We all went on a road trip today–to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. Pleasant drive, no hills, of course, and it was a nice day. Though cold, it was nice and sunny, and the wind had died down.

I could recommend this schoolhouse museum as it was very well done and informative. However, despite the fact that Topeka is very near the exact, geographic center of the contiguous 48 states, that doesn’t mean it’s not real far from, well, just about everywhere. (It says something about where I live when I say it’s an hour away.)

The center of the Lower 48 is actually north, closer to the Nebraska border, but you get the idea.

That’s all for today’s blogging effort.

Maudlin Ruminations Regarding the Holiday

This is to wish everyone a fun, happy day, however you celebrate the holiday, or even if it’s just Thursday.

I’ll spare you the usual thankful/gratitude spiel (שפּיל‎.} You all know the drill. Without the need to be specific, luck is involved, and I suppose we should all be thankful that luck is a “thing,” but so is community and family and however you define the more benign controlling factors of your existence.

For most of us, we should be thankful for the improbable bubble of peace and prosperity in which we have randomly landed. I add, it’s all relative, but in broad terms, it’s so. Let’s pause and take a breath and, maybe tomorrow, (let’s say, Monday,) keep up the good work. For those of you who are the ones responsible in some way for the peace and prosperity of your community, family and various other controlling factors, we are thankful for you, as well.

I Was Sure There was a Mountain Here. -Muhammad

Lately I’ve realized that as I go about my day I have an opinion on just about everything. I don’t mean to. I mean, it’s like I’m slowly becoming one of those old farts who sits around and opines about sports teams, politics, cosmology, the Youth of Today, motor oil, etc. I’ll leave it “as an exercise for the student” to picture a balding, uncomfortably overweight man sitting in a tattered, overstuffed chair, a can of beer sitting on the worn fabric of its arm. He is wearing over-sized work pants, a white, rib-fabric wife-beater T-shirt, and, unknown to him, his greasy lensed glasses are askew, all around him there is an aura of body odor that you can almost see.

The red flag of social accountability and political correctness swings up, and I hasten to add that I’m kidding. Except for the bald part, that’s not me. And I hope not the opinionated part. Is it old age? Am I just tired of being wrong, gottdammit?

Because I am wrong–frequently. The trouble is, you can’t tell. Not right away. Internally, in one’s mind, being wrong feels exactly like being right, as someone once said. High blood pressure is bad, but this sneaky wrongness is really the silent killer.

My mind went in this direction lately because my friend, Jo, and I have lots of discussions about politics, and that naturally leads to speculation as to why “the other” people are wrong. How can they maintain the faith, I ask myself, that requires such mental wrestling with the facts. The pretzel logic of it all, and all that.

Like driving, and sex probably, and thinking, everybody thinks they are good at running the government from their armchair. And as in driving, and sex probably, and thinking, all humans are probably clustered pretty close together on a scale of ability from 1-100, placing us all around one or two points somewhere on that scale.

Because of this, I think the proper response to another’s political opinion, if one were so disposed to engage at all, would be to first assume the opinionator is as smart as one’s self, (until demonstrated otherwise,) and is simply operating with a different set of data. Problem: there is no wrong answer to the question, what is your favorite vegetable, but data is data, and sometimes data is wrong. Or, sometimes, it is so incomplete as to be misleading or useless. And how do you know? And once you do know, how far can you extrapolate? It all resembles a bunch of little kids using up the whole recess arguing on the playground. And I say that with all respect and fondness for humanity.

The More Things Change

This is a picture of Kansas City. It’s downtown. The space-time coordinates are roughly Oak St., 9th St., 800′ above sea level, 1981. I can’t remember, but judging by the shadows and the foliage, it was probably high noon and mid-winter when I snapped this. I remember at some time I photoshopped the grass to be green, so, still winter.

It is a scan of a photograph I took with my old Nikon FE while walking around during my lunch hour one day. I worked about two and a half blocks away. I hated that job, and left the building every chance I got, for as long as I could. I ate my brown bag lunch at my desk around 11:30 so I could have a full hour outside. I also walked around at break times. I had a few favorite routes that I knew took me exactly 15 minutes, so I could just relax and look around as I walked and not concern myself with the clock. It was a kind of mediation. Sorely needed.

The funny thing about this picture is not what has changed in the 40 odd years since it was taken. It’s what has not changed, and if you told me then, I would been doubtful. I’m retired now and I live in the building you see on the right, the 1931 vintage art-deco building with the twin, copper topped towers. So it’s not all bad, especially since I cannot see my old workplace out the window of my apartment. I think that would have been a deal-breaker.

By the way, not much has changed here in 40 years. Trees now block the view in the picture, because of the park.

OK, I Have a Peeve

It is Monday, so here is my Monday peeve. This picture should help:

Because Bluetooth is the stupidest invention ever for making keyboards wireless, (you’re lucky if you don’t understand how it sometimes has a slight delay so that while your fingers continue to type at a blazing speed, the words appearing on the screen can’t keep up,) because of this irritating characteristic, I bought a “wired” Mac keyboard, shown in the picture. Sure, there is a cable running to it (not shown) but do note that the wireless mouse dongle, on this keyboard, can be plugged in right there on the side, as shown. The USB port there, and the other side, is handy as a shirt pocket. This is not my peeve.

My peeve is that if I don’t want nor use the number pad, I would have to purchase the Bluetooth keyboard, which as I already explained, sucks. So see the number keyboard there forcing my hand to be too far away from the letter keys. This results in my right hand (my “mouse hand”) drifting to the left as I go about. Eventually, this will cause my thumb (pictured) to touch the “enter” key, sometimes pressing down on it enough to activate it. And this is why, sometimes, as I’m typing in a word processor, or something like this text entry window, I will unknowingly invoke a surprising, unpredictable scrolling, a series of carriage returns (or who-knows-what, depending on what I’m doing.)

Normally when this happens, there is a moment of panic, a “virus” moment when you think, welp, it’s finally happened. I’ve been infected with a computer virus, and then a split second later you realize it’s just your thumb again, pressing on the ridiculous, totally redundant enter key there on the rightmost edge of the number pad that you NEVER USE. You correct the problem, normally with a series of back-spaces, and then dutifully pick up the mouse and move it back over, a safe distance from the offending keyboard appendage. Then you do it all over again, pretty much every day until months go by before you finally learn the muscle memory required to keep your hand over to the right far enough.

So my peeve, precisely, is that I seem to be totally incapable of learning anything, at least before the first several hundred instances.

Reality in Flux

Once again I’ve chosen to put Facebook on pause. I hesitate to do the other thing, to out-and-out delete my page. I did that once, and then after an embarrassingly short time I caved and made a new page. (I will say in their favor, Facebook did indeed delete everything from the old account, something I learned when I started back up again.)

We all know the reasons. Same for everybody, I think. Blah blah blah. In my case, I never was a “power user,” so, no big deal. It’s simply the minor annoyances that pile up, and my annoyance buffer, if you will, was already filling up, what with politics and all. I note that people whose annoyance buffers are not full, or get flushed more regularly, will find something to ridicule about my current state. (My favorite most annoying rejoinder: “Did it hurt your little feelers?”)

It’s just that I’m coming around to a slightly different idea about what online reality is, and what it isn’t. Not too long ago I would have said hey, it’s just as real. Reality is in the mind, no matter what the particular medium, be it pixels on a screen (text) or perceptions like sight, sound, and smell. Now, I’m not so sure.

Real is real. Text is real, of course, and the knowledge that there is (probably) a living, breathing human on the “other end,” typing, responding, certainly helps it along. But it is such a shallow thing, so one-dimensional, one could call its value into question. On the other hand, one might say that what is going on in the psyche of the social media user is enabled by the exact same mechanism at work in the mind of a reader of novels–one of those assigned a certain nobler status as an intellectual. Then again, that line of reasoning either raises the level of the Internet or lowers the level of books. Or, I guess you could even say that the Internet has lowered the level of books–the average level anyway.

I guess it doesn’t really matter. In the end, it is what you make of it after all.


My earliest memory about reading is from a time before I could read, a time so long ago that Saturday morning children’s shows ran “silent” cartoons–there was music, but when a character spoke, an ornate black placard appeared with the dialog written on it. What I remember is seeing the black screen covered with an aligned jumble of strange symbols. I knew it was important, that they were the key to knowing what Mickey Mouse (or whoever) had just said, but I had to ask my slightly older and wiser sister to tell me.

The next memory, or memories, were of reading the Dick and Jane primers in school. And by the way, I think everyone in my generation regards the large serif font in those books as the “standard” font, and the easiest to read. It’s for the same reason that the simple, basic nouns used in those books (Mother, Father, car, yard, ball,) will still illicit strong visuals of the illustrations that accompanied them. These pictures of 1950s America are burned into our brains, maybe hidden, but there if you read Dick and Jane.

I remember reading aloud to my first (or second?) grade class. We all had to do this, in turn, that day. I have a sense that I was pretty fluent and lucid as I read down the page, except for one thing. Twice, the word “laughter” was used. I was puzzled by the spelling of it, or, rather, as I interpreted the spelling, it formed a word I had never heard of before. The internal rule in my head led me to believe “augh” represented the sound, “aw,” like it does in the word, daughter. The sentence with the first appearance of this new word was, “The room was filled with laughter.” In that split second between seeing the letters and forming the word with my mouth–and in this case perhaps with an added slight hesitation–I figured from context that “laughter” (lah-ter) conveyed a lighthearted sense of happiness. I mouthed the word with the vowel sound somewhere between “ladder” and “lotter.”

When the teacher corrected me on the second incident, I thought, oh! Duh, as everything fell into place. But I have always thought that there should exist an actual word like the one I had created in my head that morning. Rooms full of people doing something together are in fact sometimes filled with a light hearted sense of happiness.

Astronomy Angst

To begin with, I have such a small and well-informed readership that it’s difficult for me to rant too much about anything and seem thoughtful and polite. Just think of this an open letter to “the rest of us.”

We have all seen the scary headlines over articles about astronomical events. Sure, asteroids heading our way, increased solar activity, but also galaxies colliding, or some rogue black hole roaming around our own galaxy, seemingly at random, totally extinguishing from reality anything in its path. However, I’m here to tell you, there is nothing in astronomy that can hurt you, with the exception of maybe two very, very, improbable types of events, like an asteroid striking Earth, or a solar flare that reaches Earth. Otherwise, even very, very improbable things are actually so very, very far in the future that not only you and I will be long gone, but humanity in general. We can relax. About this, anyway.

There are real things to worry about.

Oh, and by the way, the discovery of Earth-like exo-planets is some pretty useless information. Please do not think for an instant that this gives us license to continue “using up” our present planet. We are kind of stuck here, and aside from maybe, in a distant future that may or may not include your own lifetime, being able to move to a colony on the Moon, or on Mars–neither eliciting much warm fuzzy feelings–you are just stuck here.

There are real things to look forward to.