Friday, September 30, 2005

In Remembrance

"Mama ... please ... I can’t feel your presence ... if you’re out there, mama, please ... call me."

"Here, boy ... c’mere, boy ... they’re so frightened, so confused ... they don’t know whom to trust."

"My baby ... they took her ... I don’t know where she is ... someone, please, help me ..."

"It’s gone ... it’s just all gone ... look ..."

For many of us, it is over now. The television coverage has mostly moved on; there is always breaking news. We have mostly moved on; we have done what we can, and there are always jobs to return to, groceries to buy, lives to live.

But the echoes of the voices, the haunting images, will linger long in our memories, reminding us, at odd moments, that for many, it will never be over.

Of all the lessons that the Creator requires us to learn, this may be the most difficult for us to accept: Life is pain. The corollary to this lesson is one that we seldom, if ever, bother or care to contemplate: Death is surcease.

Every extant religion teaches that there is, after death, an afterlife. After we die, we are taught, our souls are taken up and out of our bodies; they are transmuted and admitted into the presence of the Creator. And so it must be asked: why, exactly, do so many fear death? Why do so many curse it, contend against it, refuse to accept it? Why do so many seem so uncertain of the Creator’s promise? Is it that so many, deep in their hearts, do not truly believe?

My paternal grandparents were Methodists, indifferent practitioners who seldom, if ever, attended church, and none of their children, my father included, were deeply religious. When my parents were wed, my father agreed that my brother and I would be raised as Roman Catholics, but I don’t believe that he ever wholeheartedly accepted the faith that my mother held. After Mom died, Dad began to question what he thought he believed.

He must finally have resolved his uncertainties, because when he was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen in 2002, he didn’t noticeably go through any of the stages of grief; he simply accepted the news, put a last few affairs in order, and lapsed into a coma.

He had told us many times how terribly he missed my mother, and how tired he was, and at the end, I feel, he did not fear death; he looked forward to being with her again, and that is why his passing was so gentle. He truly believed that they would be reunited, and I have reason to believe that his belief was well-founded.

Neither do I fear death. I have been near death twice in my life, once as a teenager, and seven years ago, when I suffered a perforated ulcer, and I have learned well the lesson that life is pain. When the time comes, I will look forward to surcease.

Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tagged by LeAnn

Fun for all ages - I've been tagged by LeAnn, author of the journal Befuddled, which you should go read. 

The rules:

1.  Go to your journal's archives.

2.  Find the 23rd post.

3.  Find the 5th sentence in that post.

4.  Post that sentence with these instuctions.

"My attention to detail (a favorite phrase of one of my old bosses) is suffering to the point at which it's difficult to work on Diatoms."

I won't even attempt to explain it.



Every year, it seems, we receive a survey in the mail from some outfit called the Laura David Consumer Research Center, and the survey is apparently sponsored by another entity called Shopper’s Voice. You may have received one of these obnoxious surveys yourself. We never fill them out, but we have somehow made their mailing list and will, no doubt, be on it for eternity.

We don’t mind answering the questions about what products we might use, but the surveyors include a full page of personal and downright nosy questions. Such as:

They want to know what preferences you have in reading, music, collectibles, travel, sports, and hobbies. They ask you to provide your email address(es). They want to know what electronics you own, what investments you may have, and what credit card(s) you use. They inquire what type of vehicle you own and what insurance you carry. They ask what your occupation is and to what charitable organizations you give.

They wish to know how many people and pets live in your household, and what their ages are. They even wish to know if anyone in the household is pregnant. They ask about your marital status, your dwelling, and your household income.

Even the census forms that we must occasionally fill out don’t require this much information. This would be perfect data for an identity thief to have, especially if they were able to acquire your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name and credit card account numbers.

And what do you receive for providing every detail of your lives to complete strangers? A chance to win $500 for "Early Birds" and a chance to win $5,000 or a Caribbean Vacation Cruise! plus 10 drawings of $100 each. And, of course, valuable money-saving coupons.

These people even tried to bribe us. Yesterday we received in the mail an envelope containing samples of S.C. Johnson products. There was no obvious indication that this came from Laura David, but the printing and code numbers matched exactly.

Granted, the questionnaire is voluntary, but still ... the notion of supplying such personal information to people we don’t know is objectionable to us. And if we were to go on a trip, someone would know just what valuables we own. This might seem like paranoia, but nowadays, you just never know ...


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Yet More Props

We wish to say hello to another special J-lander - Celeste, proprietress of the journal the dailies. She is willing and able to craft a poem as whimsy dictates - drop by and say hi, and enjoy a good read.


Encomium to Autumn

Autumn has officially begun. We celebrated the change of season with our annual end-of-summer ritual today, cider and doughnuts. There is a cider mill called Schutt’s Apple Mill in Webster, an institution that has been around for longer than Bonnie or I. Come take a tour with us.

The outside of the rambling (and expanding) building resembles a weathered farmhouse, gray and white mostly, and is situated next to a house in which the Schutt family still live. Round about are fields and orchards, to remain as long as the Schutts exist.

Pulling open the door, you are forcefully struck by the aroma of autumn - apples. To your left is the counter with the smiling, homey clerks, dispensing boxes of homemade fried cakes and cider from the two spigots that extend into this room from the mill in the adjoining section. Look about you. Observe, hanging upon the back wall, the gigantic, weathered wagon wheel, guarding crate upon crate of apples. Look over there! See the comical cornhusk scarecrow goggling at the customers with a goofy grin plastered across his burlap countenance. And over there in the back corner, near where the plastic sheeting blocks the chaos of remodeling, the rough pine tables covered with gourds of every description and ears of Indian corn bundled together, lying and dangling upon and from every surface.

Turn to the right and see the table upon table laden with foodstuffs - jams and preserves; bags of exotic coffee; teas, both loose and bagged; extracts of every flavor; herbs and spices, contained and hanging loose in dried bunches from the imposing rafters; hard candies in old-fashioned jars. Breathe in the subtle fragrances of cinnamon and rosemary, the deep, almost subliminal odor of coffee, the delicious odor of homemade pies and other baked goods.

Take a moment to inspect the tables cradling cookbooks written by Webster women and pottery of all sorts - crocks and teapots preeminent.

You discover, amidst all this goodness, in the center of the room, a cooler filled with all manner of sausages; cheeses, both hard and soft; and sinfully rich cheesecake. And the star attraction, favorite of all children, at the far end of the room - a spacious pen containing an enormous, dove-colored rabbit, available for petting by anyone who wishes. If you are very lucky, the rabbit will acknowledge your presence by partially opening one eye and peering at you before resuming its determined somnolence.

There is something ineffable about autumn in New York - the very atmosphere itself seems to change; the angle of the sunlight gradually begins to shift, the air takes on a different scent, the temperature has a slight bite to it, more comfortable than the humid haze of summer. It is a magical time, an enchanted place.


Of Man and Mice

Have you ever watched mice laugh themselves silly? I have. After I read this article to them, they were absolutely helpless with mirth.

Mouse Grounds Flight for Over 12 Hours

Sep 27, 11:06 PM (ET)
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Passengers were buckled up when a crew member spotted a mouse darting across an aisle, triggering a chase that grounded a Qatar Airways plane at Manila airport for more than 12 hours.

The airline asked the 243 passengers to disembark, unloaded hundreds of pieces of luggage and brought the Airbus 330-200 to a hangar for a two-hour fumigation, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star reported. The rodent was never found, so it either escaped or there's a dead mouse aboard the plane.

"There was an incident before with a cockroach, but it's the first time that we had to deal with a mouse, and it delayed a flight," Octavio Lina, operations chief of the Manila International Airport Authority, was quoted as saying.

He explained that rodents are a danger to airplanes because they can chew up important electrical wiring.

It's amazing how easy it is to amuse mice.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

... Happy Birthday to you ...

Maybe a student of sociology can explain the attractions of these silly memes that spread like ripples through J-land; I can't, but here's another:

Your Birthdate: February 18  Your birthday on the 18th day of the month suggests than you are one who can work well with a group, but still remain someone who needs to maintain individual identity.
There is a humanistic or philanthropic approach to business circumstances in which you find yourself.
You may have good executive abilities, as you are very much the organizer and administrator.

You are broad-minded, tolerant and generous; a compassionate person that can inspire others with imaginative ideas.
Some of your feelings may be expressed, but even more of them are apt to be repressed.
There is a lot of drama in your personality and in the way you express yourself to others.
Oddly enough, you don't expect as much in return as you give. 

Oh, yes, I'm a very repressed individual. Can't you tell? 

(Lifted from Deanna's journal, Keeping the Weight OFF.) 



Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Sunday Puzzle

Good morn, puzzle fans. It's time now for another edition of BONNIE'S SUNDAY PUZZLE PAGE.

First, here is Bonnie's solution to last Sunday's 'Rungs'.







Here's today's puzzle:







Once again, Bonnie hopes that you enjoy her efforts.


The Saturday Six - Edition 76

I'm a guy.Quizzes don't intrigue me all that much at my age, and I was forced to suffer through enough of them in school to last me my lifetime. These memes seem mostly to appeal to women, but I can't resist a quiz that allows me to relate an anecdote. So here I go -

1. Of the following, which one best describes you at your worst?  (You can't select "None of the above!")
    a. One who doesn't finish what he/she starts
    b. One who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk
    c. One who always finds the worst in a situation

This is me for sure. Give me any situation, and I can make it worse.
d. One who generally knows what's right but does what's wrong

2. Not counting shows like Saturday morning cartoons designed specifically for kids, what single show that you grew up watching religiously is now the one you most hate to sit through?

Gilligan's Island - as a teenager I couldn't get enough of the show; now I think it's a truckload of tripe - and I hate tripe. (As for the Tina Louise vs. Maryann controversy - remember that? - Maryann was the one that did it for me.)

3. Have you ever been so angry with a company that you swore you'd never do business with them again?  If so, did you keep that promise?

Anecdote time - we used to eat at Burger King, until the day we ordered burgers and fries. Reaching our car (we loved eating in the car) we discovered that one of the burgers was lacking a bun bottom. Bonnie returned to the counter, handed a clerk the partially unwrapped burger, and asked with some asperity, "Can you tell me what's wrong with this burger?" The clerk inspected it and said "Tee-hee. Part of the bun is missing. Do you want one?" Restraining the urge to snap "Hell, no, we enjoy getting grease all over our fingers", Bonnie replied "Yes, please, that would be nice." We have not eaten at Burger King since.

4. Take this quiz:  Are you psychic?


You Are 60% Psychic
You are pretty psychic.
While you aren't Miss Cleo, you've got a little ESP going on.
And although you're sometimes off on your predictions...
You're more often right than wrong
So go with your instincts - you know more than you think

5. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #68 from Lily: What's the longest you've talked on the phone in a single phone call, and who were you talking to?

The longest time that I spent on a single phone call was close to 5 hours. My father had called seeking solace over the recent death of my mother, and he really needed to vent his feelings.

6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #69 from Betty:   (She recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas!)  How do you feel about gambling?

I have no problem with other people gambling - there are worse vices in the world. I can't gamble; I learned early on that my life was going to be an eternity of lucklessness. I have won only 2 things in my whole life - both music albums. Bonnie and I, when first married, played the football pools for one season, and lost miserably. We could pick winners, but we never did beat the spread. (BTW, these pools were run by our local mob - we had to drop our completed sheets off at the home of the man with whom I worked at Bausch and Lomb on one occasion, and the visit was memorable for the sinister atmosphere which we experienced.)

Well, I guess that's it. Head to Patrick's Place and reveal your innermost secrets.


Friday, September 23, 2005

No Hassle?

CapitalOne. You’ve seen the commercials. The ubiquitous, omnipresent, everywhere commercials. The series featuring inept Huns committing  acts of gentle mayhem. The series featuring the sardonic David Spade and his hapless foil "Chubsy". The doubtlessly expensive commercials.

I possess one of their No Hassle miles (tm) cards. The only reasons that I possess one are because I needed to boost my credit score awhile ago, I wanted to jettison a card on which I was paying a high membership fee, and CapitalOne offered me a 0% APR. What’s not to like?

Well. The original card expired in July, and we received our new cards in August. I called the number which they supplied to activate the cards. All was well, we thought. ..... And then.

Yesterday I received an URGENT! missive from CapitalOne informing me that I needed to activate my card IMMEDIATELY! Okay. Sure. You bet. This morning I called the number which they supplied. The automated menu informed me that it was, indeed, the activation line. Wonderful. Many options on many menus were offered to my eager ear. Many, many options. The only problem was, there was no actual option for activating the card. You could access prior transactions, find out your account balance, change your pin, or even cancel your account (?). But the option I desired was unavailable. And there was certainly no option for speaking to a live representative. After suffering the round robin for 5 minutes and receiving a "Please try again", I finally hung up in disgust.

Muttering "I’m going online", I sat down to fire up the laptop when Bonnie asked to see the card. I fished it out of my wallet and handed it to her. After a short inspection she said "Look, there’s a customer service number." I said "Oh good." Returning to the phone, I called the number ..... and got the same menu!

By this time my equanimity was becoming slightly disturbed and I began growling imprecations, directed toward financial institutions in particular and going on to include life in general. After all, I hadn’t even downed my first pot of coffee yet!

Bonnie, who has more patience than I (and more ingenuity) decided that she wanted to experience the runaround for herself. Duplicating my efforts, and receiving the same results, she finally accessed the option for changing one’s pin. Lo and behold, an actual human representative appeared on the line. A representative with a very ... exotic ... accent. She insisted that she needed to speak with the cardholder of record, then seemed surprised when she heard my voice, perhaps assuming that the sweet-voiced Bonnie was a vicious identity thief.

After uttering a number of unintelligible sentences, obviously a scripted spiel (from which I believe I managed to translate the words "balance transfer"), she inquired what service was required. I told her that I would simply like to activate my card. The next sentence that she spoke was clear: "Your card is already activated."

Thank you.

One thing more. What’s with the No Hassle miles (tm)? The airlines are going bankrupt, and I don’t fly!


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Prop ... ellers

It's that time again. First, a big shout-out to mutualaide and her journal Life on Flamingo Row. Bonnie and I are thrilled that our puzzles are considered worthy of showcasing. Stop by and say a big 'hi!'

Also, there's a woman in CA who is strongly into something called BodyRev (free plug.) Her screen name is JCRAZYTRAIN and her journal is called Keeping the Weight OFF. Go find out what it's all about.


Pages From an Unkept Journal


(Okay, so I lied. There are no woods in this installment either. Maybe I should retitle my unkept journal "Highlights of a Lowlife" - what do you think?)

I wanted to relate two more incidents from the summer of ‘71 that added to the frustration which convinced us to move. The weather that year ensured a profuse crop of ragweed, a plant to which I am highly allergic. We discovered a large patch growing directly behind our trailer, surrounding our kerosene tank (neither of us were avid yardkeepers, so the plants had managed to gain a good foothold.) Without stopping to think, I spent about 15 minutes uprooting the noxious growths, and, stepping to the edge of our backyard, flung them out into the cornfield (that cornfield came in handy for situations like that.)

Approximately 5 minutes later, I began to sneeze ... and sneeze ... and sneeze. I entered the trailer and proceeded down the hall into the bathroom, praying that the medicine chest held some remedy. Bonnie told me later that, standing outside, she was able to follow my progress through the trailer by the direction of the sneezes. The spasms continued for another 15 minutes or so, until the antihistamine took effect. For that period, I was unable to do a thing except lie on the couch and sneeze.

This last incident didn’t really figure into our decision to move, but it gave me a reputation among a certain segment of the park’s residents that I found it hard to live down.

(A brief digression.)

Life is odd sometimes. My mother was an avid cook, buying cookbooks at the drop of a dollop of cookie dough. When my father died in 2002 and my brother and I were conducting a runthrough of the contents of the house, we discovered, in the attic, four boxes filled to the brim with cookbooks of every sort, a massive collection, some of which Bonnie appropriated for our own. (One of my particular favorites was a book entitled simply "Meat".) My mother belonged to an organization called Home Bureau and took pride in testing new recipes on her unsuspecting family before presenting the recipes to her cohorts and fellow cooks. I must say that she became quite good at it, and she and my father were also enthusiastic gardeners, so our back yard was eternally filled with culinary goodies, and my brother and I were exceedingly lucky to be able to eat really well as we were maturing.

Bonnie’s mother, on the other hand, while a good cook, didn’t particularly enjoy the process, and was rather haphazard when it came to meal preparations. When we got married, Bonnie determined to become an excellent cook (an attainment which she has admirably achieved.)

My mother had often enlisted me to help with her cooking preparations (hey, that’s what children are for) so I was used to the process, and took pleasure in helping Bonnie whenever she embarked on a new adventure in cuisine. Upon this particular occasion, she wanted to make a batch of lemon cookies from a recipe obtained from her mother, because she wanted to be able to present them to our parents for Christmas, and this represented a test run to see how they would turn out. I was helping her make the dough when we heard a knock at the door. I swiped the dough from my left hand (yes, I’m a southpaw) with a dishtowel and went to answer the knock. Opening the door, I was confronted by a neighbor whom I had rarely seen and barely knew, smiling and holding out his right hand as he introduced himself and issued me an invitation to a neighborhood poker party. I extended my right hand, still coated with sticky dough, then, looking down, realized that I dare not shake his. The man followed my glance, observed the glutinous mess, slowly looked back up, first over my shoulder at Bonnie, who was standing just behind me, and then back at my face, as a fleeting look of consternation (and possibly disgust) passed swiftly across his countenance. He said, "I’m sorry ... you must be busy" and turned rapidly away. (Blush.)

It was probably just as well. Back then, my poker skills were grievously lacking, and I probably would have been sheared clean.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Thank the Creator. JetBlue flight 292 has touched earth without incident. The video was fully as compelling as the infamous 'slow-speed chase'. The pilots are to be commended for a wonderful job.

It was said that the passengers were able to watch at least some of the news coverage on their seatback tv's, but the tv's were turned off during the approach and landing. Wow.



Once again, some of our fellow citizens are facing the potential destruction and loss of property and, perhaps, life. We are forced to wonder to what extent our reliance on fossil fuels is affecting the atmosphere and environment of our only home, the Earth. Must we continue to reap the whirlwind?


More Pages from an Unkept Journal


I was wrong - there was a 3-year period, from 1969 to 1972,when I didn’t live near any woods. We began our married life bunking in Bonnie’s parents’ basement, but quickly discovered how untenable the situation would be, since Bonnie’s father had a fully stocked bar in the basement and was wildly enthusiastic about showing it to his frequent guests. This, you may imagine, made for some uncomfortable moments, especially late in the evenings. We rapidly began searching for an apartment (I sometimes wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along - to gently oust us.)

We moved into an apartment complex in Rochester, which was quite an adventure in itself. Our neighbors (6 apartments to a building) represented a variety of personality types, some of which we had never before encountered (this may call for a separate entry.) We lasted there for a little over a year, and then moved to a mobile home park in the bucolic town of Palmyra, home of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, an annual Mormon ritual held to celebrate their religion. Since we lived only about two miles up the road, and our park was converted into a temporary Mormon parking lot and we couldn’t have driven anywhere if we had wanted, we attended the 1971 Pageant just to see what the fuss was all about. It was quite entertaining, but didn’t persuade us to convert. I seem to remember that the Pageant’s producers claimed that it never rained on the nights that the pageant was held. If so, they lied. We got thoroughly wet that night.

Also in 1971, we experienced our one and only tornado. It wasn’t a very big one, but it was big enough to cause substantial damage. The park was situated to the east of Route 21, and there were cornfields both west of the road and east of the park. All that flat land gave the tornado room to swing, and we were treated to the sight of storage sheds being lifted 50 feet into the air, and carried out into the cornfields. Airborne sheds are a daunting sight, especially to a young married couple who never expected to encounter such a meteorological marvel.

We lived on a corner lot in the park, and in the winter of 1971-72 we received a goodly amount of snow, and discovered that the outfit contracted to plow the park’s streets thought that corner lots were a dandy place to put the excess plowed snow. We arrived home from work one night (we commuted to Rochester each morning) to discover our driveway obliterated, buried beneath a solidly packed edifice of snow that stood as high as our trailer.

We decided to move.

(I’m sorry. There were no woods in this entry. There were some woods a couple miles up the road from the park, but we were too busy to explore them. They will return in the next installment.)


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rest in Peace

We know that this frequently happens, but it doesn't make it any easier to take:

Kodak falcon 'Skye' found dead in Canada Transmitter followed young bird's journey

Greg Livadas
Staff writer

(September 20, 2005) — Skye, a peregrine falcon born atop the Eastman Kodak Co. tower this spring, has been found dead in Canada.

The young bird's travels were being monitored after it was fitted with a solar-powered transmitter before taking flight.

According to the Migration Research Foundation's Web site, which was updating Skye's journeys, the bird was found in Lucknow, Ontario, near Lake Huron, in a cut cornfield near a pond. The Web site suggests that she may have been eating prey near the pond when she was attacked by a fox or coyote.

"An older peregrine falcon would usually carry prey to a safe place before eating, but young birds are more likely to make careless errors, and sometimes pay the ultimate price for them," the Web site noted.

Peregrine falcons have a 50 percent to 75 percent mortality rate in their first year, said June Summers, president of the Genesee Valley Audubon Society.

"When we start these things, we always cross our fingers, and that's as good as it gets," she said.

Despite Skye's short life, she said things were learned from her movements.

"I think it's interesting," Summers said. "She did what we think most adolescent birds will do. She ventured out to find what the world was like."

Skye encountered at least two earlier brushes with danger. During one of her first flights from Kodak, she landed on a nearby smokestack and fell inside it, only to be rescued by bird watchers.

And Skye was reportedly caught in a bird trap with pigeons on the roof of a local hospital until she was freed.

This was the second Kodak-hatched peregrine to be fitted with a transmitter in the past two years. Hafoc, who was born last year, stayed in Rochester most of his life. His signal stopped suddenly in March, and he was found dead off Driving Park Avenue in June, the apparent victim of a vehicle strike.

Summers said another transmitter is available to be used on another young falcon next season, made possible through a grant by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"We're going to endeavor to persevere," she said.


More Pages From an Unkept Journal


Save for the first six years of my life, I have always lived in proximity to a forest of one sort or another, whether by fortuitous happenstance or through deliberation I cannot truly say. It has been one of the abiding joys of my life to be able to ramble through woodlands, feeling the coolness and slight dampness of the breath of the trees, the scents of moist earth, running water and greenness, and thrilling to the beguiling sounds of furtive wildlife.

When I reached the age of eight or thereabouts, my parents allowed me the freedom to wander farther from our yard, mainly, I think, to get me out of the house while they dealt with the demands of raising my two-year-old brother. I was drawn ineluctably to the woods, an uncharted wonderland that beckoned my youthful spirit with visions of boundless mystery and discovery. The first and most magical experience that I can remember is viewing the door which led into the woods. It was reached by passing through the yard of our neighbor across the street, and I saw this threshold before I was ever allowed to cross it, by virtue of having swum in this neighbor’s backyard in-ground pool (he owned a furniture store and was by far the richest man in our neighborhood.) Our neighbor had taken note of a natural separation between two oaks and the manner in which the boughs strained toward each other to form an arch, and had embedded a board into the earth directly before, and had placed small cairns of stones to each side of, the opening, imparting to it the appearance of an actual doorstep. On many occasions in the ensuing years, our small band of ‘brothers’ and our loyal companions, two of the neighborhood dogs, availed ourselves of the opportunity to enter that gateway, although we could have entered the woods at any point.

The ‘foyer’ just beyond the door was quite as enchanting. At one time, someone had taken down some of the trees, leaving a few weathered stumps (which we happily used as seats) and a cleared area of packed earth, girded round about by a quantity of second growth. At the very rear of the clearing, to the north, a faint track led more deeply into the denser growth of the forest proper.

Through the years, I came to know the turnings of that track almost as well as the faces of my family. Its origin was probably deer trace, as we were able to catch rare glimpses of the magnificent, stately animals before they were spooked and bounded far into the gloomy distance. My fellow wayfarers and I thrilled to the discovery of the spot whence the track met and crossed the gully of a narrow and shallow stream named Shipbuilders Creek, and how the bank had been worn down at that point to allow for relatively easy access. Often we camped atop the small bluff in an inviting clearing, building a firepit from rocks plucked from the bed of the creek. In those years, it was not yet illegal for young lads to build campfires, and, as we were newly minted boy scouts, we took full advantage of that fact.

Gradually and grudgingly, the forest revealed to our questing and restless eyes and minds the mystic treasures of its innermost secrets. Away from the track, the trees gathered into dense copses and thickets, dappled with sunlight where they brushed the sky, dim and mysterious where they gripped the forest’s floor, inhabited by a bewildering variety of birds and small mammals, frequently startled into frantic flight by the intrusion of a small, noisy band of boys and dogs.

As the woods had grown from the bottom of a moraine, the water level was very close to the surface, and in our purposeless rambling, we stumbled across a number of small meres, thickly populated with a stunning number of species, insect, amphibian, and molluscan, that we would attempt to catch and, when successful, avidly study. Frogs, toads and salamanders of various sorts would be unceremoniously handled and inspected, and we would scoop from the ponds the glutinous masses of frog eggs with dark semicircles inside, future tadpoles waiting to hatch. We never tired of watching water striders skate along the surface of a pond or the creek, and we marveled at the tiny shrimplike creatures with their eternally oscillating cilia. We would chase after dragonflies and swat with futility at the clouds of noseeums hovering above each pool, and follow the slow progression of snails as they pursued their mysterious goals.

There grew beneath the oldest trees, in the rich loam created by a thick blanket of decaying leaves, lovely, alien species of plants - red and white trillium, may apples, johnny-jump-ups, jacks-in-the-pulpit, Indian paintbrushes, and ferns of amazing variety. Thick, shaggy vines, laden with wild grapes, twined about the boles of the aging giants. Berries in a multitude of colors - white, red, orange, and black - grew in the rare clearings, bathed in patches of sunlight, and near the root systems of the trees. Mosses, lichens, molds and slimes, from deepest green to palest white, clothed the rotting trunks that sprang from the ground like diseased teeth. There were shelf fungi - orange, red, yellow, and cadaver pale - jutting from the crumbling bark of fallen logs; mushrooms, gigantic and dainty, smooth and shaggy, harmless and deadly poisonous, sprouting from the fertile marl; we once discovered a patch of delicious morels and harvested some to cook upon our campfire.

We discovered, buried deep within the mystic wildwood, an extensive tangle of briers, reminiscent to our impressionable young minds of the forest in Sleeping Beauty. When we summoned up the courage to penetrate to the center of that forbidding tangle, we discovered one of the most spellbinding sights of all. A colossus of a tree, the base of the trunk of which must have been roughly four feet in diameter, had been literally ripped up by the roots by some bygone meteorological calamity, and lay athwart the portion of brier patch opposite to that at which we had entered. Because the corona of the topmost branches was so wide, the trunk canted upward at about a 40-degree angle. The crater in the ground, which the root system had formerly occupied and which now beetled above like some fantastic tentacular creature, was deep enough to be almost a cavern. This a friend and I had the great good luck to happen upon together, and it became our secret refuge when we needed to escape from family turmoil. It was ours alone, for we never told another soul about it, and we doubted that others would have the temerity or patience to wend their way through the formidable brambles. We spent many a lazy summer afternoon lying in the shelter of the overhanging roots, musing upon what directions our lives might take in the unforeseeable future. At our tender age, we had no idea what might become of us.

The woods were my introduction to the myriad wonders of Nature, and there were marvels beyond number. It was in the woods that I first experienced the awe and delight of encounters with squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and groundhogs, forest denizens that on occasion demonstrated as much curiosity of rambunctious boys as we did of them. Therein were birds beyond number, cardinals, jays, finches, chickadees, sparrows, wrens and nuthatches; handsome, fleetingly glimpsed creatures flitting from branch to bush and spilling their joyful paeans to life into the viridescent gloom. To one accustomed to pigeons, this was a startling and welcome revelation.

On one sweltering midsummer dusk I discovered a Luna moth, an insect of elegant and ethereal beauty, lying upon the ground just inside the gateway into the woods. Fearing that it might be injured, I picked it up and carried it home. Whether it had been injured or not I never ascertained, but it remained alive and at length produced a number of tiny eggs inside the shoe box in which it reposed. It was my first direct experience of the miracle of birth, so to speak, and led to my abiding interest in entomology. The mother did eventually perish, but I fed the caterpillars, watched them grow and transform, and released them into the wild.

The woods, an enchanted realm of endless fascination, took hold of my imagination and never let go. Much of my interest in and informal study of flora and fauna was engendered by the time I spent thus indulging my curiosity, and my young life was colored by what I saw and learned. The days of campfires in the cooling autumn evenings, of delightful discoveries of wild stands of blackberries and patches of strawberries, of drinking cold, clear water from the creek (something I would not dare to do now) are long gone, but the memories are forever.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Pages From an Unkept Journal


(Warning - exceedingly boring personal journal material ahead - proceed at your own risk)

As we age, we tend to recall moments of our lives, memories that have resided in some dusty, unremembered alcove deep within our subconsciouses, with increasing clarity, and I am no exception. Since my present life is nothing to write home about, I will, from time to time, clean the slime from and record some of the scenes that float to the surface of the cistern that is my brain. This is one such, circa 1955.

A few months after I had attained the advanced age of six, my parents grew tired of sharing half of a city house with my maternal grandparents (from whom they were renting) and bought a house which had yet to be built. A new tract was being carved out of a forest in the still largely rural town of Webster, on the shore of Lake Ontario, and my parents, eager to see the spot at which they planned to spend the remaining years of their lives, brought me along when they drove out to view the construction site.

It was a marvelous, if seemingly endless, adventure for a young city boy. It felt to me as if hours had passed, although it took only about 25 minutes to reach the site. We drove through the intersection that represented West Webster (in that year, and for many years thereafter, the crossroads was formed by a butcher shop on the northwest corner, a restaurant named the Heritage House on the northeast corner, a mom & pop variety store called Machetti's on the southeast corner, and the firehouse on the southwest corner), traveled north on Gravel Road (so-called because it was, in that year, indeed paved with crushed stone) for approximately a half mile, and turned in at a dirt track, partially paved with lumber, which led to an opening cut through the trees. We drove, in our aqua-and-white '53 Chevy, into a gigantic, roughly oblong area almost completely surrounded by oaks, maples, alders, beeches, and pines. Tracks were deeply imprinted in the raw umber dirt, which had been churned into a muddy, hillocked mess by bulldozers that crawled about the clearing, growling and belching massive clouds of dirty smoke. At intervals around the perimeter of the cleared area squatted enormous pyres composed of burning tree segments. Huge billows of white smoke ascended the sky, imparting to the atmosphere an aroma at once fragrant and pungent. If one had been able to vanish the machinery and smooth the ravaged earth, the cathedral-like space could almost have furnished an appropriate setting for a tale from the mists of medieval antiquity.For a small denizen of the urban landscape, it was an astonishing experience, and perhaps led to my lifelong affinity for the genre of fantasy.

Our house was eventually built, along with many others, in what morphed into a typical suburban subdivision. While the eastern and southern portions of the forest were converted, at first to fields and finally to more residential tracts, and Gravel Road to the west was gradually and remorselessly developed, the northern portion, which we called simply "the Woods", remained unmolested for many years (alas, it is gone now, and lives on only in memory), and became a venue of majesty and mystery.

(To be continued at some point.)



Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday Distraction


A freshly brewed cup of coffee (well away from the laptop) and a cigarette at hand (admonish me if you must) and I am ready for the day and an installment of 


First, here is the answer to the previous Friday's puzzle (hereafter to be known as 'Rungs'.) Your answer may, and probably will, differ.











Ever since I undertook to create this puzzle for Bonnie, she has decided to return the favor, and here is one of her efforts.







She claims that the theme comes from Oliver Twist, but it does bear an uncomfortable resemblance to my current diet.

Bonnie hopes that you enjoy her effort.


Saturday, September 17, 2005


As a student, I wasn't a whiz at math, but I always enjoyed the spatial puzzles with which I was presented on quizzes and tests, and I was fascinated with the constructs called tesseracts. I don't claim that this cubic confection is one, although it does seem to fit the definition.


Friday, September 16, 2005

If I Could Be Any Animal on Earth ...

September's Anniversary Artsy Essay Contest

If I could be any animal on Earth ...

You might think, given past entries, that I would like to be a mouse. After all, mice are almost uniquely adapted to survive most catastrophes. The first known mammal was a 125-million-year old shrewlike species named Eomaia scansoria, a progenitor of what we today know as mus musculus. It has been determined that the creature probably inhabited bushes and the lower branches of trees, and probably subsisted on insects.

The wild mouse of today is rapid, can swim well and climb with facility, and has broadened its diet to include fruit, seeds and grains, nuts, and meat, becoming essentially omnivorous.Its drab appearance is well suited to prevention of discovery by larger predators, although smaller carnivores (such as cats) have evolved acute senses of smell and hearing to compensate.

Mice have become indispensable to researchers, particularly in the area of cancer research. It has been discovered that all human genes have counterparts in the mouse genome, making mice supremely suitable for studies involving human diseases.

As with other species domesticated by humans, selective breeding has produced mice rendered appropriate as pets. Herewith an entry from July, expanding upon our personal experiences and observations.

Mice are curious creatures. At times they want nothing to do with you, at other times they will seek affection. They are much like cats, we have discovered; when they have security, they feel free to do whatever takes their fancy. They tend not to quickly embrace the unfamiliar; if we introduce an unknown element into their habitat, such as a cotton ball, they will often inspect it from a distance, waiting to see if it will move or in some other fashion present a possible threat. When it does not, they will dart forward, sniff quickly, and just as rapidly dart away again, looking back to see what, if anything, has changed. It takes a while for them to approach the object in a more leisurely fashion and give it a thorough inspection. Eventually it will become accepted as part of their environment, and the more adventurous mice will conceive a use for it, if there is one, and claim it as their own.Then, of course, all the mice will want it. Just like children.

They enjoy being petted and scratched, but only when it is their idea. Again like cats, the places where they like being scratched the most is in front of the ears and on their foreheads, where their little toes can't quite reach. A favorite place for being stroked is above the base of the tail, but it has to be gentle, as it seems to be quite sensitive. We maintain carefully manicured index fingernails for scratching purposes.

Their eating habits differ. Some mice prefer to take food to a private corner to eat in solitary; others are communal, sitting right at the bowl to eat. Inevitably, a few scuffles will ensue when more than one desires the same morsel. They hold nuts in their paws and gnaw at them in the manner of squirrels, although they don't sit quite as erect; they are slightly hunched. Seeds are rapidly hulled and devoured. We give them tuna, dried or fresh egg yolk, bone meal and oats, which they seem to enjoy; less appealing are the wretched vegetable pellets, which are almost universally scorned. Occasionally, we treat them with cheese and snack foods (we actually ran across a website that claimed that mice do not like cheese. This is a bald-faced lie. We can personally attest that mice love cheese.) Once we gave them some Ritz Bits; they liked the peanut butter flavor but scorned the 'cheese'-flavored crackers. Their palates can apparently discern the difference between real cheese and whatever processed matter Ritz uses to produce the crackers.

Something that never fails to amuse us is the perusal of exterminators' advertisements. Invariably they depict mice as scruffy, almost mangy creatures, and their ears appear to be notched or torn, as if Mike Tyson had attempted to snack upon them. In reality, mice are among the most fastidious of creatures, spending long minutes grooming and preening their beautiful fur. To watch them wash their faces is a rare joy, an action from which we always derive much pleasure.

Their eyes can be most expressive, almost paradoxically so, since we rarely, if ever, see the whites. By observing the light reflected from their pupils, we can tell in which direction they are looking (we have found this to be true of parakeets also.) There are all sorts of opinions to be found regarding whether mice have good eyesight; it has been our experience that they can see keenly up to a distance of approximately 6 yards; beyond that they can certainly detect movement, but we are unsure of how much detail they can make out.

Their noses, of course, are the most important sense organ that they possess. When confronted with the unknown or unfamiliar, the first action that they take is to raise their heads fractionally and twitch their noses. Their heads bob slightly up and down and turn from side to side, whiskers quivering, seeking the source of whatever has claimed their attention.

The ancestors of mice, shrew- or vole-like creatures, were among the first of the true mammals, and mice are likely to be one of the surviving species of a major natural (or human-created) disaster. (This is a cute site if you want to learn more.)

We have watched our mice evince watchfulness, curiosity and confusion, animosity and affection. We have seen them engage in love and war (how human of  them!) It never fails to amaze us that entities with such seemingly small brains are capable of so much more than basic instinctual behavior. We have learned much from these tiny but fascinating companions, not the least of which is that all the Creator's creatures have souls.

You might think that after all that, a mouse is what I would like to be. This, though, is the animal that I think I would most like to be.

Some years ago, I was afforded an opportunity to rescue a chipmunk from danger, and was rewarded with a surprising relationship. Early one summer I had gone out to retrieve the mail, and, glancing toward our neighbors' yard, saw an unsettling scene. Our neighbors' cat was terrorizing a chipmunk - batting at it, desisting until the chipmunk made an attempt at escape, then swatting it again. The poor little creature was obviously injured, but still hoping to put distance between itself and its tormentor.

I could not abide this casual cruelty and roared the name of the cat ("Captain") with as much volume as I could muster. The feline regarded me sullenly, and, as I made a rapid approach, slunk reluctantly away. The chipmunk had clambered upon the crossbar of a nearby picnic table, and when I extended my arm to it, readily accepted the proffered avenue of escape. Bewildered and traumatized, the chipmunk seemed not to consider me a source of peril. I started back toward our yard with the chipmunk, its sides heaving with exertions occasioned, no doubt, by the rush of adrenaline which it must have experienced, perched upon my palm.

At some point, it recovered from the shock of being cornered and rescued, gently nipped my thumb and scurried speedily up my arm, across my shoulder and up my scalp. I can only imagine the spectacle that I must have presented, striding through my front yard with a chipmunk riding on top of my head.

When I reached our picnic table, I bent over it, and the chipmunk wasted no time in traveling from my pate to the tabletop, down the legs and into the nearest available covert. I was pleased that I had been able to prevent a possible tragedy, and expected that this episode would be the last I would see of the tiny creature.

Sometime later that summer, I was sitting upon our front steps watching the squirrels, chipmunks and variety of birds devour the seeds and nuts that we had scattered upon the ground (call me Onan) when the neighbor opposite fired up a lawn mower. The animals and birds immediately took flight, as expected, but I was astonished to see one chipmunk streak directly toward me, leap up the steps, and cower behind my back. I turned around and we regarded each other for a long moment. I was aware of no communication, but there was an understanding reached between us that day.

I do not know if I ever met that particular individual again, but I possess a most marvelous memory that I will treasure forever. And why, you may ask, would I like to be a chipmunk? Because I love the racing stripes!



Thursday, September 15, 2005

Things the Doctor Should Be Told

(Notes from a pathetic, twitching lump)

Time marches on, and so, apparently, does peripheral neuropathy. Three weeks ago, numbness invaded my right hand and has now claimed the little finger and the side of the hand. The ring finger is partially numb.

Three days ago, I felt a pain just below my sternum. So far, it is occasional. The last time I suffered a pain in that location, I went into shock and almost died. That pain, however, was progressive. This is not.

Just a chronology in case I can overcome the repulsion of a visit to the PCP.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tagged by Brandie

This meme seems to be spreading through J-land like an oil slick, and it finally touched my shore today, courtesy of Brandie of Brandie's World, so I guess I'll take a shot at it.

7 Things I Hope To Do Before I Die

     >Walk normally

     >Finish a story

     >Buy a house on a small plot of land

     >Discover the secret of true interspecies communication

     >Realize that humanity has finally come to its senses

     >Stop smoking

     >See the future

7 Things I Can Do

     >Be mildly entertaining

     >Laugh at myself

     >Cook outdoors and indoors

     >Exhibit patience and focus, and stand steadfast when it really matters

     >Play the guitar

     >Wash dishes and windows

     >Be an enormous pain in the ass

7 Things I Can't Do

     >Walk normally

     >Suffer fools gladly


     >Legally drive

     >Protect loved ones from all tribulation

     >Eat fried bologna

     >Tolerate hypocrisy

7 Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex


     >Average good looks

     >A sense of humor

     >An appreciation of my sense of humor

     >Willingness to tolerate living with a male



7 Things I Say Most Often

     >No shit, Sherlock!

     >What's up with that, then?

     >Oh, come on!

     >What did I say that sounded like ...

     >Sounds like fun

     >Those were the days

     >I may be old, but I'm not dead!

7 Celebrity Crushes

     >Oh, come on! I'm too old to have celebrity crushes.

7 People I Want To Do This

     >I can't believe there are 7 people left who haven't already done this.



Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Name Game

Borrowed from Cynthia of Sorting the Pieces:

Name Meanings

Malcolm - Dove: Latin

You are a talentless, fatheaded jerk. Leave this site immediately and never return.







Friday, September 9, 2005

The Puzzle Page

Here's a small puzzle you might enjoy. This type has been variously called Laddergrams (Dell Publications) or, simply, ladder puzzle. Beginning with the first word, change one letter of each word to form a new word until you arrive at the printed word.












Thursday, September 8, 2005

Political Responsibility

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. I am not about to allocate responsibility to any individual; anyone who has viewed a variety of news coverage is capable of reaching conclusions about what went wrong and who may have made mistakes. I will say that I think government, on each and every level, failed to appreciate the seriousness of the threat in advance and was slow to respond after the fact. I also think that the American people deserve an accounting after the situation has been stabilized and ameliorated.

It has become painfully and amply apparent that the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not be able, for whatever reasons, to respond to an unexpected disaster in a timely fashion. Coordination between federal, state and local officials must be more effective in future.

Cities all over our land are quite possibly in danger of failing to adequately prepare for a disaster of the proportions of Hurricane Katrina. If, for example, a small nuclear device were to be set off in the city of Rochester (unlikely, but ...), I much doubt that our city planners have in place a protocol to deal effectively with the devastation that would result. At no time, to our knowledge, have city or county officials told our population what we must do should such a tragedy eventuate. There are, so far as we are aware, no plans for evacuation of the region should such become necessary. There is an emergency plan for evacuation in place, courtesy of our local nuclear power station, but this plan covers only a 10-mile radius, or Emergency Planning Zone, around the plant itself, and does not contemplate that people might have to leave the county. This does not cause us to sleep better at night.

Do you have any inkling of what you should do if a situation comparable to the aftermath of Katrina were to suddenly occur in your vicinity? Are you confident that local, state or federal governments would respond rapidly and effectively to help people in need - people who might, tragically, include you and your family?

It is high time that politicians remember for whom they work, and begin to treat average American citizens with the respect that we deserve and expect. If they do not, remember that your vote still counts for something.


Wednesday, September 7, 2005

It's Not Nice to Disrespect the Dead

This may be an indication that such things as ghosts do exist:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An inebriated Belgian woman died in a freak accident when she ended up beneath a heavy grave stone at a cemetery, local news agency Belga said Wednesday.

The 33-year-old was on her way home from a bar in the Belgian town of Pulle in the early hours of Saturday when she took a short cut through the cemetery.

But she urgently needed to relieve herself and crouched down between two gravestones. As she lost her balance, she grabbed one of the stones which gave way and landed on top of her.

The public prosecutor's office said she died of suffocation as she was unable to lift the heavy stone.


" ... as visions of viands danced in his head ... "

Mmmmm. Gruel. Mush. Porridge. Sodden shreds of stone-ground whole wheat. Tiny, almost unidentifiable bits of asparagus, broccoli, celery, leeks, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. A veritable panoply of processed garden goodness.

Beef and chicken broth. Vitamin-fortified vegetable juice. Puddings of every flavor. Anything able to be swallowed without being chewed. At least I can still eat ice cream and soft chocolate.

I have tried to eat what we lovingly call my "lunch lady special" - mashed potatoes drowned in a mixture of consomme, roux and particles of ground beef. Sometimes I am successful and escape without further outrage to my tongue. At other times ...

I want a BLT so badly that I have begun to contemplate the pair of pliers lurking in the tool chest, the twine tucked away in the utility drawer, the doorknob down the hall. I wonder whether duct tape or WD-40 will be of any avail?

I drool over the thought of a garbage plate. I crave a fish fry drenched in lemon juice. I lust mightily after a tremendous rack of sauce-laden barbecued baby back ribs or a platter of battered, fried chicken drumsticks. (Yes, I realize that all of these are cholesterol-riddled horrors. It seems fitting. I am a cholesterol-riddled horror, so why not? If one must leave this world, one may as well depart with satisfied taste buds.)

I have even awakened from a trance to find myself staring at a Village Fair ad. This, folks, is desperation.

At least I was gratified to read this. I feel a smidgen of vindication for my unapologetic consumption of two pots per day.


Study: Drinking Coffee Has Health Benefits Coffee is America's No. 1 Source of Antioxidants


Aug. 28, 2005 — Enjoying a cup of coffee while reading this story? Well, keep on sipping because a new study shows that coffee has health benefits.

A study released today from the University of Scranton revealed that coffee is America's No. 1 source of antioxidants, an important compound that protects your body from disease.

"Antioxidants are your army to protect you from the toxic free radicals, which come from breathing oxygen and eating sugar, that start chronic diseases," said Dr. Joe Vinson, the chemistry professor who led the coffee study. "Antioxidants help stave off cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke."

The study ranked black tea as second source of antioxidants, and bananas as third, in the average American diet.

Americans consume, on average, more than eight ounces of coffee a day, which translates into more than a large cup of coffee a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So saying coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in America is like saying that white bread is the No. 1 source of fiber — there are better fiber sources out there, but white bread is the one we eat the most.

"Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and we drink a lot of coffee," said Vinson, who has been working on the study for 10 years.

Antioxidants are plant-derived — as is coffee — and plants in general are good are you, he added.

There are many sources of antioxidants and "variety is key," because different sources provide different types of antioxidants, Vinson said. He also recommended people drink tea and red wine (in moderation).

A Cup a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

For those who are excited about coffee as a source of antioxidants, Vinson recommends drinking one cup of joe a day.

"It's the optimum I see that has a benefit for the heart," he said.

He also offered some advice for coffee drinkers.

"Spread your coffee drinking throughout the day," he said.

"Caffeine raises your blood pressure, so if you are going to drink a lot of coffee, choose decaf," he added.

Decaf has the same antioxidant benefits as regular coffee.


Sunday, September 4, 2005

Awaiting the Dawn

Author: Robert Frost

Bond and Free

     Love has earth to which she clings

     With hills and circling arms about --

     Wall within wall to shut fear out.

     But Thought has need of no such things,

     For Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.

     On snow and sand and turf, I see

     Where Love has left a printed trace

     With straining in the world's embrace.

     And such is Love and glad to be

     But  Thought has shaken his ankles free.

     Thought cleaves the interstellar gloom

     And sits in Sirius' disc all night,

     Till day makes him retrace his flight

     With smell of burning on every plume,

     Back past the sun to an earthly room.

     His gains in heaven are what they are.

     Yet some say Love by being thrall

     And simply staying possesses all

     In several beauty that Thought fares far

     To find fused in another star.





It appears to be one of the enduring paradoxes of intelligence and communication that while spoken or printed words, as those uttered by an accomplished politician, may be essentially devoid of meaningful content, silence, to the contrary, may often be perfectly eloquent.


Saturday, September 3, 2005

She should have used deodorant ...

This is not a tip of the day ...

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German woman laid waste to her family home by setting fire to it as she tried to kill spiders in a garage with a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter.

Police in the western town of Zuelpich said that when the aerosol failed to finish them off, the 34-year-old woman tried to burn them with the lighter. However, this set the area she had just sprayed on fire and the blaze spread to a hedge.

"It was a series of unfortunate events which led to the damage," a police spokesman said Thursday.

"She tried to put the fire out with a garden hose, but couldn't. Instead her semi-detached house next to the hedge caught fire. It's now uninhabitable."

Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze and save the neighboring house, which sustained broken windows and some charring. The spokesman estimated the total cost of the damage at well over 100,000 euros. No one was hurt.

"The family have had to look for somewhere else to stay," he said. "The spiders are gone though -- that problem was solved."


More Props

We heard indirectly from Marti (sunnyside46) of the journal Midlife Musings this morning; we are extremely relieved to hear that she is apparently all right and (as far as we now know) has not suffered any losses to speak of.

We'd like to say hi to a fellow rodent lover who stopped by, fitzzer, who has a number of journals, the main one being Purple Snapdragons (our favorite is Ferrets and Fuzzies.) Stop by there and say hi.

Re the previous entry, thanks are due to the generous communities who have given the evacuees space and provisions.

And thanks are also due to the millions of ordinary citizens who have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to lend a hand to those in need.


Friday, September 2, 2005

The Last Word

We have said all that we care to say about the tragedy which continues to haunt the citizens of the Gulf Coast, except to say this:

Thank you to the professionals who continued to perform their duties while under the most extreme conditions of stress - the medical community and the police officers who exhausted themselves and who lived no better than the people. Your heroism will not be forgotten.

Thank you to the citizens, ordinary and otherwise, who performed search-and-rescue operations and saved numerous lives that otherwise might have been lost. Your efforts are highly appreciated.

Thank you to the emergency response personnel and the troops who are attempting to restore a semblance of normality and who are delivering desperately needed supplies to suffering citizens. You will be remembered.

Now please, please, get those people out of that hellhole and get them some help.



We have been watching as much news coverage as we can, to bear witness to the shocking desolation, neglect, and inhumanity that now characterizes the Gulf Coast. Our fellow citizens are suffering through experiences that no one should have to bear.

"No one expected it to be this bad."

"We didn't think the levees would break."

"We're doing the best we can."


Of what worth are damage assessment specialists and emergency response officials if they have not planned for an eventuality such as this? WHY did no one expect this? The news shows, for a week before the hurricane struck, were offering suppositions that what did happen might happen. Was no one in government listening?

Now we know. Now we have a concrete model from which to plan for the next environmental disaster.

We, the American people, must never allow this to happen again. This can happen to anyone in our country. We have earthquake zones, hurricane and tornado zones, flood zones and winter hazard zones. If the disaster is devastating enough, any one of us, anywhere, could suffer the horrors we are now witnessing. None of us is truly safe, and we now discover what the government's response (or lack of same) might be if we do. This must not happen again.

Call your representatives and let them know that you are outraged that American citizens are being treated so dishonorably and that you expect much more from your government than the treatment that the citizens of the Gulf Coast have received. Let them know that you expect them to develop and implement disaster plans that allow of a much more rapid response. They owe us that.


Thursday, September 1, 2005


I have wanted to write something lighthearted, but I do not have it in me. Watching this tragedy unfold, observing scenes reminiscent of snippets of Stephen King's novel The Stand, is simply too overwhelming.

One observation. Much of the time, we have CNBC on as background to whatever we happen to be doing. Yesterday, we were told that one oil pipeline, and possibly two, were restored and ready to begin transporting oil again. This while thousands of people were suffering and dying in the polluted streets of New Orleans. Now we see what our government considers to be the higher priority.

God help us.