novel unto itself as I fill in the outline - send in the editors, please!) and the project that I am ghostwriting. My chaos has order once again. The experience will allow me to gain experience with the actual writing for publication process, which in turn will allow me to flounder less as I strive to complete The Decision for publication.

And so, with all due respect to Ackerman, I am more than willing to be the passenger in my own life. I not only have the chance to enjoy the views, but I am swept along the scenic route against my will, and the enrichment obtained from it is indeed breathtaking.


Sunday Scribblings #32 - Mornings

I don't do mornings.

The end.

Sunday Scribbles #31 - Bedtime Stories

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOnce upon a time, in a Land filled with instant gratification, there lived an Urban Princess. The Princess was due at the Ball the next morning, but the excitement of it left her mind racing at night.

Each evening, the Princess lay her petite head upon the pillow, yet sleep eluded her.

Surely, she thought, I have been hexed by that powerful witch of a Department Manager.

Surely, she lamented, it is the fault of the President, who wages war for barrels of oil.

Surely, her mind cried out in the darkened room, I can not sleep because it is a conspiracy of the Liberal Media and Dick Cheney to keep me awake for days on end so that my blurry eyes can not guide my fair hand on Election Day.

(In this Land, it was right and proper to blame everyone else for your shortcomings.)

As she gazed at her popcorn ceiling, vowing to have contractors come out and replaster it sometime before next Summer, a gentle glow filled the room. A large, near translucent green butterfly had gently floated in through her open window while she had been contemplating. It fluttered above her head, sweetly humming a tune.

"My, but aren't you a gaudy, CG-gauzy thing?" she cried, reaching for her slipper.

"Wait!" the butterfly pleaded, ducking behind a half-finished glass of rum on the rocks. "I am magical!"

The Princess gritted her teeth and calculated how much force would be needed in order to squash the insignificant bug without damaging her Ethan Allen Tuscany nightstand. "Magic, my ass!"

"Fair Urban Princess, it is true!" it said, skittering away from the glass and hiding behind an empty package of Unisom. "I can give you and your restless mind the sleep you need. So you can finally enjoy a restful night and a fresh start! So from the time your head hits the pillow until the second your alarm clock sounds, you're getting the peaceful sleep you need."

"Hmmm?" the Princess questioned, a bit intrigued.

"I am designed to give you a restful night's sleep. It not only helps most people fall asleep quickly, I help you stay asleep all night long with fewer interruptions and you will wake up refreshed. I will not lose my effectiveness over time as shown in a 6-month study. Additionally, I am approved for long-term use. That is what makes me unique."

The Princess scratched her chin and contemplated the fact that she was having a conversation with a green-glowing CG-animated butterfly.

"You can feel quite good about taking me," the butterfly added, sensing the close of a sale. "When you're about to go to bed, simply swallow me with a bit of water and get ready to enjoy a restful night's sleep."

"Oh, alright," the Princess said, grateful to have a bit of magic to usher her into slumber.

"Important Safety Information!" babbled the Butterfly suddenly, so quickly that it nearly sounded as though he were an Auctioneer in his larval stage,
"I should only be taken immediately before bedtime. Be sure you have at least eight hours to devote to sleep before becoming active. You should not engage in any activity after taking me that requires complete alertness, such as driving a car or operating machinery. You should use extreme care when engaging in these activities the morning after taking me. Do not use alcohol while taking any sleep medicine. Most sleep medicines carry some risk of dependency. Do not use sleep medicines for extended periods without first talking to your doctor. Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, drowsiness and dizziness."

"Oh, alright!" moaned the Princess, too eager to capture a dream to bother with words that seemed as if spoken in fine print. "Shut up already and get in my mouth."

She quickly fell asleep moments later, and awoke feeling refreshed the next day. She dressed for the ball, jumped into her Mercedes ML320, and drove along the highway - only to realize that she was still partially asleep as her SUV kissed the guardrail and plummeted off a steep cliff.

The moral of this story: there is no magic pill that will solve all your problems. Treat the condition; do not simply medicate the symptom.

The End.

Read about other Bedtime Stories: Sunday Scribblings: #31

Pharmaceuticals and Caribou

This sabbatical has taken much longer than expected, and I apologize to my regular readers for leaving them out in the cold. Thank you for all the warm email wishes. At least I feel good. I feel much better than I did the day before. To feel good (to feel well) is to feel alive.

I would like to thank all the little people who made this wonderful event of "feeling good" possible, like Glaxo Smith Kline.

What an interesting topic. Alas, I shall not waste any effort to untangle the treacherous web of pharmaceutical manufacturers. I shall say that, in 2005, Old GSK's pharmaceutical sales accounted for 18.88 billion Pounds Sterling, with was roundly 86% of their total sales. 6.9 billion Pounds Sterling was their profit. Don't we all love those clever Brits? How about some shits and giggles? I found a conversion table: $33,883,192,823.84. "B" as in Billion dollars.

Billions. I think I will be sick. Excuse me whilst I go pop a pill. Never fear! It is a generic one, manufactured by Watson Pharmaceuticals, a humble little joint that provides us with generic formulas to better usurp funds from those tricky Brits at GSK. Watson does respectfully, and reports indicate that for the six months (ended June 30, 2006), total net revenue increased 12 percent to $917.6 million, as compared to $817.1 million for the first six months of 2005. Net income for the first six months of 2006 was $9.6 million, or $0.09 per basic and diluted share, as compared to net income of $79.1 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, for the same period of 2005.

Million. Much more soothing than Billion. I feel better scarfing my name-brand knock off poison now, knowing in soul that I am supporting good old American attitude. I shall now move to Canada to take advantage of the one thing our country can not seem to provide: socialized health care.

"Canada's health care system is a group of socialized health insurance plans that provides coverage to all Canadian citizens. It is publicly funded and administered on a provincial or territorial basis, within guidelines set by the federal government.

Under the health care system, individual citizens are provided preventative care and medical treatments from primary care physicians as well as access to hospitals, dental surgery and additional medical services. With a few exceptions, all citizens qualify for health coverage regardless of medical history, personal income, or standard of living."

Take that, GSK!

I have always wanted to live in Thunder Bay (that is in Ontario, dear readers), and dance upon the majestic shores as bald eagles and Peregrine falcons soar free over my head. I would, in all probably, dance myself off a damned rock and crack my skull on the ground, to be run over by a rogue caribou as I slip into unconsciousness. Not to worry, I will have free health care in Canada, and Watson makes generic hydrocodone to ease my pains.

I could save myself some trouble and move to England, another land of The Free Health Care System, but I'm deathly afraid of Routemaster double-decker buses. I know they were thinned out in the 1980's, but I just will not take the chance of walking near Trafalgar Square and having one jump out at me suddenly. People have been gruesomely mauled by Routemasters, and the 1208GMT 159 bus out of Marble Arch is know to be especially savage.

Aut? What are you on?

Please do not ask that again. You do know I that hate to share.


Friday the 13th: the Muse Roams Blogland.

Happy Friday the 13th to all of you. Friday is my blogging day, where I can sit back and read catch up on everyone's week. I thought it would be nice to share some of my faviortes with you today:

I have just come back from Roadchick's
Roadtrip, where I LMAO over her spewing pumpkin and Friday the 13th Follies. I'm down to the granny panties, but not desperate enough to do the Man Solution and turn things inside out (after first conducting a Sniff Test), at least as far as undergarments go. Better Half has brought only a few items up from the Dungeon Laundry Cell, so by my visual perspective of the upstairs closet, it would appear sniff tests might come into play this weekend. I'm certain (hoping, praying!) that there is more clean laundry downstairs.

Stopping by
To Love, Honor and Dismay, I saw an interesting article concerning "How not to ask your husband for help." Thank God for Better Half. I may have to motivate him from time to time, but he is not ashamed of running a vacuum or using cleaning liquids. I did crack up over Dr. Andrew's interview on Basil's Blog.

Paris Parfait has delighted my sense once again, and her photograph of La Giralda Cathedral takes my breath away!

I was shocked to hear that someone I knew passed away this week. Although JerryALT and I didn't chat often, I loved his insight into the Jewish faith. David Shelton gave a wonderful
tribute to him in his blog. David has ben working hard on his new book, The Rainbow Kingdom, and it is now available for preorders.

On that note, Michael sent me an autographed copy of his latest work, and I am working on a review of it for Amazon. If I can just get it completed, I will offer a copy to B&Noble. Michael's book can be found at your local book store, or you can order it
here. I will publish my review here once it is completed. Michael also mailed me a copy of his article, Kidnapped in Iraq, which is the story of peace activist James Loney and his partner, Dan. This atricle was published in the August 29, 2006 edition of The Advocate.

Lori~Flower had me grinning as she shared that mother's never cease to mother, even after we have left our roaring twenties. My mother would have done the same. Actually, now that I think about it, Mum never fails to give good advice at least once per phone call.

The Benedict Notes, by AnnieElf, set my heart soaring - the return of the Latin Mass. It's about time! I am probably one of the few people who really enjoys Latin, and the greatest beauty is hearing an entire Mass in that tongue. Many Americans will scorn it, to be certain, but they hardly have a say in it, especially as most of them don't bother to even learn what the Mass is about. They sit quietly and recite prayers and have no clue as to what they are supposed to be thinking as they pray. It is my opinion that the average American Catholic is a pod. Can you tell that I have never been a Vatican II fan? Annie's other blog has a lovely haiku about a blackbird, which I promptly printed.

Darren Naish had an interview on the BBC news, which I missed. He also explores the controversial origins of the family dog, and our views are very similar on that subject.

Finally (for today at least) I ended my reading with
Sunday Scribblings. This week's theme is #29 - If I could stop time. . . and I encourage all of you to check out their blog and post your own entry.

My Apologies

I'm sorry I have not made much of an effort to keep up my blog this week. I will probably lose a few readers over that.

It has been a bad month for me physically. The month itself, and the environment around me, is epically beautiful however, and I managed to get a few pictures of the season before the leaves are snatched from the trees by the hands on winter. I'll try to get them posted tomorrow.

As I write this, the first snowflakes are falling outside!

Other than that, I have not been able to do much. My apologies to you.


A Catfish Paprika Recipe Worthy of George Totin

What does one do with 4 pounds of fresh catfish? The packets were on sale yesterday, and for roughly $3, we would have the makings of a goof fish fry. We would have, that is, if Better Half wasn't too sore from doing yard work yesterday.

There are many things I can do well, but frying fish is not one of them. Better Half, the Southern Boy, can fry anything to perfection. He surely channels Paula Dean and Bobby Flay, if not Emeril. I woke up this morning anticipating spicy fried catfish and a side of winter squash.

Better Half woke up anticipating going back to bed.

What does one do with 4 pounds of fresh catfish? They improvise.

A family favorite in this house (handed down from my Father) is Chicken Paprika. It's a Hungarian dish, heavy on the paprika and sour cream; a true comfort food. I used to make this traditional dish every Father's Day, but since moving away from my parents, I have not bothered to whip up a batch (with the exception of their visit out here this past summer.) It is not that the recipe is difficult, or the ingredients too hard to come by. It simply reminds me of my Dad, and to make chicken paprika is to admit that it saddens me as he is not here in person to enjoy it with us. I have made the dish with chicken, beef and pork... and my mind pondered the possibilities of catfish. Would it work? Would it taste terrible? Could I add the squash to it? Oh, what the hell! Let's go.

Catfish Paprika Recipe
4 pounds fresh catfish, 1" cubes
1 yellow onion, diced small
1 Patty Pan squash, diced small
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste (we use 1 tablespoon)
Paprika, ground, to taste (we use a whopping 1/8 cup or more!)
1 can low fat, no MSG chicken broth
1 cup sour cream

1 cup shell noodles, cooked

Melt butter on med-hi heat in a large skillet, then add diced onions, salt, pepper, and 1/2 the paprika. Cook until translucent. Add squash and fry for about 2 minutes, or until it begins to become tender. If things get too dry, you can add a tad more butter.

Add catfish to the pan, and stir fry for a few minutes, then add chicken broth and remaining paprika. Cook until catfish is done. Lower heat and add sour cream, a bit at a time, working it into the broth mixture. If you would like the sauce to be more hardy, you can thicken it with flour. Once sour cream is combined, add noodles. Your completed dish should have a medium pale orange color to it.

Enjoy! Share a hardy pot with friends and family.

I tired it... and I like it! The fish doesn't overpower, and the flavor blends well with the paprika and sour cream. Normally, this recipe would be done without squash (and you can substitute pork or chicken.) However, the squash added a bit of harvest aroma to it.

So here's to you, Dad! Wish you were here to savor Catfish Papikosh with us!


Sunday Scribblings #28 - An Assignment

This Sunday Scribblings was a tough one, as I'm sort of homebound this week - thanks to my crappy body.

As I can not write about any people that I observe (and writing about Better Half becomes too mundane for some of my readers), I'll draw you into Bold's world.

The Autumn air has chilled, and the leaves prepare to slip their bonds. The sun dances through them, and the canopy of the tree becomes a stained glass church. It is here that Bold dwells, the summer and autumn of this, his first year, a true test of his stock.

Bold is a rugged thing, a burley thick-bodied American Tree Sparrow (Spizela arborea), masquerading among the Chipping sparrows. His red cap is eternally tussled, bits of feather sticking up at odd angles as he pecks frantically at the harvest seed in the hanging feeder. When I first laid eyes on him, earlier this year, I thought him perhaps sickly, as no healthy bird would run about with such a poorly preened coating. Yet he remained, steadfast against all odds, the mutant Tree-Chipping Sparrow skulking amidst his beautiful cousins. He never offered a humble chirp, but always chose to announce his presence with a rather throaty CHURP, accompanied by the strangest dancing displays. After closer observation, I believe he was either lost, or else the two different species mated to produce him. If 'o' is a typical Chipping sparrow, then Bold waddles in with 'O'... larger, rounder, louder, and much much bolder. He drives even the largest of Ravens from his territory.

For some weeks, I have lost track of our house wens, cardinals, and chipping sparrows. I have not heard the haunting cry of our mourning doves in quite a while. I have not been able to sit on my front porch to enjoy their community as it draws together each day in celebration of bountiful food and water. I have keep my eyes opened, hoping for some small sign that my freakish little bird was still about. Bold was my companion, and my inspiration to keep fighting, no matter how heavily stacked against me the odds are.

Yesterday graced us with a heavy downpour of rain. Better Half was about to start the mower, and I had patted my hair into place and had ventured outside to keep him company. The rains began almost immediately. I grabbed the container of seed, urging Better Half to at least get that feast set up for our friends, and then tore open the seed cake packets for the mesh feeders. A flash of lightening sent a few lurking Chipping sparrows racing for the protection of the canopy of our large tree... and in that flash, I saw Bold.

He stood firm in the tree, his head cocked to one side as he waited for Better Half to resupply the hanging feeder. Rain and thunder be damned, for Mother Nature herself would not drive him from his perch. I shouted to Better Half and pointed, crying "Oh look, there's Bold" as the poor man did his best to get food in place while being drenched by the storm. Unfortunately, Better Half could not see Bold through his rain streaked glasses.

Bold has changed in the past few weeks. He is even larger, and more bedraggled in feather. He is every bit as lively, however, and offered a singular CHURP in gratitude for the free meal. His is an unquenchable spirit; each passing day means another chance to profit from the last moments of summer. His robust form skittered from twig to twig, and he regarded me momentarily before ducking out of sight behind a particularly large clump of leaves. I have never been able to capture him on film, yet his enthusiasm for life is etched upon my heart.

I struggled with insomnia until early this morning, . I had left the bedroom window open, preferring the feel of the crisp night air. Better Half let the dogs out around 7 am, and closed the door, allowing me the luxury of a warm bed sans any dogs, cats or other humans. In the still morning air, I heard a particularly pleasing CHURP, and lifted the blinds just so. I lay quietly, allowing the early sunshine to warm the air, and my eyes gazed into the depths of the maple tree. The CHURP came again, and I spotted Bold on a limb. He shook himself, and glistening droplets flung out from his plumage. He cocked his head and stared at me from one gleaming black eye, and then ducked his head under his wing to nibble at some small itch. When his head emerged, his cap was just as scruffy as ever, and I smiled silently and thought of how tussled my own hair must look.

What was he thinking at that moment? Was he already dwelling upon the bird feeder below, or perhaps he was testing his resolve to migrate to some distant place? I do not know, in honestly, but it seemed to me that he had come up to the very top of the tree just to check in on me, for he stayed quite a while. I closed my eyes and lay back, warmed by the occasional song he offered in lullaby.

The sun climbed higher, and the bright light dragged me from my groggy state. I got up quietly and began to shut the blind - and there Bold sat, still in the same place. I whispered "Good morning, Bold" and offered him a nod. He scratched his head lazily with his leg, tearing several spent downy feathers from his neck and chest in the process, and then gave a final CHURP in return. It was the bit of peace that I needed, and it ushered me into a deep sleep.

As I write this, I hear a familiar song creeping in through the cracked window in the office. My heart soars.

On Entropy, the Arrow of Time, and Anthropic bias

I am going to digress from my usual rambling to allow you a brief snapshot into what Better Half and I do while driving: we communicate. Talking is a lost art to many people. It is more than a method of conveying needs; it is the prime method whereupon we can convey thoughts, theory, and philosophical ideas. To dialog, to communicate what seems incommunicable, is divine.

This entire topic began when I purchased a cheap watch. I have owned many in my life, but seldom wear one. I tend to exist outside the ideals of the space-time continuum, as I ignore time as a dimension.


(In physics, spacetime is a mathematical model that combines three-dimensional space and one-dimensional time into a single construct called the space-time continuum, in which time plays the role of the 4th dimension. According to Euclidean space perception, our universe has three dimensions of space, and one dimension of time. By combining space and time into a single manifold, physicists have significantly simplified a good deal of physical theory, as well as described in a more uniform way the workings of the universe at both the supergalactic and subatomic levels.)
Time is a strange thing. We can have a perception of the passage of time, as things move along in a sequence - the sun rises, and the sun also sets. This is what most think of when they hear the word "time" itself - the Time of Day/Night (and you don't even need to know who Isaac Newton is!)

I hold closer to Immanuel Kant's view of time: time is part of the fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which we sequence events, quantify the duration of events and the intervals between them, and compare the motions of objects. In this view, time does not refer to any kind of entity that "flows", that objects "move through", or that is a "container" for events.

I simply couldn't care less when I wake up, when I go to bed, or when I eat breakfast. I do not keep a schedule that is set, as I set my own schedule and never seem to do things exactly the same from day to day. I lose track of time, not because I fail to pay attention to its passing, but because I have no need to bother with tracking it at all. Clocks assault my vision in just about every room, but how often have I bothered to actually glance at one simply for the desire to know what time of day it is? Hardly ever, unless my existence must suddenly grind itself back to a more mundane path due to the pressing need to coordinate my personal time with the synchronicity of the rest of the world (or to keep an appointment in time with a doctor or group.) Thus I exist, and thus Isaac Newton rolls over in his grave. Kant, I am sure, would applaud that there is at least one being who does not need to rely upon Newton's theories in order to maintain sanity. I am quite happy to exist without a schedule or the knowledge of "what time it is" right now.

Hence, I shrug at time. I am chronologically challenged, meaning that the time arrow does affect me mentally (although I do age) yet I see all things as relevant. I balk at the evidence of time's passing, for it means nothing. I am not immortal, yet my mortality is not hinged upon moving forward in time or in time's stagnation (for if time stagnates, then nothing moves forward, and the only option is to find out why, or hold on as we surf the event horizon and the effects of reverse of time back to the black hole of Antioch. Never mind. You had to be there - 19 years ago - in the singularity of that moment, for that joke to hit home as humor.)


Alright. I'll try to explain (and will borrow, heavily, from other sources!)

Entropy is the only quantity in the physical sciences that "picks" a particular direction for time, sometimes called an arrow of time. As we go "forward" in time, the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the entropy of an isolated system can only increase or remain the same; it cannot decrease. Hence, from one perspective, entropy measurement is thought of as a kind of clock (think of Newton.)

In the natural sciences, time’s arrow, or arrow of time as it is also known, is a term used to distinguish a direction of time on a four-dimensional relativistic map of the world - which can be determined by a study of organizations of atoms, molecules, and bodies. \

The thermodynamic arrow of time is provided by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in an isolated system entropy will only increase with time; it will not decrease with time. Entropy can be thought of as a measure of disorder; thus the Second Law implies that time is asymmetrical with respect to the amount of order in an isolated system: as time increases, a system will always become more disordered. This asymmetry can be used empirically to distinguish between future and past. (I won't delve into Chaos Theory here.)

The Second Law does not hold with strict universality: any system can fluctuate to a state of lower entropy (see the Poincaré recurrence theorem). However, the Second Law seems accurately to describe the overall trend in real systems toward higher entropy.

Certain subatomic interactions involving the weak nuclear force violate the conservation of parity, but only very rarely. According to the CPT Theorem, this means they should also be time irreversible, and so establish an arrow of time. Such processes should be responsible for matter creation in the early universe. To me, in my daily life, time follows that pathway perfectly. I can not undo what has been done. I can not reverse time to change things that would later become a pinnacle by which I gain the desire to change so that the pinnacle does not take place, therefore changing my own timeline infinitely as that pinnacle is reshaped and reformed with each attempt to rid myself of it (and should I remove it I remove the desire to return to that point in time, thereby it does happen... or does it? Parallel universes explode, and Mickey Mouse does the Mashed Potato on Elvis' grave.)

This arrow is not linked to any other arrow by any proposed mechanism, and if it would have pointed to the opposite time direction, the only difference would have been that our universe would be made of anti-matter rather than from matter. More accurately, the definitions of matter and anti-matter would just be reversed. Does it matter? Not to me, but that is because I am just weird. It effects me, as I can not escape the clutches of time itself.

That parity is broken so rarely means that this arrow only "barely" points in one direction, setting it apart from the other arrows whose direction is much more obvious.

Quantum evolution is governed by the Schrödinger equation, which is time-symmetric, and by wave function collapse, which is time irreversible. As the mechanism of wave function collapse is still obscure, it's not known how this arrow links to the others. While at the microscopic level, collapse seems to show no favor to increasing or decreasing entropy, some believe there is a bias which shows up on macroscopic scales as the thermodynamic arrow. According to the theory of quantum decoherence, and assuming that the wave function collapse is merely apparent, the quantum arrow of time is a consequence of the thermodynamic arrow of time. Geeks everywhere are wondering if I would touch up "the cat". I won't. I don't believe it exists, and I walk through it. I won't let anthropic bias hinder me.


"Anthropic bias" is a term coined by the philosopher Nick Bostrom, as an expression for the bias arising when "your evidence is biased by observation selection effects". This is, basically an extreme generalization of the confirmation bias and the cognitive bias, involving not only mind-set, memory and methodology, but the whole way in which one sees oneself as an entity investigating an environment. As the etymology of the term suggests (from the Greek word for "human being") Bostrom's main claim could be reduced to saying that being a human being itself constitutes a bias for, and consequently a hindrance to, objective observation. In my own pondering, I tend to take things from different perspectives, and I often forget that I am approaching things as a human being. I escape the bounds and limitations of time and space, disregard biological necessities, and "lose track" of time as a whole. I spend hours probing a forming hypothesis, testing it to see if it would withstand the beatings necessary to become theory. I cease to the be entity, and become that which I study, bit by bit, on a mental scale. I leave the realm of hard science and embrace philosophy, but science remains my grounding point as the laws of mathematics must always be applied.
Bostrom suggests a way out using what amounts to quasi-empirical methods, and I enjoy embracing his philosophy. In his book Anthropic Bias: observation selection effects in science and philosophy, Bostrom explores the implications of these for "polling, cosmology (how many universes are there?), evolution theory (how improbable was the evolution of intelligent life on our planet?), the problem of time's arrow (can it be given a thermodynamic explanation?), game theoretic problems with imperfect recall (how to model them?), traffic analysis (why is the "next lane" faster?)."

It has been suggested that the whole idea of an anthropic bias is irrefutable. How could a criticism, presumably made by a human being, against the theory of anthropic biases be conceived? If it is not possible to review it critically, the whole theory becomes a will-o'-the-wisp without any practical consequences for our human lives here on Earth. I can tell you that existing the way I do when I'm on a mental tangent is harmful, as the "real life" things that are critical are often ignored. To remove oneself, one must remove one's self. To remove one's self, one neglects others. Few people can so totally remove themselves and remain sane. Perhaps that is an indication that I am insane, yet do we base sanity upon how an individual reacts to his environment, or do we base it on that individuals ability to grasp reality? Even on a "tangent", I assure that I grasp reality for what it is. I simply choose to ignore that which is not immediately essential for me to complete by reasoning.

Another problem with the theory purporting the existence of a general anthropic bias, is that it sounds self-referentially inconsistent — If Nick Bostrom is a human being, and the anthropic principle is valid, then his observations will be biased; the anthropic principle is an observation made by Nick Bostrom; hence, either (α) Nick Bostrom is not a human being (or alternatively, knowledge of the anthropic principle was supernaturally revealed to him), or (β) the anthropic principle is itself anthropically biased, or (γ) at least one observation made by a human being (e.g. N.B.'s observation of the anthropic bias) is not biased (γ is a counterexample of the general anthropic principle, and all three alternatives (α, β, and γ) point to Bostrom's theory being poorly conceived.

Needless to say, this entire line of thinking stems from a conversation between Better Half and myself, whereupon we dialoged concerning what terminology would best apply to me as far as my attunement to time is concerned. Am I chronologically challenged, in regards to my complete ignorance of the actual time of day? Am I entropically hindered, as I throw the 4th dimension out the window on a daily basis? Perhaps we are socially challenged, Better Half and I. Perhaps other spouses discuss the kids, or groceries, or shoes? Perhaps they dwell upon stupid, mundane matters such as what to eat next Friday? Perhaps the only thing holding them together is the daily events that bind them, and their relationship goes stagnate as they attempt to keep cohesive as a pair by interjecting commentaries about how they think things should be when the sun rises? I don't know. Better Half and I have always had the ability to remove ourselves from the "mate" prospect, male and female, in order to explore the scientific and philosophical nature of things as a combined mind. That, dear readers, is why I married him. Time destroys, breaks down mountains and turns seas into deserts.

In time, relationships based solely upon sexual fulfillment fall by the wayside. When I chose Better Half, it was for his mind as well as his body. As we age, and as the arrow of time reminds us that we are indeed mortal, we will lose our bodies to the ravages of time, yet we have a bond that will keep cohesive for as long as our minds hold out. For those that are curious - I exist in a world that does not reply upon time, and my thread of connectivity to the real world is held by a being that is content to obey the laws of time: hence, I am grounded.