[There may be a theme or two here, but I haven't found it/them yet.]
February 1, 1991:
The lady who wrote the memo isn't the only person who has trouble with desire versus require, but the expression on her face reminds me of an acquaintance who used to habitually complain to Liz about loss of sleep due to the performance of "wifely duties." She solved the wifely duty problem by getting a night job as a waitress in an open-all-night restaurant. She found that, after work, she could get paid for performing wifely duties for the restaurant clientele. She decided the duties were OK if someone paid for them. Finally, she left her husband for a better paying job. If he had had any sense, he would have left $10 on her pillow every morning, and she would have been satisfied.
April 9, 1991:
January 13, 1992
The WWN also reported a resurrection to warm the hearts of animal rights advocates. A mink coat (made of whole mink skins with claws, teeth, and tails intact) mysteriously came alive and bit its owner to death. The reanimated skins then ran off, leaving only the coat lining to cover the corpse. They presumably went to join the Giant Killer Shrews, who plan to begin their conquest of the world by attacking Graceland Mansion, where both Elvis and JFK are in hiding, along with Marilyn Monroe, now grown pudgy, and Jayne Mansfield, who scares you at first, because she has no head.
March 24, 1992:
Attached you will find a copy of the new Standard Administrative Procedure for Computer Systems Change Requests. With the publication of this new procedure we would like to make a fresh start. This means that all requests received prior to this date and not started by Systems have been discarded. If anyone feels that they have an outstanding request they should submit it through the new system. Please pass this along to anyone on your staff who would be in a position to initiate a request.
(This guy was obviously overqualified for his job, and soon moved on to bigger things. If he had stayed longer, he probably would have re-sent the memo out every three months.)
April 6, 1992:
Our only source of cash on the farm, other than milk, was to ship surplus calves to the South St. Paul stockyards. If we had one that was plump and healthy and ready to ship, the conversation with the cattle trucker while loading would be whether it would "go as a Koocher Calf." A Koocher Calf would bring more money than even the trading range reported by Larry Haig, direct from South St. Paul, on Cedric Adams's Noontime News on WCCO. The phrase had to be pretty local, and I think it was based on a linguistic coincidence: In Swedish, the letter o is pronounced oo, so, when read from printed text, Kosher would become Koosher. In addition, cow in Swedish is Ko, pronounced koo. That explains everything except the hard ch as in itch.
Of course, the phrase had no extrinsic meaning to me, and I didn't figure out its origin until I got away from home to Minneapolis. So my only experience with Jews was hearing about Boolah the Jew Peddler, who actually no longer came around within my memory. He always walked, carrying a large pack, and arrived twice a year, usually at suppertime. If you had a fiddle (which we did), he would play it, and in trade for a bed for the night and food, would offer a discount on Silkety Stockings. Somehow, the men of the household would agree to buy fancy stockings for the women only when accosted in their own home. They'd never buy them in town. If we had butchered a hog recently, Mom would fix Boolah his favorite breakfast: blood pancakes. I think it was some sort of Christian subversion on her part, since she never told him they were made from pig's blood.
I've often wondered what Boolah's real name was. I can't think of any Eastern European name that's close enough to be garbled into that word, even by a Swede.
Liz's mother, Ella, once recounted the excitement when she was a girl in Mars Hill, Maine. Word spread through the town that there was a Jew in the drugstore, so all the town kids ran down and peeked in the window. He was more than just a Jew, he was a Rabbi, and had come to bless the starch at the new Potato Starch factory. There was no premium for Kosher Potato Starch; you had to have the imprimatur to even sell it on the East Coast. After he came a few times, the kids no longer ran down to gawk at him. Apparently this Rabbi was the great-grandfather of the workman who drowned at Calvert Cliffs Power Plant, because one day he fell into a vat of starch, and was completely white when they fished him out. He approved the batch as kosher, nonetheless; or maybe it was especially blessed, having been in intimate contact with a Holy Man.
April 10, 1992:
Also, he had some favorite radio programs, like Elmer Davis' World News at 5 minutes to 8 in the evening on WCCO. There was, after all, a World War going on. In the summertime, we wouldn't be done with chores even by 8:00 Standard Time, but it rankled him to miss the news by two hours. After all, he wanted us to be, above all, prompt. That was why he set the clocks ahead a half-hour, and, in addition, nudged the little lever on the back towards "F", so the clocks would gain some time every day. Then, even if we dawdled, we'd surely get to church, or be waiting for the school bus on time.
I naturally thought of him when I went through the house last Sunday, resetting twelve clocks of various types to read an hour fast. Some of them, like the thermostat clock or the VCR clock, directly affect one's comfort or convenience. I remembered reading about schemes for the computer operated house, where your PC turns on the percolator in the morning so you can wake up and smell the coffee; turns up and down the thermostat; runs the security system; and, when you're away at night, turns lights on and off in various rooms like a demented insomniac with a shotgun (sure to keep burglars away). So I went to the PC to reset it to DST, only to find out that it thought the time was 5:30 PM, which was close to Local Time in London. Computers use pulses that must be precise to millionths of a second, so I could only conclude that Elmer's ghost must have infested my PC and pushed the little lever towards "F." I guess I have to give up the dream of a PC-run house if the damn computer gains 5 minutes a day.
May 1, 1992
The inside volume of the bag contained within this box constitutes a Safety Related Hold Area (Level B) until such time as this box and its contents are shipped or removed, at which time the bag becomes an ordinary empty bag.
July 13, 1992:
He took the train from Dublin to Glasgow, which involves going through Belfast. From the train window, the city looked fairly normal, except for some barbed wire. Otherwise, kids were playing in the streets, citizens were shopping. Then some British soldiers appeared, driving a Jeep. The Jeep was clearly visible against the city buildings, because it was painted with that funny jungle camouflage paint.
Incidentally, the total number of people killed due to the troubles in Northern Ireland so far this year is 52. Those Irish are pikers compared to murderers in, say, Washington DC. Or compared to our motorists: The paper says that 10 Minnesotans were killed in traffic accidents over just the last weekend.
July 15, 1992:
Over the years, I've sublimated the advice about debt into a modified principle: don't engage in complicated financial transactions. California Housing is one such example. My principle states that, if you take out a 30-year mortgage at age 55, you better damn well plan on living in the same house until age 85, when it will be paid off.
Unfortunately, I don't always follow that principle. We are just now cashing in a note from Hadson Petroleum, the final episode of an Oil-and-Gas Drilling Partnership that we bought in 1981, because Liz's broker convinced her it was a great tax shelter. We're getting $640, which is all the money we ever got back out of our $5000 investment, and it will probably cost about half that amount to pay an accountant to figure out where it goes on the income tax form. It seems to me that an investment where you lose all your money is not an efficient tax shelter.
July 20, 1992:
The workers looked bored, and the players did not have the engrossed expressions of people you see who are involved with what they are doing (like people looking at the pictures at the Baseball Hall of Fame, or at the pigs at the state fair), nor, except for a 20-yr old guy who seemed to have won a bunch of quarters on his first try and was laughing, did they seem to be enjoying themselves. They were all just looking almost grimly at these video screens, almost like zombies. Kind of drugged.
We haven't been to any of the Minnesota casinos yet, although we have gambled in Lake Tahoe, St. Kitts, and Las Vegas, all sprees of the $20 variety. I find it amusing that the Indians have found a way to get back at the European Culture that inundated them. The Ojibwe name for Reservation translates as the left-over place. That hopefully will become an ironic term as Indians buy Left-Over Places such as Canterbury Downs and Mall of America when they fail, and turn them into reservations, and, incidentally, gambling casinos.
The old slot machines with the handles were perfect for
the Industrial Age:
The Sweepstakes Envelope says YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER! and I throw it away unopened because I'm already a winner -- a winner in a Roulette game where the odds were incalculable: jillions to one against me. My ancestors, with their chance encounters, torrid amours, cold marriages of convenience, broken hearts and snot-nosed babies, all somehow survived long enough to reproduce. Each baby the result of a one-in-a-billion gametical accident. All these uncountable umbilical strands wove together to produce me, and, through some miracle, I survived until now. And every day (knock on wood) I draw interest on my Sweepstakes Win. I marvel at that quite a lot, so I find I'm not too impressed by the hubub, the flashing lights, and the whirr-kachunk of Ozma or any other place where the odds are only slightly against you.
I'm curious about the gamblers at the Hinckley Casino who do not seem to be involved in what they're doing. This year at the State Fair, I'm going to pay close attention to the people watching the pigs (since Liz drags me to the barns every year, I might as well do some Scientific Research) to see if I can discern the difference between them and the gamblers. Experiments with pigeons and chimps show that a steady food reward in response to a correct input will cause the animal to perform at a certain frequency of stimulus, depending on hunger. But what will really get them pecking the targets or pulling the levers is random response to the input. When you do the trick your handlers want you to do, you never know if a reward is going to come down the chute. I always assumed that the reason was that the animal was somehow more interested in the outcome when it wasn't completely predictable. The observation of gambler detachment, though, makes me think that maybe the random-reward animals become obsessive; that they think they have figured out the system: peck harder every fifth time, and you're sure to get the food pellet. But even following a system, counting cards or some such superstition, should be absorbing. I now want to see a video of the experimental chimps, to see if they look bored, also. I do believe that the detached look is a symptom of a spiritual disease of some sort, though, and one that will probably do a lot more damage to the gamblers than just the transfer of money from their pockets to those of the casino operators.
July 21, 1992:
M. T., a 1984 graduate of Eden Prairie High School, was arrested last month after employees of the Chanhassen Mall's Animal Fair outlet observed that it appeared someone had been living in a storeroom adjacent to the business. Sheriff's investigators called to the scene discovered several unusual items in the room, including a mattress, a table, several eating utensils, some styrofoam plates, two loaves of bread, jars of peanut butter and jelly, an ice-cream pail containing barbecue beef, some cold-sliced ham, salad dressing, salt and sugar, croutons, a garbage bag full of popped popcorn, and a bowling pin.
Now, George H.W. Bush, who doesn't know about laser bar-code checkout counters in grocery stores, might regard a styrofoam plate as unusual. Also, I admit I don't know very many people who are both fond of croutons and also keep popped popcorn in garbage-bag quantities. But, unlike the Sheriff's investigators, I would classify the rest of the articles as tediously usual. I've even been in a 1950's-style rec. room that had a bowling pin.
If you had taken the previous list of the unusual contents of that Chanhassen storeroom, added an eclectic collection of folk music records; two dozen empty coke bottles; a pinup picture with Jackie Kennedy's face pasted on a Playboy centerfold body; and then subtracted the croutons, you would have a pretty good inventory of a friend's room back before he got married. And if you had subtracted almost all of the items, you would have an inventory of my possessions as an undergraduate, when I lived in a small storage closet at the end of a hall on the 3rd floor above the old New Rainbow Cafe at Hennepin and Lake in Minneapolis. Our rooms had two characteristics that were desirable for low-income people: they were substandard, and therefore cheap. His old rooming house is torn down, as is the house at 27th & Humboldt Ave. S., where I lived in the attic as a graduate student. Both are replaced by sterile apartment houses that meet Housing Codes, but charge high rents. The entire 3rd floor at the Hennepin & Lake building has been converted to offices. One of Liz's photography instructors from her last year's sojourn to the University of Minnesota's Split Rock summer arts program has a studio on University Ave. in St. Paul. He can't afford both studio space and a home, so he sleeps in his studio. He has to be as secretive about this as M. T. at the Chanhassen storeroom, however, because it's against the law for him to live in that building. It's not zoned residential.
Homelessness in the Twin Cities is a direct result of a conscious decision by the cities to destroy slum housing. They assumed that the poor would simply find somewhere else to go. The homeless in our cities found that there was no place else. We can't just build more sub-standard housing; that requires age, like fine wine. We could, however, allow them to wander the streets all day, and put them up for the night in our factories. There's no one using my cubicle at night, and it's about the size of my undergraduate living quarters. They can store their belongings in a box under my table. There are at least 500 such cubicles in the building where I work. If they get bored, or can't sleep, they can try answering some of the memos that are piling up around here: it would give them more room. First thing you know, like with the Shoemaker Elves, I'd come in in the morning and find all the work done. The University also has lots of space that's not used at night, and they could open their doors to the homeless, too. It's obviously a problem caused only by us and our attitudes.
Meanwhile, M. T. is homeless no more. He's being held in jail until such time as there is an opening at St. Peter Hospital, when he will be evaluated to see if he's mentally ill. I think they suspect he's crazy because he made himself a home in an upscale suburb without paying the ridiculous rents. If he had been sleeping under a bridge in downtown Minneapolis, he wouldn't be getting all this care. So he's lucky.
Aug. 11, 1992:
The acorn rain started in earnest this week, and in addition to marvelling at the synchronicity of the oaks, I got to thinking about the quantity of acorns implied by the continuous hail. So this morning, I surveyed a square foot of ground under our backyard oak, and counted 20 acorns. The crown of the tree has a radius of about 30 feet, so that single oak produced over 56,000 acorns this year. That amounts to about 4 million acorns over a 70 year productive life, resulting in, on the average, only one surviving oak to replace the parent. The rest goes to feed the squirrels, who do their part by burying the acorns. It's hard to see where efficiency or economy, as we understand it, fits into this picture. It's as if Nature were more profligate than the worst Yuppie or gambler that ever existed. And yet, nothing is wasted. A puzzlement.
Big numbers are always stupefying, but even understanding them doesn't mean that one can understand anything about meaning. Each person has approximately as many brain cells as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy: 100 billion. Is that a coincidence, or does it hide some deeper meaning? Why so many acorns, or seed of any sort, for that matter? Why is everyone so emotional about the loss of a foetus here or there, when there are so many more where they came from? It's all stupefying, if you ask me.
[Note added 2010:Over the years since then, I've observed that some years the oaks drop lots of acorns, while other years produce almost none. The large yield even has a term: the oaks are "masting." I still don't know what's going on when they do that, though, and I'm still stupefied by large numbers.]
Aug. 21, 1992:
Many years earlier, on a beautiful summer Sunday when I was at loose ends, I drove out to the Lawrence Access of the Minnesota River Trail (between Shakopee and Jordan) to look at the bluebirds. When I got there, I was delighted to realize that I had subconsciously donned a blue jacket, open at the front to reveal an orange tee-shirt.
Sept. 4, 1992:
In comparing my Swedish relatives with my American ones, I concluded long ago that the best and the brightest did not emigrate to America. Even then, I'm appalled by my memory of how unobservant I was as a youth. It was almost as if I had to get a college education in order to open my eyes. Of course, almost everyone I knew was unobservant also, although my mother pointed out some birds identifiable by the naked eye (such as bluebirds and cedar waxwings) and some types of plants and insects to me. Mostly, though, my relatives, if they were interested in the natural world at all, were like the maiden aunt described by one of the NPR All Things Considered commentators who acknowledged only two kinds of birds: a Robin Redbreast and a Jenny Wren. She called a Cardinal a Red Robin Redbreast, while a Bluejay was a Blue Robin Redbreast, a goldfinch was a Yellow Jenny Wren, etc.
Oct. 7, 1992:
In the 1940's and '50s, anthropologists had a favorite myth about "primitive" peoples: that they had no knowledge whatever of the movements of the sun, moon or stars, and dependend on "priests" to tell them when to plant crops, hunt, etc. The priest fantasy, which I think was somehow based on the control Catholic priests used to have on their supplicants, envisaged an immensely powerful bureaucracy involved with mainly predicting eclipses and using mumbo-jumbo on the ignorant rabble. The usual reason for telling the myth was to contrast the aborigine with Modern Man: knowledgable, rational, scientifically in control of Nature and Emotion.
But, as I remember from my childhood, you don't have to spend much time outdoors before you begin to notice the astronomical changes, even beyond the moon's phases. And my father, who taught me how to predict short term weather from cloud formations, also commented often on where in the west the sun was setting at different times of the year. And, of course, we would have missed out on our noonday meal if we didn't know that the sun is directly south at noon, no matter where you are in the annual astronomical cycle.
So the real facts are that the aborigine, by nature and
necessity, had lots of knowledge about astronomy. The
Modern, who can easily turn on the lights when it gets
dark, who has street lights to obliterate the night sky,
who can go to the store and therefore does not need to
know when to plant, is the ignorant one. As to being
dependent on priests of one sort or the other, just look
at the good money that doctors, lawyers, and MBA's make
because they supposedly have superior knowledge over
mysterious matters. I don't suppose Sandy Wood, who
broadcasts a daily short radio piece on NPR called Star
Date, gets paid much, but we do pay astronomers to
argue about what happened in the first one-billionth of
a second after the universe was created. And that
doesn't even help us to know when to plant our crops.
Oct. 12, 1992:
Her painter certainly is an example of something I've noticed for quite a while: that colleges have been trying to talk out of both sides of their mouths at once. The idealistic propaganda has always been that a college education improves your life by improving your mind, exposing you to our cultural heritage, and (sub rosa) allowing you to socialize with other members of your economic class. The idealistic view was also the traditional view from the days when only those who wouldn't ever need to earn a living could get into college.
While still purveying that view at commencement addresses, the Universities also let it be known that there were good jobs in industry waiting for graduates of Engineering, Journalism, Business, etc., colleges; or, if your taste ran to English or Philosophy, you could always get a job after graduation teaching it to others. So college became a way for hoi-polloi to give their children a boost up the economic ladder: your kid should get a college education in order to get a good job in the cities. And it certainly was true in the 1950s, when I went to college.
At some point, though, and I'm not sure when it happened, the good-job-in-the-cities market became saturated with college graduates, and now all many graduates have to show for the college diploma is the consolation of the idealistic reason for education. I can't blame them for feeling cheated, because the colleges have not publicized the fact that education is not an investment with the same kind of payback that, say, a mutual fund would have. And, of course, if you define yourself in terms of your job, and your job is a house painter, you don't have much to show for your sheepskin. I hope her painter is doing something extra, such as writing a novel.
On the other hand, there are those who maintain that there are already too many novels to read, and the house painter should only occupy himself, and make a living. Good advice. Still, I meet lots of people whose self-esteem is inextricably bound with their profession, and who describe themselves as only a house painter or only a cabbie. (I think the only a housewife person is extinct). George H.W. Bush probably doesn't think of himself as only a president, although that might be closer to the truth. The trouble occurs when one is fired or retired, at which time you become only a nothing. And as to education's other concealed purpose (to keep young people out of the job market), that is a useful, if cynical, task, and something has to do it. It doesn't seem right, though, that the colleges should charge high tuition for offering you the privilege of being out of the job market.
I suppose the Only an X syndrome has been around as long as Americans have believed in the dream of social mobility. If any boy can grow up to be President, it must be your fault somehow if you don't grow up to be President. Of course, it was never even alleged that any girl could grow up to be President. Even then, in the good old days, if you were born a serf, you had to remain a serf, and the failure to escape serfhood was not a cause for shame.
H. Ross Perot's running mate for the presidency,
Admiral James Stockdale, opened a speech by asking:
Oct. 19, 1992:
Last week's picture in the Engagement Calendar on my desk (French Impressionists) showed a painting titled Large Autumn Trees, by Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927), who is not familiar to me. The blurb below the picture says:
Guillaumin worked at various times as a linen draper, railroad laborer, painter of window blinds, and administrator in the highway department. The artist's familiarity with the nation's transportation systems was reflected in his landscapes, which often depicted railroad bridges, newly constructed roads, and other effects of industrialization on the French countryside. In 1891, Guillaumin won a large sum in the Paris lottery, enabling him to travel and paint full time.
So, the question is, if you received a large windfall, would you quit your day job? Although I have years of backlog of little things that I would like to do, I don't have plans for anything as coherent as the equivalent of a job, or that would get me out in a society of any sort. So I probably wouldn't quit my job if I won the lottery. Of course, I haven't bought a ticket yet, so my chances are pretty slim. But the same question is lurking out there, in the form of what to do after retirement. Travel and paint full time? But I enjoy staying at home thinking about stuff, and have absolutely no visual artistic talent.
Oct. 20, 1992:
Nov. 2, 1992:
Since the Tennessee Walker was bred as a slave owner's horse, to be used for riding up and down the rows, whipping slaves, it attracts a certain kind of person who likes to have a drink or too many, dress up in petit bourgeois horse outfits (pancake makeup, even on men; a pin-striped suit with a derby), and ride their poor overloaded horses around the show ring.
The stable where Liz keeps her horses was once a Walking Horse stable, so I had lots of opportunity to observe these people. If Perot wins, all the trendies will get Walking Horses, and they'll all be falling over themselves to see who can be the most cruel. It will make other grotesqueries, such as the Reagan Junk Bond Dealer craze, seem like innocent fun.
[Note added 2010: Evidently the cult of the Tennessee Walker hasn't changed since 1992. See this article for what it's like as of 2009.]
Nov. 3, 1992:
On another trip, with Liz, I noticed that Houston, in a certain light and from a certain distance, looks like a city made up of cardboard cutout buildings. The absolute lowest form of architecture that I saw in Houston was the Museum of Contemporary Art, which looks like a sheet-metal pole barn. The most surprising thing, though, and the one thing I would visit again if I ever returned, is the Rothko Chapel, a small building in a park near the Art Museums. I don't know if any religious groups use it, but it is an eerily Holy Site. It contains about a dozen monster Mark Rothko paintings which have even greater mystical impact on me than the roomful of Rothkos at MOMA in NYC. Rothko was, to me, the most spiritual and contemplative of the Abstract Guys. I walk right through most of the contemporary paintings at Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, with hardly a glance. But Liz & I spent about half an hour at the Rothko Chapel, just soaking up the paint that surrounded us.
Nov. 13, 1992:
Mar. 17, 1993:
I am a clever, well-respected cult theologian,
I have a host of bold young men, so many you can't
The FBI are Satan's angels, waiting at the wall,
[Note added 2010: I wrote the above before the denoument that resulted in the cult members burning to death. If I had known that would happen, I might have been hesitant about writing a patter song. But -- when God sends a message, who am I to ignore it?]
April 19, 1993:
Frieseke's central preoccupation in painting was the female figure at leisure. Whether indoors or out, his models are invariably caressed by warm sunlight -- be it direct, reflected, or filtered through a summer parasol.
The female figure at leisure. Talk about an outdated concept. Yet, I counted up the pictures (mostly turn-of-the-century) in my calendar, and 18 out of 55 (32.7%) have as their main subject adult females sitting down: watching the ocean, having tea with other females, sitting in a garden. The most strenuous exercise any of these women get is to be sewing in a couple of the paintings. A 1923 painting by William Paxton (1869-1941) is indeed of a waitress holding a tray of fruit, but she doesn't look like there's really any irate customer wondering what's taking so long. She is the most langorous waitress I ever saw. I wonder if anyone nowadays is doing a painting of lady basketball players?
May 7, 1993:
May 13, 1993:
In addition to stopping fistfights at Pauly's (no one is ever knifed there), the Sheriff's department is kept busy investigating mailboxes that have been hit by Pauly's customers driving home; or (in one case), answering a 911 call about a charbroiler fire on a backyard deck: the policeman put it out with a bucket of water.
To quote some more examples:
4/18: A mother / son domestic argument over the son's learning to drive a stick shift occurred on West Village Road near Chanhassen.
4/21: A 17-year-old boy has been charged with assault after a fight with his mother over not being able to use the car. The incident occurred in Chanhassen.
4/22: On Shadowmere (note the proliferation of stupid suburban street names) in Chanhassen, a residence was decorated with toilet paper.
But most alarming of all, during the week there were 13 reports of suspected sex abuse, physical abuse or neglect of children! I think the reason for the new fad of seeing child abuse everywhere is because, subconsciously, we know that we're neglecting all our children: the need for two incomes per family means that no one who cares is caring for them; we use rotten TV for babysitting; and we don't care enough about our future to give them even a minimal education, although they'll be responsible for supporting us someday. And since there's no point in reporting all that to the police, we call up with the suspicion that it's only our neighbor, and not our entire community, who's doing awful things to his kids. And the police have to investigate. I'm glad I'm not in Law Enforcement.
June 25, 1993:
GREEN: Hi, how are you? Did you have a nice weekend?
YELLOW: Unwanted poetry, or a personal
questions, such as:
RED: Let's take off our clothes and goof around.
What really impressed me was the Unwanted Poetry part. You can tell by the frequency of poetry reviews (almost nonexistent) in the New York Times Book Review that all poetry, at least of the printed variety, is unwanted. Therefore, any of us who ever set pen to paper or touch the keys of our word processor to create text that doesn't go all the way to the right hand side are in the Yellow Light region of the navy sexual harassment guidelines.
Hey, baby, wanna hear a limerick:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
[Note: I sent this message to a friend, who was confused as to why Howl would be a yellow light. My response:
Well, it was the US Navy's viewpoint that unwanted poems were a yellow light, and I tried to think of the most unwanted poem I know, and came up with Allen Ginsburg's Howl (That's the first 5 lines of what must be 300 lines that go on and on and on, like Walt Whitman when he had too much to drink). Anyway, I was amused by the idea of Ginsburg, who came out of the homosexual closet before it was even called a closet, accosting a lady to read her an unwanted poem, and identifying a very long, rhymeless, rhythmless poem as a limerick. At least, it seemed funny at the time. But, of course, the First Law of Humor is: if you have to explain it, it isn't funny.]
June 30, 1993:
Of course, I didn't realize at the time that the
marketeer was the harbinger for a whole generation of
professionals, who, having never read anything, also
have no idea how to spell words. Now that everyone has a
computerized spelling checker, words like repoire
will no longer appear. But in this morning's mail, I
received a missive from Marketing that begins:
Correct spelling continues to be an allusive goal.
September 3, 1993:
Natural progression: school tablet, aspirin tablet, stone tablet.
Maybe the Hegelian dielectic could be expressed as:
Oct. 18, 1993:
NEWSCASTER: Yesterday, the downed pilot, speaking from his hospital bed, thanked the American people for their fabulous support.
DOWNED PILOT: I'd, uh, like to thank the American People for their, um, fabulous support.
I don't know where they get the newscasters and
technical crew for MPR's News & Information
Division. Their malaprops, like the one I heard the
other day about chloroform bacteria, are often
hilarious. And they've broadcast some grotesque tape
miscues. One day, the reporter was talking about some
gruesome butcher-type murder, and led into the taped
report from the police investigator in charge. What came
over the air, though, was some expert who was reassuring
us about the quality of health care. Since he didn't
mention his topic, it sounded as if he was being
inappropriately sanguine about the plight of the murder
victim and her family. He said things like:
November 19, 1993:
The fact that her sample size was in the 30's is interesting, because it relates to sampling theory in statistics. Suppose you were trying to determine the percentage of defects in a large lot of bolts or some such product. You obviously could not examine them all, but a very small sample might not include the same defective percentage as in the general population. It turns out that, for typical defect rates, the correlation between percent defects in the sample and percent defect in the general population increases rapidly with larger sample sizes until sample size reaches about 30. After that, the correlation grows much more slowly. In the case of mate searching, the situation is reversed: instead of looking for defects in a sample of ordinary objects, you are looking for a gem among a sample of mostly defective objects. Still, the same principles should apply, which would mean that, if you were searching for a mate and had not found one after many more than 30, 40, or maybe 50 samples, it might mean that a suitable mate does not exist anywhere.
[Update: Alas, the marriage did not last long. That's the trouble with probability theory. You can't rely on it with much confidence unless you use a ridiculously large sample size. Or maybe my conclusion was correct, after all.]
January 21, 1994:
Then, when I read the text, I found the prospective groom is a member of the Dallas Stars hockey team, which is, as the announcement said, "formally the Minnesota North Stars." Well, I guess that's appropriate for a formal announcement, but I was disappointed to find out that his tooth was really missing.
February 3, 1994:
Also, it's interesting that, while the middle scales tend to have a lot of description, there's not much to say about earthquakes at either the low or the high end. Being Italian, it's expressed with Roman numerals:
I. Not felt.
II. Felt by persons at rest, on upper floors, or otherwise favorably placed to sense tremors.
III. Felt indoors. Hanging objects swing. Vibrations like passing of light trucks.
IV. Vibration like passing of heavy trucks, or sensation of a heavy ball striking the walls. Standing motorcars rock. Windows, dishes, doors rattle. Glases clink. Crockery clashes. In the upper range of IV, wooden walls and frames creak.
V. Felt outdoors; direction may be estimated. Sleepers wakened. Liquids disturbed, some spilled. Small objects displaced or upset. Doors swing, open, close. Pendulum clocks stop, start, change rate.
VI. Felt by all; many frightened and run outdoors. Persons walk unsteadily. Pictures fall off walls. Furniture moved or overturned. Weak plaster and masonry cracked. Small church bells ring. Trees, bushes shaken.
VII. Difficult to stand. Noticed by drivers of motorcars. Hanging objects quiver. Furniture broken. Damage to weak masonry. Weak chimneys broken at roof line. Fall of plaster, loose bricks, stones, tiles, cornices. Waves on ponds; water turbid with mud. Small slides and caving along sand or gravel banks. Large bells ring. Concrete irrigation ditches damaged.
VIII. Steering of motorcars affected. Damage to masonry; partial collapse. Some damage to reinforced masonry; none to reinforced masonry designed to resist lateral forces. fall of stucco and some masonry walls. Twisting, fall of chimneys, factory stacks, monuments, towers, elevated tanks. Frame houses moved on foundations if not bolted down; loose panel walls thrown out. Decayed piling broken off. Branches broken from trees. Changes in flow or temperature of springs and wells. Cracks in wet ground and on steep slopes.
IX. General panic. Everyone runs outdoors. Weak masonry destroyed; ordinary masonry heavily damaged, sometimes with complete collapse; reinforced masonry seriously damaged. Serious damage to reservoirs. Underground pipes broken. conspicuous cracks in ground. In alluvial areas, sand and mud ejected, earthquake fountains, sand craters.
X. Most masonry and frame structures destroyed with their foundations. Some well-built wooden structures and bridges destroyed. Serious damage to dams, dikes, embankments. Large landslides. Water thrown on banks of canals, rivers, lakes, etc. Sand and mud shifted horizontally on beaches and flat land. Railway rails bent slightly.
XI. Rails bent greatly. Underground pipelines completely out of service.
XII. Damage nearly total. Large rock masses displaced. Lines of sight and level distorted. Objects thrown into air.
February 7, 1994:
February 28, 1994:
"Me too," said the other. "Only, I'm gonna become a pilot. And if I can't be a pilot, I'm gonna be a Seal. And if I can't be that, I'm gonna be a Green Beret. And if I can't be that, I'm gonna be a Ranger."
I noticed a distinct absence of teachers, scientists, or social workers. Also, if the news is accurate, the new military requires you to pass proficiency tests in more than just physical fitness. For example, there's Westmoreland Math: Out of an enemy force of 50, G.I. Joe kills 10 of them and Pete kills 5. How many are left? (answer: 55).
Yet, most likely, even if they can pass the entrance exams to get into the military, they're going to end up as part of a peacekeeping force situated between two groups of lunatics. That's a new kind of social work, requiring new skills, and I have a feeling the present high-school generation isn't studying for it.
March 3, 1994:
"I don't know why not," said Liz. "After all, it was a household possession."
Later, she said, "I think the woman should be happy. Her husband's off on a new adventure."
March 7, 1994:
Well, Minnesota has nothing to lose, and I'm suggesting that the team should start to huddle and do some chants, maybe something like:
We're the gophers, we're not sheep,
Winning games will be our habit;
We're the women that got class,
March 21, 1994:
The title is The Angel's Request (1954) by Theora Hamblett (1895-1977).
After teaching at rural schools from 1915 to 1936, Hamblett finally quit, admitting to daydreaming so much so that she could not concentrate on teaching. She bought a mansion and rented out rooms to make a living. Once she started painting, she began to move the tenants out, filling the house with art arranged according to subject matter, much of which represents dreams and visions.
Maybe that's why Plato thought artists were so dangerous to the proper operation of a society: they're too prolific.
April 29, 1994:
In my sparse career as a poet, I've written at least two poems that are absolutely pure fiction, that have nothing autobiographical in them. One, written in 1980, is narrated by a werewolf; the other, which I just finished while on vacation, is narrated by Mary Shelly's monster in his old age. I guess it's a good thing that neither of them will be published. I'd hate to have graduate students poking through my life looking for the anti-social Jack-The-Ripper that must be hiding there.
I take the anti-autobiographical position even one step further: I maintain that my dreams do not represent any deep autobiographical truth about my waking life, even the subconscious aspects. They may represent some truths about my dreaming self -- no one has ever solved the subjective/objective dilemma raised by Master Chuang with his morning dream of the butterfly -- but my dream self won't affect anything in the daytime world unless I take up sleepwalking, or I lose the ability to distinguish between my dreaming self and waking self. Even Master Chuang knew that the choice was between a man dreaming he was a butterfly and a butterfly dreaming it was a man; he assumed --perhaps incorrectly -- that it wasn't both at once. Therefore, I am not embarrassed to relate my dreams, even my recurring ones, because I'm convinced that there's nothing embarrassing there to hide.
August 15, 1994:
This will be the vintage of the century, just like 1971.
Reminiscent of the storm of the century, which we get every 10 years or so.
Nov. 28, 1994
When travelling in a foreign land, you run across lots of stuff that's counter-intuitive. So I've devised a counter-intuitive geography quiz:
3. What's the easternmost point of the continental U.S.?
4. What states of the U.S. contain the northernmost, southernmost, westernmost and easternmost points?
2. New River, which is in Va. and W. Va.
3. West Quoddy Lighthouse, near Lubec, Maine. This just goes to illustrate one of the fascinating aspects of a globe: everything is west of something.
4. You've probably heard this one before, but it's not cheating to have memorized the answer. Alaska, Hawaii, Alaska, and Alaska. Alaska gets honors for furthest west and furthest east because the Aleutian Islands cross the International Date Line, which someone once decided is the division between east and west. I dunno, maybe it was Sir Henry Greenwich, inventor of longitude and mean time, as in "Greenwich Mean Time" or "in the mean time".
0 - 5 points: You're really dull at parties, because you can't think of anything to talk about.
10-15 points: You're pretty interesting at parties, because you know a few counter-intuitive facts, enough to get other people talking about the amusing stuff they know about.
20 points and above: You're really dull at parties, because you dominate the conversation with counter-intuitive facts.
January 19, 1995:
Male Patient: Doc! Please help me! My penis has
March 1, 1995:
Mainly, though, the truck reminded me of a story Judy Larson (Minneapolis blues singer) told at a party years ago, how she had been designated by her local food co-op to pick up some items at Olsen Fish Co., and they had offered her a tour of the facilities, which she accepted. She saw the lutefisk pickling barrels and all those other gross things. Then her tour guide took her to a room filled with old scandanavian women working at long tables. "This is the pickled herring packing room," said the guide. "This is the nerve center of the whole operation."
[Addendum: Aug. 15, 1995]:
March 8, 1995:
I am sure by now all of you are aware that on certain days the skylights leak due to condensation buildup, thus causing a potential problem with employees slipping and also water dripping on equipment and desks. This problem has come up during safety audits as well. I just wanted to send a quick note to everyone to highlight what is being done to solve this problem. I have contracted a sheetmetal company to build and install water traps around all of the skylights. This trap should catch any condensation which may build up and possibly drip down. There are 82 skylights in this facility and because of the access problem to some of these, we have decided to remove the domes from the outside in order to easily install the traps. You may notice a slight change in temperature inside the facility during that time, but we will try to keep it to a minimum. Also during this installation period I ask that you instruct your employees not to stand and look up at the contractors to see what is going on and thus possibly having loose debris fall on them. Thank you in advance for your patience in this matter."
Evidently, it's better to get hit by loose debris that you don't see coming.
May 1, 1995:
May 2, 1995:
French Dip with aug juice & french fries.
I know how to make aug juice: just dissolve a beef bouillon cube in some hot water.
This is my new favorite menu item, replacing the old one, from a not-very-high-class cafe that tried to put on airs:
Roast Beef dipped in its own au juice.
Back in my college days, when I worked at a restaurant, the menu was standard high-class: Roast Prime Rib of Beef au jus, but the waitresses were definitely American: "Gimme a prime rib, medium rare, and put some aw juss on it."
May 4, 1995:
May 31, 1995:
June 15, 1995:
Its dramatically different user interface and new capabilities could have you pouring over manuals for days.
Those pore executives who don't no Windows 95 mite be sweating out of every pour to think they'd have to reed there manuals. Maybe it wood help too poor a glass of milk.
June 30, 1995:
WELCOME JOHN DOE FROM JOHN DEERE.
If no customers were expected, there would be a sensible adage with conventional wisdom, such as
IF YOU STOP TO THINK, DON'T FORGET TO START AGAIN,
I liked to think that Lynn herself kept busy by looking up these little gems in a well-thumbed paperback book devoted to such aphorisms, and so I assumed they would disappear when, some years ago, a giant conglomerate named Eaton bought out Char-Lyn and changed its name to Eaton Hydraulic Division. Sure enough, the pink concrete sign went, but the church sign stayed, and the sayings just kept coming. Maybe it was part of the buyout deal that Lynn would stay on to keep the advice tradition going.
This past year, though, there have been some dramatic changes. I no longer sense the sentimental guiding hand behind the proverbs. First there was an announcement that Larry, the guy who had faithfully put up the changeable letters for all those years, was retiring. His replacement is not as good at spelling, so, for example, we learn about the forthcoming LOIN'S CLUB PANCAKE BREAKFAST at Eden Prairie High School on Sunday morning. And, just in the past few weeks, the proverbs have been becoming cryptic, as if they'd hired Chancey the Gardener to put them up. Today's advice, for example, is:
THE PAST IS THE FUTURE OF THE PRESENT.
I almost got in an accident driving by the sign, because I had to read it twice to make sure I got it right. As Adam Granger's song, Apropos, goes:
...it was apropos of nothin', but it was apropos just the same.
Aug. 25, 1995:
Also, when God expected Adam and Eve to behave, He was theomorphizing.
Aug. 30, 1995
In the There'll Always Be American Academic department, I'm up to early June in my reading of the New York Times Book Review, which contains the following Author's Query:
For a book about the social history of American high school marching bands, I would appreciate any memoirs, photos, anecdotes, or other similar material.
Well, I don't know much about marching bands, but let me tell you some stories about restaurant work.
Sept. 27, 1995:
...and in the Airhead Region, highs will be in the mid-60's.
I wonder if he was talking about the Mall Of America or the University of Minnesota Athletic Department?
Oct. 19, 1995:
Oct. 20, 1995:
For travel within the U.S., the D.O.T. now requires all passengers 18 years or older to present photo identification upon initial check-in. The passenger's ID and the name on the ticket must match. In the absence of a government issue photo ID, two other ID's, one of which must be government issue, must be presented. An example of such an ID would be a Social Security card or birth certificate."
The memo then goes on at great length about not leaving your car parked in front of the airport, about being willing to open the trunk of your car, and about being "prepared to answer questions about your bags." So it's best to be on your toes, prepared for airport conversations such as:
"Is this a briefcase or a satchel?"
"Neither. It's an overnight-bag. No, maybe it's a valise."
[Note added 2010: Now I long for the good old days when all you had to do was have a photo ID and be prepared to answer questions about your luggage.]
November 8, 1995:
February 6, 1996:
Lady #1: I'd really like to see Sense and
Sensibility. They say that Emma Thompson wrote the
screenplay. I didn't know she was a writer.
June 17, 1996:
Seawater is a sailing solution.
October 31, 1996:
ATTENTION, FEMALE STUDENTS:
We recently went to see a real team: the Gopher volleyball women. Skill and Spandex both. That's a combination that can't be beat.
November 25, 1996:
1. Retrieved the wallet and looked for the owner.
I chose option #4. Thank goodness there are lots of unoccupied toilet stalls available in men's washrooms.
December 19, 1996:
January 13, 1997:
1. When I tried to turn on the PC, all I got was a lot of beeping sounds and a bright horizontal line on the monitor. Repeatedly turning it on and off didn't help. Our son Lee says it's a bad video card. Well, I've seen a lot of bad video on the TV, and none of it looked like a bright horizontal stripe. I guess I'll have to trust him. He's sending for a new card, because he says it's not worth the time required to find the bad chip on the old card.
2. I tried to copy a cassete using the rapid copy method on my new quasi-boom box with two cassette decks. The playback deck was really rapid (like fast forward), but the record deck went only at standard speed. It's now stuck in that condition, so I can't copy anything with it at any speed, although I can play back on the record deck. The Troubleshooting section of the manual tells me that, if I have any sort of trouble copying tapes, I should first check that the unit is plugged in (which is the suggestion given for any symptoms), and then I should try releasing the pause button. It's still under warranty, except I haven't yet got around to sending in the warranty postcard, and, even then, I have to send it to California to get it fixed.
3. I was not daunted, because I have two other cassette decks. I connected them together -- the easiest way to do that is through my equalizer, but I found my equalizer no longer works when copying tapes -- only when copying records or CD's or radio programs. So I had to tear apart lots of tangled cables to feed one cassette deck output directly into the other one.
4. But then, of course, I can't listen to the music while copying it, so I got out my headphones. There's an intermittent connection in the headset somewhere. I found I could occasionally get them to work by hitting the headphones sharply while wearing them. This hurt both my hand and the side of my head, but at least I could hear the music some of the time. I'd take them apart to look for the loose wire, but I can't find any screws -- evidently the plastic parts are glued together.
5. Yesterday, the portable telephone on the main floor stopped working. It's completely dead -- the "Low Battery" light doesn't even work. I doubt it's the battery anyway, given the sudden manner of its death. I took it apart and pushed on wires and chips to see if it was some kind of bad connection that would miraculously reliably reconnect itself. No help -- I didn't even have the heart to put it back together. It uses a Lithium battery, and must be disposed of as hazardous waste. The Troubleshooting section of the instruction manual suggests I should try plugging in the phone to see if that helps.
January 21, 1997:
That might apply to Benedict Arnold, but these poor guys are just being transferred. Or maybe they once played football in New England???
January 23, 1997:
MAN WINS $XX MILLION IN ASBESTOS SUIT.
February 7, 1997:
I guess that means we'll never fulfill our plan of rafting down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, we hadn't discussed it in 20 years, back when we'd go out to Bursch's in Hopkins for 2-martini lunches.
March 14, 1997:
Still, most of the teams looked like they could give this season's Minnesota Women Gophers a run for their money, if for no other reason than they were able to pass to each other without losing the ball, and they dribbled the ball onto their feet only about as often. In other words, they looked as if they had played together before, and that someone had worked with them on the disadvantages of catching a ball with your fingers pointed towards it if you close your hands too soon. I believe that a good coach could make a formidable Big Ten team using only Minnesota players. I think it's possible that the pre-season injury that hurt Minnesota most actually happened several years ago, when (evidently) the coach accidentally got hit on the head with a 2 X 4, knocking all basketball sense out of her head.
[Note added 2010: The Minnesota Women's Basketball team has had coaching changes since I wrote this, and it's much improved. Unfortunately, the college teams in the rest of the country have improved even more. But us Minnesotans have come to appreciate St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, so we still attend the women's basketball games.]
May 2, 1997:
The researcher was quoted as saying, "I've decided that the pollution issue is a lot more serious than I'd thought."
Quiz question: Is the researcher a man or a woman? No extra credit for the correct answer.
May 27, 1997:
Minnesota Monthly magazine had an article about Eckankar, the new age religion that has a temple out in Chanhassen. It's a shiny gold-colored pyramid that looks like it was designed for sharpening very large razor blades.
One of the Eckankarians, enthusing about soul travel, said,
"Man, when you get that out-of-body experience, it just knocks your socks off!"
No wonder the Heavens Gate folks had to keep their
June 2, 1997:
I thought that was pretty dramatic, so I questioned her
further about how this photographing takes place. It
turns out what she said was,
September 5, 1997:
He was M.V.P.
There was a letter in this morning's Minneapolis Strib about how Princess Di's death could be a teaching experience for teenagers. The letter-writer wasn't specific, but I thought of the following lessons:
1. Don't get in a car with a drunken driver.
I'm not sure Princess Di would want to be remembered as a bad example. Still, there should be a good song around here waiting to get out. We could write up some sentimental words to a tune like Logan County Jail; record it tomorrow morning; and hit the streets with it first thing Monday. Maybe we can call it Princess Di's Dying Words.
Speaking of Princess Di, a colleague who's fond of
wordplay sent me the following by e-mail:
September 9, 1997:
The members of Mother Theresa's order are hoping that it will continue to grow under her predecessor.
September 24, 1997:
I was especially amused by the article on pre-nuptual agreements. We were certainly lucky to get married before we had anything to hoard from the other partner. Just a few trashy musical instruments, some books that were already beginning to lose their bindings, some warped LP's, and maybe a junker car or two.
September 25, 1997:
November 19, 1997:
NB:Quisenberry's quote was in response to a
question about the secret of success in being a 9th
inning reliever who only gets to pitch if it's a close
game, and you're often called in when you're already
behind on the ball-strike count. He said:
December 25, 1997:
Presumably John the Baptist takes his clothes off so he
can baptize someone. The syndrome certainly gives the
line from the old spiritual new meaning:
January 16, 1998:
... prolonged use for a long period of time results in ...
I'm sort of like the naive girl who keeps getting surprised when she gets seduced by men she meets in bars. Every new example of inanity on the part of news media people surprises me.
January 21, 1998:
Any time we find a body in a trunk, we regard it as highly suspicious.
January 30, 1998:
The 1/24/98 issue of Science News has an article about exploration of caves that are frequently found under Mayan ruins, with the hypothesis that there's a connection between the caves as sacred sites and the locations of the cities. One sentence reads:
For four field seasons, a rotating group of speleologists spent hours at a time climbing and repelling into Des Pilas' dark muddy recesses.
As for me, I find cave exploration to be a rappelling activity.
February 9, 1998:
Last week there was a letter to Dear Ann or Dear Abby (I can never keep them straight) from a distraught woman whose husband's mother had died. The preacher, trying to comfort him, said, "She's up in heaven watching you." Now he won't make love to his wife, for fear of Mother watching (that must be the ultimate in performance anxiety). I've forgotten whatsername's advice (it was stupid anyway), but maybe this guy should take a hint from Clinton, who evidently wasn't bothered by the thought that his Mother Virginia might be a heavenly Peeping Tom.
The other big thing in the newspaper was what the Texas Murderess that's going to be executed was going to do when she got to heaven; everyone agreed she's going there -- I guess they believe in redemption in Heaven, but not on earth. The murderee's brother opined that the murderess and the victim were going to meet in heaven, and, when they do, he said, "It won't be pretty." So God allows ugly things (a knock-down hair-pulling mud-wrassling match?) in Heaven. I'd rather have Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room, thank you.
April 15, 1998:
May 27, 1998:
May 29, 1998:
Tonight we're going to hear Spalding Gray at the Guthrie. We attended his talk about The Monster in a Box last time he was in town, and found it quite entertaining. It's sort of like the My Dinner With Andre movie, but without anyone eating anything. The odd part of it is that, normally, I wouldn't waste time listening to people describing how they deal with their neurotic obsessions, but Spalding makes it entertaining, somehow. Maybe it's because he doesn't whine about it. Most people who want to talk about their anxieties are victims and losers and were molested as children. On the other hand, people with anxieties who don't talk about them are (traditionally) just buying ammunition and waiting for a chance to get even with everyone who's ever thought bad about them. So, if there are whackos around, the choice seems to be being bored to death or shot to death. Spalding usually can walk a middle line between the two.
I got a message announcing the second annual Clothing Optional Folk Festival. I suppose clothing is optional for the performers, also. I'd attend, but I don't know where to put my wallet so I can go to the refreshment stand. Also, in case they disapprove of alcoholic beverages, how can I be carrying something on the hip without everyone noticing? And if you want to jam afterwards, where do you keep the picks? I'm afraid it's just too complicated -- also, the fatter I get, the more I appreciate clothing.
June 2, 1998:
July 8, 1998:
Hello All, With the resistors arrived, a lot of Work In Process were built to finished units. This situation will expend to next week. The scrap rate has been much lower than the last Period average level. As reported last week, one main work for engineers in this week was scrap analysis. The attached file is the result from engineering group. Here, I would like to summarise as below:
1. We did not "really" focus on the scrap analysis in the past time. Sometimes, we were only interested in the scrap rate number itself. If the number was lower, the first idea in the mind was "OK. Not bad!" in most of case.
2. Some cases of injustice happened on some scrap parts. That means some scrap reasons selected on the paper did not match with the real problems. The reason is assembler did not understand the each reason on the paper very well or not careful enough to operate this. Action: To be trained further on the scrap reasons;
3. Although every scrap parts were "confirmed" by engineer, sometimes this confirmation only happened on the paper--- engineer only sign their name on the paper and they even did not have a look on the parts. Action: Engineer must real confirm the parts and then sign name. Before being confirmed really by the engineer, the "scrap" parts will only be separated from the line. At least once per week that engineer should handle the parts. Engineer are encouraged to handle the parts with problem just in time.
July 16, 1998:
The lawyer for the guy found guilty of murdering Bill Cosby's son:
He's only 19, and facing life in prison. You don't have to be a Rocket Scientist to know how he feels.
Well, jeez -- I can testify that scientists don't deal with feelings, theirs or anyone else's. How about:
You don't have to be a Rocket Family Guidance Counselor ...
or, if that's too wordy, there's another cliche available:
You don't have to be a Brain Surgeon ...
August 21, 1998:
"Bulls are jumping, while heifers are standing firm."
And I'd silently smirk.
It didn't take much to amuse us in those good old pre-Monica Lewinsky days.
November 24, 1998:
The original mortgage was paid off long ago, but the 1990 remodeling amounted to big bucks, so the new mortgage was for 5 times what we originally paid for the house. The first mortgage was through National City Bank, but they just sell the mortgage to someone else, so it isn't exactly your neighborly banker thing. We ended up owing the money to a North Carolina branch of Barclay Banks. When interest rates went down from 10% to 8-1/2%, we refinanced it again through National City, but this time they needed $5000 for all kinds of things they'd done only a couple years earlier: title searches, appraisals, etc., etc. I figured it was a scam. They sold that mortgage too, to Norwest. Shoot -- if I wanted to deal with Norwest, I'd have a bank account with them, but I got mad at them back in the 1960's, when they somehow couldn't keep my checking account balanced. Fortunately, Norwest sold the mortgage to something called Homeside Lending. This time, I got a little smarter, and called Homeside directly, threatening to refinance. They offered us a new deal on the mortgage, a 7% rate with little red tape, no appraisals or title searches. Still, we had tons of papers to sign, including a certification that we did not live on a Flood Plain, and, that if we ever did live on a flood plain (presumably because the house slid downhill from its present location), that we'd get Flood Insurance.
August 24, 1999:
The whole idea of a Wall of Books seems a little pretentious, since the main attraction for Alumni seems to be a Wall of Jocks, which I assume they'll have in the Center.
Maybe what they have is a Wall assembled of books cut so only the spines show, and then have them all glued together in bookcases. I saw this in a pretentious restaurant once. Fortunately, they went out of business.
December 7, 1999:
February 25, 2000:
I would assume that all the romantic spots in Italy would be in Rome, and the rest of the spots would be Italianate.
August 9, 2011: