HCaldwell:On . . .


What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On finding a crop circle in the wheat field of my mind

Does dealing with controversial topics make a blog more interesting?

Since I read a lot of different types of blogs, I have pondered this particular question. I have not presented my thoughts on the subject here since some might consider my musings to be controversial. This could lead to the mistaken impression that there might be something of interest going on here. That would be misleading, if not paradoxical. Speaking of paradoxes. I have always wanted to write the statement, “Everything written in this blog is a lie.” Now begins the logical spiral of considering whether or not the statement written above is also a lie. In which case, everything written here is not a lie. If that condition is true, the “lie” statement may also be true which puts us back at the beginning. Which brings me back to my original question. Do controversial topics make a blog more interesting?


Blogs, which deal with any topic in an interesting way, are interesting blogs. Writing that parrots a particular set of commercial, political, social, or religious truisms over and over again is not interesting. It is repetitive and insulting to the intelligence of the reader. Only bloggers who can freeze the wisp of an idea into solid words can make a blog interesting enough to read on a regular basis. Some will disagree with me. This might be considered somewhat controversial, I admit. This could lead to the mistaken impression that there might be something of interest going on here. That would be misleading, if not paradoxical…

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On a matter of form 4

PPSPSP You guessed it. I have now posted a post, post scriptum, post scriptum post.
(I’ll quit now)

On a matter of form 3

PPSP This would be the post post scriptum posting.

On a matter of form 2

PSP (not to be confused with the video game toy by the same name)
This would be a post scriptum posting.

On a matter of form

I wrote an e-mail yesterday where I used a PS (post scriptum) and then a PPS (post post scriptum). Then last night while wandering across the Blogiverse, I found where someone had used a PS and then a PSS. I started thinking about it. I was taught that PS/PPS was the correct form, but when I mulled over it for a while (boring evening), either one makes sense.

If post post scriptum is translated as after, after writing, then post scriptum scriptum would be after writing, writing. It can make sense either way.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On life lessons

Life could be described as a series of serial learning experiences. Every morning when I wake up and do my exercises (one sit-up followed by a lengthy cool-down) life begins preparing the daily lesson plan for me. By the end of that day, the lesson objectives will have been met whether I want to meet them or not. Testing is cumulative. There is no appeal for the final grade. The instructor reserves the right to change the syllabus at any time during the course. (I would do better if life were graded on a curve.)

Fortunately, most life lessons provide us with valuable insights that we can pass on to our children so that they can then ignore them completely. The learning activities necessary for some of life’s lessons, however, are better forgotten. There are some things that I have learned where I would have preferred having been absent that day.

By the time a child says, “Daddy, I’m not feeling so good.” from the backseat, it is already too late.

Spell Check will not flag “Pubic Schools” instead of “Public Schools” when it written on the title page of a critical research report.

If you get asked the “Do I look fat in this?” question, saying “Well, I like the shoes.” is decidedly not a good answer.

Curry powder in hot chocolate does not relieve the symptoms of a hang over.

You can tell if your remote control needs a new battery by viewing the front of it, while pressing the buttons, in the display of a digital camera. Trying to capture a picture of a working camera flash “up close”, however, just ruins the camera.

Camels spit.

The smell of spilled gasoline never really leaves the carpeting in a car trunk.

There is an unbreakable bond between the fibers of white carpeting and the color of cat gak.

Driver’s license examiner don’t get the joke about how many points certain types of pedestrians are worth.

Salt and sugar look very much alike in the canister, but provide very different results when mixed with cinnamon and put on your toast.

If you roll your car over “unbreakable” eyeglass lenses, they will break.

Overnight delivery isn’t.

When you see something floating on the surface of a public pool, don’t investigate.

9-volt batteries really do explode when you apply 120V volts to them.

”Demonic possession” is not considered to be the optimal answer when filling in the question “Why are you applying for this job?” on the application.

That pink dye that they put into children’s medicines cannot be removed from anything that it comes contact with.

Typos only show up after you have printed two thousand copies.

When you slam your fingers in the door racing for the phone, the call will be a pre-recorded message telling you about replacement windows.

No one will appreciate it if you bring a copy of “Roberts’s Rules of Order” to a committee meeting.

Riding in a convertible with the top down during a sudden hailstorm is a painful experience.

If you buy a music CD by William Shatner, you will only listen to it once.

A combination of sand, aquarium gravel, pine bark and potting soil will not go down the garbage disposal.

When they say on the label that you should be careful about getting Super Glue on your fingers, they are right.

When exploring the heights of the Rocky Mountains, ask for a more precise definition of the word when your trail guide tells you that the horse that he has chosen for you is “spirited”.

Your future wife will forgive you when you call her by a former girlfriend’s name, but she will never, ever forget.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On not posting today

"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact." - George Eliot

Saturday, November 26, 2005

On being a spousal unit

It is during this time of year that I undergo a transformation. My wife’s career path means that she has to attend a number of social/work events. These happen throughout the year, but most often during the holiday season. I become “Spousal Unit”. She let’s me know what I need to wear and what time we will be going to the event. Beyond that, I am generally clueless. It is not that she is unwilling to share the details with me. It is just that the details would be absolutely meaningless to me. So I dress as instructed. I go where I am supposed to go when I am supposed to go there. It is what a Spousal Unit does.

In the greater scheme of marital duties, it is not overly challenging. It is my job to stand at her side, shake hands, and nod my head politely. Occasionally, I will go to fetch her a fresh drink or pull out her chair, but that is about all this required of me. It is not unlike the duties of a trained seal except that I get free drinks before I am thrown my obligatory fish.

The events are not onerous. The food can vary from “not bad” to “oh my god, did this come from a chicken or a cow?” There are an abundance of ridiculously complex snack foods available, if the featured food is truly inedible.

It is just that I have absolutely no connection to anything that is going on at these events. I meet people whose titles mean nothing to me. I listen to speeches that might as well be given in a foreign tongue for all that I get out of them. I chat amiably with people who I have never met before and will never meet again. My orbit will only intersect this particular asteroid belt once in a millennium. My job is not so much to interact, but to simply avoid any catastrophic collisions.

At the end of the evening, my wife will graciously thank me for accompanying her. The thanks are appreciated, but not required. After all, I stood at her side and made the commitment to be there when needed a long time ago.

I avoid giving relationship advice to anyone. I am just not that smart. I have no clue as to what is needed to insure a happy relationship. I suspect that if it could be simply boiled down into a few clever maxims that there would be far fewer divorces. It seems to be a lot more complex than that and I suspect that it is different from couple to couple. There just aren’t any hard and fast rules that one can confidently pass on.

For me at this time of year, I have learned that the most important thing is just to be where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.

“They also serve who stand and wait’” – John Milton

Friday, November 25, 2005

On Thanksgiving

A few observations from the holiday…

There is a saying that you can always tell how good a meal is by how silent the people are who are eating it. I noticed that there were very few blog updates yesterday.
Must have been some very good meals out there.

People often talk about the “magic of Christmas”.
What about Thanksgiving?
One of the great mysteries of this holiday is rarely explored.
“Why do Thanksgiving leftovers always taste so good?”

Today is the busiest shopping day of the year.
That, alone, is reason enough for me to stay at home and play on the computer today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

On “take my post…please”

“What’s black and white and red all over?”
“A really ugly template.”

“I just went to a Blog that was so poorly written…”
“How poorly written was it?”
“It was so poorly written that the “About Me” had been changed to “About I”

“What’s the difference between a Blog and road kill?”
“Fewer hits before it starts stinking.”

“Why did the Blogger cross the road?”
“He clicked on a link to chickens.org.”

“How many Bloggers does it take change a light bulb?”
“That light bulb is not really burned out yet…see only five comments so far and only two of them think that it’s dark in here.”

“How can you tell if monkeys have been visiting your blog?”
“The quality of the comments goes way up.”

“How can you tell if a Blogger is having sex?”
“Frequent updates.”

“How many Bloggers does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Just one, but at least six others have to write lengthy postings about the political ramifications of why we should even have the light bulb in the first place.”

“I just saw a Profile picture that was so ugly…”
“How ugly was it?”
“It was so ugly that every time I clicked to enlarge it, my browser crashed and my virus software said that it had found a worm in my system.”

“How can you tell if an elephant is hiding in your Blog?”
“Gray background, large font size, and lots of comments about peanuts, of course.”

“How can you tell if a Blogger has been drinking heavily?”
“Improved spelling.”

"What’s the difference between starting a blog and going crazy?"
"One is a disorder caused by a severe personality imbalance and the other is a …disorder caused by a severe personality imbalance.”

(I must apologize to everyone in the entire Blogiverse for the contents of this posting. I have been experimenting with a new holiday punch recipe. Notice how good the spelling is though!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On cleaning out the garage

In a tradition that dates back to the Stone Age when Early Man had to clear a corner of his cave in order to get his Giant Sloth in before the snows started, I spent this past weekend clearing out the garage. Every year about this time, I have to take a deep breath and plunge into this seemingly overwhelming task. It is a crazy idea. What do I really need the garage for? Except, maybe, oh, I don’t know…parking the car, perhaps. Silly me. This year it was so bad that I considered just calling in a few truckloads of dirt to cover it over and then having it designated as a landfill site.

The task resembles Hercules’ labors in cleaning the Aegean Stables in more ways than I like to think about, but I dive right in. First, I must find a place for all the bicycles, scooters, swim rings, pogo sticks, lawn carts, fertilizer spreaders, and lawn chairs that have sprung up like mushrooms across the garage floor over the summer. For want of a better solution, these items usually end up being hung from the ceiling. Before long, the garage begins to look like a parody of an Alexander Calder exhibit. In order to complete the effect, I festooned the walls with rakes, shovels, hoes, axes, pruning saws and other assorted implements. The garage walls become a sculptural metaphor for both creation and destruction.

I struggle with what to do about the boys' stick collection. During their travels, they have gathered their usual assortment of interesting gnarly sticks and roots. I hesitate to throw them away just yet, since as a boy, I also subscribed to the belief that “you just can’t have too many gnarly sticks”. I find a corner where I can stash the summer collection until they replace it with the trendy late fall collection of pinecones, buckeyes, and dried leaves.

Next, I start in on the mountains of “stuff” that have been shoved into the corners and shelves of the garage over the past year. I find Christmas decorations from last year that never quite made it all the way back to the attic. The telescope that never got put away after August’s meteor shower is found buried in there. Half empty paint buckets from springtime painting jobs are hidden under piles of empty cardboard boxes from recent purchases. One particularly artistic mess is composed of a discarded school science project, the blade from a broken window fan, pieces of wooden molding, and lengths of green gardening wire all tangled together in leftover Halloween spider webbing and orange kite string. A liberal sprinkling of dirt and sawdust provides the unifying theme to this unholy creation. This piece immediately finds a home in my “Bottom Of The Trash Can” collection.

I find boxes of clothes that are still there from the summer’s garage sale and were supposed to have gone to charity. Since I was the one who was supposed to have delivered them, I quietly hide them in the trunk of the car until I can dispose of the evidence at the nearest charitable drop off point.

There are bags of bags inside of a bag sitting on one of the upper shelves. It is a bag fractal. These are probably my wife’s work so I try to bunch them up tighter until she is out of the house and I can unobtrusively dispose of them. I will have to fall back on the coyly rendered, “Oh, did you want those?” excuse, if she notices that they are missing.

Digging through these piles of stuff is really like finding a time capsule. There, written in the piles of clutter, mess, and junk, is the history of my family's whole year. It would be nice to pause for a while and reflect on the memories of the past year, but the winter’s weather won’t wait for wistful moments. There is much to do and “(piles) to go before I sleep.” So I press on. Still, I do take a moment to seriously reconsider my earlier rejection of the landfill idea.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On e-friends

Yes, I have a new time wasting habit. During lunch, I have been sitting at my laptop and going to the sites of bloggers who leave clever or interesting comments on the blogs that I read regularly.

Some are duds. Apparently, the clever comment was only a one-shot deal.

I recently realized that I have been on the “Net” in one capacity or another for over twenty-five years now. During that time, I have amassed an astounding collection of e-friends. Not a very clever label, I admit. I think that Glory once referred to them as “pickles”.

(Yes, here it is!)

Perhaps, some day, I can host an e-cocktail party and introduce them all to each other. We can play e-party games (e-charades, perhaps), and have some e-snacks. What e-party would be complete without a variety of e-drinks?

We would, of course, need a designated keyboarder.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On impulsive behaviors

Everyone has heard the expression; “he’s no better than anyone else, he still puts his pants on one leg at a time”. With that expression in mind, this morning I found that, if I sat down, it was quite easy to put my pants onto both legs simultaneously.

Does this then make me better than everyone else?
It doesn’t seem to have done so.

At an earlier time in my life, I perfected the art of putting on my bathrobe by throwing it up into the air in such a way as to have it float down onto me. It is a little hard to describe in writing, but trust me; it is even sillier looking in person. I am not sure what inspired me to perfect this method of donning my bathrobe; I just suddenly wanted to find a different way to put it on.

In restaurants, I have been known to crawl under the table to figure out why it was squeaking (loose bolts). My long-suffering wife long ago resigned herself to the fact that I am prone to moments of oddly spontaneous (mis)behavior. My moments of impulsiveness do not faze her at all. She is no longer surprised by them. She has given up even trying to figure out what exactly I think I am doing.

In public, she just quietly says to me under her breath,
“Stop being weird”.

My former roommate is right. The woman deserves sainthood.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

On who first decided

I am not sure when in my life I first noticed that women’s shirts/blouses, generally, have the buttons on the left side while men’s shirts have the buttons on the right. I would guess that it was some time after puberty.

I do remember embarking on a research mission to find out why. I found a number of possible explanations, but the one that seemed to be most prevalent pointed to the dressmakers of the late 18th /early 19th centuries. Woman of refinement (rich) had maids who helped them dress and it was easier for the right-handed maids if the buttons were on the left. Woman’s clothing manufacturers who wanted their products to be seen as high class (expensive) used the left button signature to give their products and those who wore them a certain status. This became the status (pardon the pun) quo and so, for two centuries now, right-handed women who do not have maids still have to button clothing that is designed for their non-existent right-handed maids. I suppose that left-handed women get a bit of a break here.

Whenever I run across these little items, I always start to wonder about who the first person was that made the fateful decision that started the trend. I usually find that their name is lost to history. They started a trend that has had an effect on millions of people’s daily lives, but we have no idea who they were or what thoughts went into their decision.

There are several trend setting “Adams/Eves” that I am still very curious about.

For example, who first decided…

that tofu was edible (only marginally so, in my opinion)

that “dee”, “duh”, “lah”, “dah”, “nah”, or “dut” were acceptable as lyrics in a song’s chorus

to name their children after a letter of the alphabet

that clocks should run clockwise

to lump a number of unsavory food combinations under the same label “casserole”

that celebrities should have opinions on the issues of the day that anyone should bother to listen to

that putting a fuzzy cover on the toilet seat and tank would enhance the bathroom experience

that North was up and South was down when, in planetary terms, it doesn’t make the slightest difference

that on automobiles, we use (R) Reverse instead of (B) Backwards

that computer operating systems have to be unreliable, inflexible, and awkward.
Oh, wait, I already know this one.
(Sorry, Bill.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On modeling

My first job out of grad school was teaching at a small midwestern college. One of my friends and colleagues at the college approached me one day and asked if I could be his “face” model. He was an art professor and had gotten a commission to do a large oil painting. I certainly did not consider myself “model” material, but with my (at the time) long dark hair and beard on a much younger/thinner face; well, he anyway felt that my face and head would fit the subject of his commission. I sat for him on several occasions. For a variety of unrelated reasons, I never got to see the finished work, but he told me later that the clients were quite happy with it.

Ergo, somewhere in rural Missouri, a large oil painting hangs on the wall of a funeral home. My face is on a lone figure wearing a long, white flowing robe standing on a hillside. The figure is holding a crook staff and has sheep gathered at his feet.

I am actually glad that I never saw the finished work.

There are some mental images that one just shouldn't have.
There are some things best left unseen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On buying a toaster

As I noted in the earlier post, I had to buy a new toaster yesterday. I got a really nice one. It has a kind of chrome retro styling to it, a sort of PT Cruiser of toasters. Buying the toaster made me think of the physics of heat transference. The physics of heat transference made me think of the end of my sophomore year of college. During the last semester of my sophomore year, I had taken a Physics class on energy theory. This reminded of a surprising man with a toaster under his arm.

(The above paragraph is an example of why my attempts at “stream of consciousness” writing have been so unsuccessful. There are just too many eddies in my mental stream.)

The first day of that physics class, I was a bit disconcerted when a very elderly gentleman entered the room and stated in the most incredibly thick German accent that, “Your usual teacher is at a conference. He will return before the next class. I am here to teach you today.” I was young and very full of the disdain that most youth feel toward both advanced age and substitute teachers. Here was this very frail looking gentleman standing in front of the class. Even now, I can almost hear my internal sneers of youthful derision.

I was, however, perplexed.

This elderly gentleman who had introduced himself as a Professor Emeritus of Physics was carrying a toaster under his arm. It was just a standard silver toaster that he then set down on the table in front of him. In his heavily accented voice, he proceeded to take attendance. Without offering any explanation, he sat down behind the table, produced a small pile of tools from his pockets, and started disassembling the toaster. We all sat there for several uncomfortable moments, looking at each other, unsure of what to do. He seemed oblivious to our presence. After several minutes of removing parts from the toaster, he looked up and announced that when his wife had started their breakfast that morning; their toaster had suddenly stopped operating. He had promised her that he would repair it before the next breakfast. He started talking about how the toaster was made. He held up various components and explained the way each part worked in the way it transferred heat, channeled electrons, or changed forms of energy. Finding the fault in the heating coil, led to a discourse on electrical resistance and the mechanics of electron flow. His removal of the insulation that backed the faulty coil was accompanied by an explanation of the differences between radiant and conducted heat. He suddenly stopped his tinkering, looked up at us and announced that the time had run out and that class was over.

I was actually startled.

Where had the time gone? I had been absolutely mesmerized for an hour and a half!

How had he done that?

In one session with a great teacher and his broken toaster, I had learned more than in many of my semester long courses. I later learned that the “Professor Emeritus of Physics” had escaped from Hitler’s Germany just prior to WWII. He was a very well known scientist who had a model of the atom named after him.

You can find a whole universe in a toaster.
You just need someone who knows where to look.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

On a trivial rant

There needs to be a word to describe a rant about a trivial matter. There are things that are annoying and deserve a rant, but in the grand scheme of things they are about as important as a chipmunk fart (These I would imagine might be important to other chipmunks in the vicinity, but I am speaking in the larger, non-rodent, sense here.) Perhaps, the word “trant” would fit the bill.

If so, I have a trant.

It seems like merchants should be held accountable for how they describe the merchandise that they sell. I had to go to the store to buy a new toaster. On one of the displays, they were selling “Digital Headphones”. These headphones were standard headphones consisting of two small speakers on headgear connected with small wires to a plug. They are about as un-digital (analog) as any device can possibly be. Headphone speakers are simply transducers that change ANALOG electrical signals into ANALOG sound waves. They don’t even have a digital display that one could use to stretch credulity to the point that the “digital” label might be said to apply. Because of the nature of headphones (and ears),I am not even sure if it is possible to make headphones that could legitimately be called “Digital Headphones”.

These were, most assuredly, not digital.

At the nearby home center, they were selling sections of picket fencing. It looked like a pretty standard picket fence except that the tops of the pickets had slightly curved points instead of straight angular points. The sign that was posted above it advertised it as “French Gothic" fencing . . .

Imagine me doing a “Classic Comedy Double-Take” and saying, “What!?!. . .”

Wouldn’t you know it, here I was looking for some “Norwegian Rococo” fencing, but they were fresh out.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

On the chipmunk with OCD

I have a two-foot wide gravel foundation border at the rear of the house. It is about a foot thick and keeps grass from growing up against the house where I would have to trim it. I started noticing a small six-inch deep hole dug right in the middle of the gravel bed. There was nothing in the hole. It didn’t seem to go anywhere. It was just a shallow hole.

I would push the gravel, which was neatly piled around the hole, back into the hole. The next day, the exact same hole would reappear in exactly the same spot. This happened several times.

One day while I was working in the yard, I happened to look over and saw a small chipmunk earnestly excavating the hole that I had just filled in. He dug it down exactly six inches. He did not try to make a tunnel. He didn’t bury any nuts in the hole (Do chipmunks bury nuts or is that only a squirrel thing?). He simply dug the hole. Neatly piled the gravel next to it. Then ran away.

I left the hole as it was, but checked on it every couple of days. No change. Nothing was buried. The hole was not enlarged. It was still just a shallow hole in the middle of the gravel. I pushed the gravel back in. The next day, the hole reappeared.

I mentioned the chipmunk and his hole habit to my neighbor. He suggested that I put out a trap to kill the chipmunk. I decided that capital punishment was a bit harsh even for a rodent that obviously suffered from a personality disorder. If I had access to the psychotropic drugs used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I would have preferred to leave small, chipmunk sized dosages at the site of the hole. I might be able to find a psychiatrist who specialized in chipmunks who suffer from OCD. I could leave his tiny business card by the side of the hole with the words, “Please get help”, handwritten in miniature chipmunkish script on the back. Perhaps, I could get his chipmunk family and friends to organize an intervention. They could put their furry little paws on his fuzzy shoulders, look him in his beady eyes and explain to him how his unseemly behavior could cause him to be ostracized by the rest of chipmunk society. In time, leaving him gray furred, lonely and embittered at the side of his hole surrounded by his pathetic pile of pebbles.

I decided not to fill in the hole this time. Instead, I put the biggest rock that I could carry right on top of it. After all, I wouldn’t want his long-suffering little chipmunk family to accuse me of being his enabler.

Friday, November 11, 2005

On flawed works

One of my mentors used to say, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” Basically, when you’re stuck with a flawed piece of work, put it in a really big, fancy picture frame. Then highlight the worst part of the flaw. Make the flaw the centerpiece and people will think that you meant to do it that way all along.

This advice has saved me on a number of occasions.

She was very wise.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On the holes in my socks

My socks always seem to have holes in them. After being worn only a few times, my toe or heel starts peeking through the fabric. I am at a loss as to why that is so. After all, it is my shoes that bear the brunt of the contact with the ground. The socks just ride around enclosed in a cushy protective shell. Where do the holes come from? Why are they in different places on different socks worn on the same foot? Why do I never get holes in both socks of the same pair? Do sock manufacturers put a hidden flaw in only one out of each pair of socks? Have I discovered a subtle and insidious form of planned obsolescence? Who knows about it? Who have they told? Which reporters have they talked to? Does the VP know?

I smell a cover-up. Smells like feet.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

On a boring day

I was home all day today. I didn’t leave the house once. In truth, it was a remarkably boring day. I had wanted to go outside and work in the yard, but it was raining all day.

Since it was so boring, I got all the way through my “I am hopelessly bored” list.

Today, I . . .

1. Read through my favorite blogs while I drank my coffee

2. Cleaned the dust and cat hair from the coils on the bottom of the refrigerator

3. Changed the oil in the lawn mower

4. Wandered aimlessly through the Blogiverse and left many obnoxious comments

5. Recharged all the rechargeable batteries

6. Moved digital pictures from the camera memory cards to the hard drive on the computer

7. Polished my wife’s winter boots

8. Wandered aimlessly, once again, through the Blogiverse and left many more obnoxious comments

9. Washed and dried a load of bath towels

10. Threw out a bunch of old magazines and catalogs

11. Put all the old newspapers into the recycling bin

12. Played the drum solo from “In A Gadda Da Vida” so loudly on the stereo that things fell off the mantel and the speakers started smelling funny

13. Perversely, wandered aimlessly, even again, through the Blogiverse and wrote this obnoxious post

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

On the circle with a line through it

On the main thoroughfare near my house, they were installing a new street sign today. It had a picture of a truck with a red circle around it and a red line through it. The “red circle with a line through it” has become an almost universal symbol for “no”, “not”, “don’t”, or in certain parts of New York City, “foh geduhbot id”. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't recognize it as the symbol for negation. It seems like something that is as well known as this symbol should have a well-known name. It made me curious about whether of not the symbol (circle with a line inside it) even had a name. There is, of course, a symbol in math that I think is called a null, but that has a line that extends beyond the area of the circle. I mean, think about it, we gave the ampersand its own name. (I cannot imagine who gave the umlaut its name.)

I tried several search engines and a couple of encyclopedias and couldn’t find an actual name for the symbol itself. It may have a name already, but I was unable to find one.

Just in case no one has bothered to name it yet, I decided to stake my claim and would like to propose that we call the symbol a circumnegate.

Circumnegate (pronounced: ser kuhm NEH gate) [From the Latin, circum (around) and negāt (to deny, root of the word, negate)] can be used as either a noun for the symbol itself or as a verb in using the symbol as in “to circumnegate”. The process of using it is called circumnegation. The symbol that it is placed over is the circumnegatee and is said to be circumnegated. Someone who uses the symbol casually is a circumnegator. Someone who uses the symbol professionally is a circumnegationist. The place where it is used routinely is a circumnegatorium. If used systemically, the area can be said to be circumnegatized. A scholar who studies them is a circumnegatologist who teaches circumnegatology. (see “On the *ologies” posted here on October 9th, 2005) Someone who proposes a system of government based on the use of the symbol is a circumnegatarianismist. Those who are fond of abbreviations and acronyms have my permission to simply refer to them as CN’s.

If you happen to see the word, circumnegate, in the next edition of Webster’s Dictionary; just remember that you saw it here first.

Hey, it beats the heck out of "umlaut".

Monday, November 07, 2005

On my first library

I was an early reader. During the summer between kindergarten and first grade, we lived in a small midwestern town. Our house sat on the corner across from a one-block square town park. The park was nothing more than grass, a few trees, and a slightly rickety wooden bandstand that I don’t recall ever being used. Across that park, on the corner opposite from our house was the county library.

It was a great old library. It has broad stone stairs set in a Federalist façade. Inside it had tall ceilings, floor to ceiling multi-paned windows with a worn wooden floor and dark wood shelves. It looked like a library. It smelled like a library. If Norman Rockwell had wanted to paint a library, he would have chosen this one as the model.

At the beginning of that summer, each day I would wake up, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and walk across the park to that library. I, usually, got there before it opened and sat on the front steps until the librarian mysteriously appeared from inside and unlocked the front door. I think at the time, I thought that she just lived there and I was waiting for her to wake up. In retrospect, she probably parked in the back alleyway and came in through a rear entrance.

Even at the time, it was a really old-fashioned library. The “children” section did not have little chairs, tables, or colorful decorations. It was just an alcove off the main entrance that had a lot of windows and shorter than usual shelves. Two long, low shelves of children’s books bound it. For the first few weeks, I would make my selection; take them and my newly acquired library card to the front desk. The librarian would use a rubber stamp to stamp each one after she handwrote my name and book titles into her registry. She would admonish me to, “be careful crossing the street”. As I had been taught and as my parents would expect, I would thank her. Carrying my pile of books, I would journey back across the park to my house where I would read each book cover to cover before the sun had set.

After awhile, I got tired of lugging a pile of books each and every day. I started lying on the wooden floor of the alcove in the sun and would just read them right there. As is my nature, I began at one end of the first shelf and started reading each book in the children’s section in order. It was glorious. I learned to love reading. Time would pass so quickly. The world would shrink to fit onto the page in front of me. I was catatonic until I had reached the back cover and reached for the next one.

This was a very small town. My parents were public figures in the town. Everyone knew them and by extension, me. I can remember the librarian periodically looking in on me. She would occasionally remind me that I should “go home and eat some lunch now”. I am sure that she and my mother were in cahoots and that phone calls were exchanged for my benefit.

Even now, I am saddened by the fact that I was never able to fulfill my goal of finishing all the books on those shelves. We moved away in mid-August of that summer. I did put a pretty good dent in them though. I still remember a lot of the stories that I read there.

Dr Seuss (T.S. Geisel) was my absolute favorite author. I credit him with teaching me to love wordplay and verbal silliness. I used to get myself warmed up for a day’s worth of hard reading by zipping once again through “Hop On Pop” or “If I Ran The Circus.” I liked stories about boys who could fly and/or be invisible. I didn’t like stories about girls, dolls, or bears. Stories based on mythology and the sciences were the best and most interesting ones. Books with too many pictures or about fairy tales seemed too much like “baby” books for my discerning six-year-old palette. I thought that all stories about bunnies were stupid.

When my son, who is now a book-devouring machine, was in the first grade; he really struggled with reading. He and I started a daily half-hour reading session. I would read to him from one page then he would read to me from the next one. By unanimous acclaim, our favorite book to get us warmed up for reading in alternation was “Hop On Pop”.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

On daydreaming

I have developed an unfortunate tendency to daydream. I sometimes find myself on some very strange thoughtscapes while I am driving, walking, or working. Oddly, this wasn’t really that much of a problem when I was a child. In grade school, I used to get in trouble for reading an interesting book under my desk when I was supposed to be listening to the lesson. I once got sent to the principal’s office because I was so engrossed in a sci-fi novel that I didn’t hear the alarm bells during a fire drill. Believe it or not, I used to have to spend time standing with my face into the corner of the classroom for reading in school. The shame of it all. Other than my criminal literary tendencies, I was usually very much “in the moment”.

It has only been in adulthood that my mental focus has started floating away without notice. This cannot be a good thing.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On telephone surveys

The article was a sad tale of woe about the fact that survey takers can no longer reach people who only have cell phones. This has apparently become a real problem.

Funny, they didn’t mention the fact that these same survey takers often call people during meals or family times to gather their facts. They didn’t mention the fact that even though the opinion takers are paid for those gathered opinions; they never offer to reimburse the opinion makers for their time.

I am more than a little curmudgeonly when it comes to unsolicited evening survey calls. I used to just hang up on these kinds of calls. Somehow that just wasn’t satisfying enough. Now, I stay on the line and make up the most outlandish answers I can come up with off the top of my head. As long as what I tell them is as far from my true feeling as is possible, I get a certain wicked delight in doing my part to skew their results.

I wish I could say that my odiousness was a product of the accumulating years; but, in truth, being difficult is just something that has always come naturally for me. There are those who would maintain that I have an absolute genius for it. During one of my stints in college, I answered a want ad on a bulletin board for a part time job at the Medical School. They needed people to be “pretend patients” to help the med students learn how to gather medical histories from difficult patients and improve the new doctor’s beside manner. It only involved a few hours a week and paid quite well. I did it off and on for about two years.

They would call you up when they needed you. You would go to the med school and you would be given about an hour to study a fictitious medical and personal history. Then the instructor would put you in a room with a video camera. He might tell you a specific quirk that he wanted you to portray in order to flummox that particular med student. The student doctor would then enter and conduct a taped fifteen-minute interview. I played everything from a truck driver with hemorrhoids and a bad temper to a chronically depressed dance instructor suffering from a rash. The med school Profs liked using me, since I was particularly good at flustering their student doctor/interviewers with off-the-cuff off-the-wall off the scale obnoxious answers to the questioning. I think that they enjoyed siccing me on the students who had annoyed them recently.

[Student doctor] “How often do you have a bowel movement?”
[Truck driver] “Every time”

Perhaps, I missed my calling in life.

I wonder if the DMV is hiring.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

On wind power

I kind of enjoy using my leaf blower on piles of autumn leaves. Blasting the leaves into a pile like a modern Zephyr, Greek god the west wind, gives me a real sense of control. I can throw those leaves around as though they were mere, uhm, leaves. It makes me want to throw my head back and give a loud maniacal laugh at the barren trees. I am wind. I have the power. Take that you, leaf, you.

Suddenly, the wind gusts from the direction that I am blowing the leaves.

They all fly back into my face.

Hubris gone.

I am humbled.

Mortal, once more.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On an unshared moment of fashion extremes

I was sitting at a long red light. Crossing the intersection in front of me was a huge, loud, Old School Harley chopper. A huge (possibly, loud and also possibly, Old School?) man was riding it. He had a shaven head and multiple tattoos that were plainly visible since he was wearing a studded sleeveless leather vest (It was forty some degrees out there!). His ensemble was appropriately anchored by blue jeans and mid-calf lace up work boots.

No other vehicles came through. Then within ten seconds of the chopper’s passing, a tiny little scooter puttered by in front of me. It was bright red with a white wire basket on the back. A small, wizened gentleman (?) wearing a dark blue car coat and a baby blue bubble helmet rode it. I believe he (she?) was wearing brown wingtips. Although it has been so long since I’ve seen wingtips, I’m not sure if I still know what they look like.

It was a horrible moment. I was in the car alone. I desperately wanted to turn to someone and exclaim, “Did you see what I saw? Can you believe that?!? That was so weird.” Instead, as soon as I got home, I sat down and wrote this posting. It was just so I could find some closure by finally saying to someone, “It was so weird”.