Horns of a dilemma

Tags

, ,

Waiting for spring

Waiting for spring

I took this picture earlier this year. Outside today it feels like spring, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicted. Well, who depends on a large rodent for weather predictions?

***

I know that a dilemma is not an actual horned animal. Though often when I read the phrase “horns of a dilemma” I imagine a children’s book illustration of an angry water buffalo. If only life were so simple. No, the phrase means having to choose between two bad options. No matter your choice, it won’t be a good one.

I find myself making that choice now. A few days ago I was writing about how I felt that avoiding politics in Classical Gasbag was the proper choice for me as a person. Today I’m not sure. Watching the news, listening to friends and acquaintances who are not U.S. citizens, and drawing upon historical precedents have brought me to a place where I can’t publicly ignore what is happening here.

Our President and his minions are constantly labeling our free press as the purveyors of fake news and the enemy. Meanwhile they put forth lies and label them as alternate facts. This is a familiar tactic to people who read history. I recommend that people read about “Big lie” on Wikipedia and see if it strikes a chord.

Perhaps I am writing this from a political perspective. I feel so close to it that I’m not sure. To me it feels like our Constitution, particularly the first amendment, is under attack, and that scares me. What scares me more is the number of fellow citizens who believe, or want to believe, the lies that are coming from our President and his minions.

OK, so here is some political ranting: Part of me wants to blame that phenomena on the apparent decline in people who see the worth of an education other than for gaining a better paying job. What is wrong with education for the sake of education? Of course I lay the blame for that type of thinking on Richard Nixon who during the 1952 Presidential election labelled Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson and his supporters eggheads. Yes, the same Richard Nixon who as President had an enemies list and brought Watergate into our political vocabulary.

I don’t plan on going on and on about politics in Classical Gasbag, but neither do I plan on remaining silent when things truly bother me. I just hope that I can remain civil enough that I don’t offend too many people.

Quite a dream

Tags

Barn behind the trees

Barn behind the trees

I went for a short ride in the country yesterday and found this barn. I felt that it deserved to be seen on this blog. It was a pretty day for mid-February.

***

The other day I mentioned in a post that I wanted to write about a dream that I had, but didn’t feel it would be proper. Last night I had one that was so bizarre that I need to write about it. Those of you who own books on dream interpretation might want to get them out to see what this s all about. Then you can share your findings with me because I am completely stumped.

Like most of the dreams that I remember, I jumped into it with no preamble. In my dream I had infiltrated an organization of assassins. I don’t know why I had done anything so risky, but it was a dream.

The organization of assassins was knocking off the top people in a media corporation that started out making cartoons. Their best known cartoon character was a rodent with a first name that rhymed with Dickie. Why were they killing these people? That’s a fair question.

It seems that the head of the organization that I had infiltrated had decided that the entire media corporation was run by pedophiles, and he wanted to do something about it. Why did he believe they were pedophiles? That is another fair question.

He believed that while watching one of their cartoons he had heard clues about it while listening to two cockroaches who were having an argument in the cartoon. Plausible, right? Are you confused? I was, and it was my dream.

I found myself in a banquet hall where one of the killings was about to take place, and I was running towards the assassin, trying to stop him. And then I woke up. What happened?

The dream had no satisfactory beginning, and certainly nothing you could call an ending. It was just a stupid dream. If you have any ideas about a possible meaning, feel free to share them in a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

So much to say, but I can’t

Tags

, ,

Wall Art #15

Wall Art #15

I took this picture in West Lafayette last week. It is at the end of the parking lot where I had lunch with a friend. I really like the colors in this wall art.

***

There are a number of things that I want to write about, but I don’t feel they are appropriate, for one reason or another,  to put in this blog. When I started Classical Gasbag I wanted it to be a place where I could freely expound upon anything that crossed my mind. It hasn’t turned out to be that way. There are a few reasons that I don’t feel that I have the freedom to write in that manner. Here are three of them.

Reason #1: I don’t want my wife, Cindy, to be embarrassed by what I write. Over the years she has told most of her friends and family about Classical Gasbag and has encouraged them to read it. I know that there have been occasions when one of her friends has asked her if what I wrote bothered her. Recently I cancelled a drafted post about a dream that I had. Cindy might have been embarrassed by the details.

Reason #2: At some point last year I decided that I would stop writing about politics in Classical Gasbag. Politics has been a very touchy subject among even some of our closest friends. I don’t want to antagonize anyone else if I don’t need to. So the closest I will come to writing about politics is to recommend a new drinking game. Listen to any speech by President Trump and take a drink every time he uses the word “really.”

Reason #3:  I don’t often lose my temper, but when I do I can write scathingly about whatever has angered me. But that doesn’t help anyone, not even me. If letting fly with mean-spirited slurs and curses made me feel better, perhaps I would do it. I’ve found over the years, however, that I feel no better if I do it. So I don’t. It helps no one and may hurt someone. What would be the purpose in doing that? It’s not for me.

Life is a series of choices. I choose to try to be a better person…at least in this blog.

2017 Reading Challenge update #1

Tags

,

Killing Floor

Killing Floor

The first book that I read for this year’s reading challenge was Killing Floor by Lee Childs. It was the first of his Jack Reacher novels. It was first published in 1987, and will count as a book written in that decade. I had never read any of this series of books, and it isn’t likely that I’ll read another. The book began with an unlikely coincidence, had negligible depth of characters, and had a definite lack of suspense. I’m glad that I read the novel, just so I can say that I didn’t ignore the series of books completely. I purchased the book using a gift card that I received at Christmas, so I don’t feel that I wasted any of my own money.

 

 

 

The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass

The second book that I read for the challenge this year was The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. I’m not sure what genre this book falls into. The U.S. Library of Congress catalogued it as Fathers and daughters – Fiction, and Mediums – Fiction, as well as Boston (Mass.) – Fiction. It is all of those and a lot more. I have to admit that I wouldn’t normally pick up a book like this one, but I was looking for something different to read for the challenge; and I was drawn to the book by the cover art. The book is set in the early 1900’s with flashbacks to the 1860’s. I suppose I would describe the book, succinctly, as being about people dealing with loss and discovery. I enjoyed the book and will look for others by Katherine Howe.

 

Riders of the Purple Sage

Riders of the Purple Sage

Last year I mentioned that I had trouble finding a western when I went to B&N. It turns out that I didn’t search well enough, because they have a section devoted to western novels. This year I walked to that section and picked up Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. It is without a doubt his best known novel. I admit that while I have heard of Zane Grey since I was but a lad, I had never read one of his books before this year. I was surprised, when I read it, that it was so anti-Mormon. He almost seems to go out of his way to run down the church. The book was written about a time, but not during the time, when polygamy was practiced in the church. In the book, Mormons are also depicted as a closed, intolerant group. I can’t imagine that the novel would be as well received today as it was when first published in 1912. If you can get past the severe anti-Mormon speeches you will find the book to be a good tale.

The Secret Life of Words

The Secret Life of Words

I went back and read The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English as the book I had started but not finished. This was my third attempt, and this time I succeeded in finishing the book. It was worth the effort. To be honest, I’m not sure why I couldn’t finish it the first two times that I started it. It is an interesting  book for anyone who enjoys reading about the history of languages. Count me among that group. A large part of the book recounts how various words from other languages have become part of the English vocabulary. I believe it was T.S. Eliot who said that the only languages that don’t change are dead languages. I could be wrong about that since I’m relying on my memories from graduate school. At any rate, English is alive and well.

 

The Retaliators

The Retaliators

From the 1970’s I chose to read The Retaliators by Donald Hamilton. I chose this book in a reaction to the first book in this post. I wanted a reminder that Donald Hamilton had conceived of a tougher, more intelligent, less sentimental character than Jack Reacher decades before the Lee Child books. I’m talking, of course, about Matt Helm (not the very bad movie or television versions of this character). This book was the seventeenth in a series of twenty-seven novels, and was first published in 1976. Some of the latter books in the series have recently been republished. If you haven’t read any of the novels you may enjoy reading about a government agent who is primarily an assassin. Not very likable? Perhaps, but I eagerly read my way through most of the series in the 1960’s and into the 1980’s. I haven’t read all of the books, but plan to if they become available.

Inside the echo chamber

Tags

Old hand - young-ish heart

Old hand – young-ish heart

Some might add “- juvenile mind.” Perhaps. I took this picture of my hand this morning because while we were watching CBS Sunday Morning, Cindy remarked on how old Jane Pauley’s hands looked. I said that I was older than Jane Pauley but still hand young-ish hands. Then I looked down at my hand and almost dropped my coffee cup when I took a close look. I carefully set down my cup and took out my phone to record how wrong I was. Please ignore any sobbing that you may imagine that you hear.

***

One of the gifts I received for Christmas this year was an Echo Dot from Amazon. It is an interesting gift. It is a voice activated “virtual assistant.” I’m not sure why “virtual assistant” is in quotation marks, but that is how it is described on the C-Net website. I’m also not sure why it is called an assistant because so far it hasn’t helped very much. A true assistant would probably ghost write an occasional blog post, but so far I’ve been doing my own writing.

Before I get too far into the meat of this post I must tell you I enjoy personalizing the various alerts on my cell phone and other devices. For instance when Cindy calls me the ring is Lyle Lovett singing “Stand By Your Man.” Email alerts have a male voice saying, “Let’s check the inbox.” By the way, Cindy hates that email alert.

I went to bed the other night with my cell phone on the bedside table. I usually sleep through email alerts, but one came in just as I was falling asleep. I barely noticed it, but then, from the other side of the room, a woman said, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” What the…! I rolled over to look, but nobody was standing there. Then I woke up enough to realize that it had been Alexa, the voice of the Echo. But no one had asked a question, and certainly no one had said, “Alexa, blather blather blather.”

Perhaps Alexa was hearing voices. Perhaps she is paranoid. I have often wondered since I plugged her in if she makes note of everything we say and reports back to her Amazon overlords. I have asked her questions along those lines but she never admits to understanding my questions.

Anyway, I composed myself to return to sleep, and was almost there when another email alert came in. And again I heard Alexa say, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” That’s when I figured out that Alexa doesn’t have the best hearing.

When she heard my phone say, “Let’s,” she thought it had said her name and looked for an answer to “check the inbox.” Since that night I have noticed that Alexa goes on alert when the bedroom TV has a Lexus commercial playing. I’m pretty sure that other things on the TV, and perhaps the radio could set her off.

I have also noticed that Alexa doesn’t know as much as I would like. She is very good about telling me the weather forecast or playing music that is stored on my cell phone. Alexa knows the laws of robotics, but doesn’t know that Isaac Asimov devised them. Finally, I can’t convince her to recite dirty limericks. She still needs some work.

Was yesterday better than today?

January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

I took a few pictures this morning, trying to find something that matches my mood. This seemingly abandoned community center best fits the bill.

***

Cindy and I went out for dinner last night. We went to one of Cindy’s favorite places; and I also like it. Last night’s visit was unlike any other that we’ve had there. The restaurant is part of a chain and I shall not name it here because I’m sure that last night was an aberration. We shall return there.

I should state here that I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. If you find tales of eating meat offensive, please stop reading now. This is the space where, on a worse day, I would make a bad joke using the phrase “make no bones about it.” I’ll spare you.

Usually when we dine at this restaurant I order a chicken dish or a salad of some kind. Last night I was wanting something a bit more substantial so I ordered a steak. It was a ribeye to be exact. Ribeyes are known for their flavor and tenderness due to the marbling.

When our meals arrived, the lad who was serving us asked me to cut into the steak to see if it had been prepared properly. I skewered the meat with my fork and set about cutting the meat. I cut, and I cut, and I cut some more. I sawed on that steak and could not get the blade to penetrate beyond one eighth of a centimeter in depth. I tried to make a joke about it, but I was breathless from the exertion. I checked the knife blade to make sure it had some sort of edge. It did. I would have had more luck cutting that steak with a hammer and cold chisel, or perhaps a table saw.

Finally I move the knife to a different spot on the carcass and tried again. After some work I found success when I dislodged a small portion from the main bit. He asked if it was done enough (cooked medium in my case). “Fine,” said I the people pleaser, never looking at it but forking it into my mouth and started chewing. He smiled and left the table while I continued to chew. And I chewed and chewed and chewed some more, never reducing the size of the bite, just changing it’s somewhat malleable shape. Finally at Cindy’s urging I discretely spat the piece of steak into my napkin.

While I seldom send food back to the kitchen, I felt that I had to since the food was inedible. I cast my eyes about looking for our server. He was nowhere to be seen. But, ah, the shift manager was making the rounds of the tables, smiling and chatting with the customers. I caught her eye and beckoned her over.

“How is everything tonight?” she inquired. She probably knew that I had a complaint since I had requested her attendance at our table, but she continued to smile.

I explained my problem with the steak. She asked how I had wanted it prepared. I know that she expected me to say that I had ordered it well done. Phaw! I haven’t knowingly had a well done steak since leaving the confines of my mother’s kitchen and realizing the true worth of taste buds. For the uninitiated, a well done steak has no flavorful juices, and becomes harder to cut. No, I had ordered it medium.

The manager offered to substitute a different cut of meat or another ribeye. I chose another ribeye. What could go wrong?

They whisked away the offending steak, and in a few minutes the new steak arrived at our table. The manager, who had personally delivered the new steak asked me to cut into it. With some effort I cut into the meat and exclaimed, “Much better.” I was still a people pleaser.

As she left the table, still smiling, I forked a piece of steak into my mouth and commenced chewing. I chewed and I chewed and I chewed, and somewhat irritated I less discretely spat the meat onto the edge of the plate. I tried a second piece, and a third with no better result. I had wanted to make a joke about horse meat, but upon reflection believed it was really a horse’s saddle.

Cindy asked to try a piece of the steak in order to judge if my teeth were somehow blunted, but she had the same chewing experience. Rather than have me send another steak back to the kitchen, she asked me to get it in a to-go box and take it home. She promises me that she can get it tender enough to be edible. We’ll see.

We asked our server to bring us a to-go box. As we waited for him to return, the manager passed our table, smiled at me, and gave me a thumbs-up. I smiled back. Even in defeat I am a people pleaser.

As I said earlier, we will return to this restaurant, scene of many good meals. We have both vowed, however, to never order their ribeye steak again.

Striking Matches – A Frictional Account

Tags

,

The furniture in question

The furniture in question

One of my favorite gifts this past Christmas (confession: they are all my favorites) is a simple set of various incense aromas with a holder/burner. It came in a wooden box with a clear glass, or plastic (I haven’t checked yet) cover. It is very nice and fits on top of a new piece of furniture that holds most of my jazz and pop vocal CDs, as well as all of my DVDs of musical performances. If I sound proud of that piece of furniture it is because I put it together without attaching any of the shelves upside down. I think it was a first for me.

I don’t know about you, but when lighting incense I often wish that I had a functioning third hand. No, I don’t have a non-functioning third hand. When I light incense I need one hand to hold the incense. But I also need a hand to hold the matchbook and a third hand to strike the match. I suppose that I could light a candle that is in a holder and then use it as the flame for the incense, but that seems like a step too many.

I don’t remember when I burned my first stick or cone of incense. It was probably when I was in college, but it might have been when I was in the army. Often when I burn incense and play a jazz album I think of our barracks when I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany.That may be a false memory, but it seems. real to me.

I’ve written about false memories over the years. The first time was early in the life of Classical Gasbag. I don’t think about it often, but now as I look back at my younger days, I sometimes wonder if I’m remembering a truth or what I wish were the truth. How much have I blurred my mental line between fact and hopeful fiction?

I would be perfectly happy if some of my memories, the ones of which I am ashamed, were a fiction. But then, if they were a fiction, why in the world would I be making up such dreadful things and blushing at the thought of them? I makes me believe that I actually did say and/or do those things.

Are you thoroughly confused yet? I’m going to stop before I confuse myself.

If you have any memories that you know are false, or suspect are false, feel free to share them. You can either leave a comment or fill in the form below and submit it.

Christmas gifts to warm the heart

Tags

,

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

This is a picture that I took on the day of the most recent N-N-1 back in October. But I took it earlier than the appointed time, so I couldn’t use it. Seconds before I took this picture, there were another four turtles on the rock, but they all slipped into the water before I could aim, zoom and take the picture. This stalwart stayed.

***

I love to receive gift cards for anyplace where I can buy books. What could be more fun than aimless wandering through a bookstore, picking up books, reading the flyleaves, and choosing an item or two for which somebody else is footing the bill. I know. I get a warm glow just thinking about it. It is almost as good as a nerdy high school student daydreaming about being seduced by the uapproachable cheerleader. It is exhilarating. But in the case of the gift card, dreams do come true; and it is less embarrassing is someone else finds out.

I’ll bet you have guessed one of the things that I got for Christmas. No. It wasn’t a cheerleader. I gave up on that daydream decades ago. It was gift cards. But Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards warmed my heart and sped up my pulse. I have been to the Amazon web site and have ordered books. And I have been to Barnes & Noble, searching the aisles for books to read for my reading challenge.

While in the B&N store I always start with the books that are on sale. I am always looking for a deal. I was looking through the books in a section where everything was marked down 50%. There between a book on cooking with beer and something Star Trek-ish, or perhaps Star Wars-ish, I noticed a book titled “iPhones Made Easy.”  That seemed like an interesting title. I picked up the book and flipped it open. It was around 250 pages in length. Really? Two hundred and fifty pages for the easy stuff? Can you imagine the size of the book that wasn’t easy? I’ll stick to my android, thank you.

I left the sale area, having found nothing that interested me, and went back to the fiction area. There was so much to choose from. There were so many authors whom I enjoy reading. But part of having a reading challenge is to force myself to read authors that I haven’t tried before. It usually works out that around 1/3 to 1/2 of the books I read each year are by new (to me) authors. So on this trip I wanted to pick something new. I chose a book, limiting myself to one so that I would have a balance left on the card, and came home.

I’ll be finishing that book when I finish this post. You’ll read about it when I post my first update three books from now. I hope that you come back to read it. Until then, let me know what you are reading, either through a comment or by using the form below which will remain confidential. I’m always looking for suggestions.

Tying up 2016

Tags

,

An admonition

An admonition

I took this picture while at the Grand Canyon in September. If you want to read the large print on the sign as a life lesson, feel free. I like that they point out that the snakes are almost always harmless. Perhaps that should be our life lesson.

***

I not only want to tie up 2016, I also want to beat it into submission. But I’m not sure to what I want it to submit. Maybe I just want 2016 to admit that it was less than a stellar year. It was more like a black hole because it sucked the life out of so much. Hmmm. I guess that I am not displaying a positive state of mind. I need to work on that.

The following are germs of ideas about which I planned to write posts, but I never seemed to get around to it. Here are those germs.

***

I realize that while I have told you in earlier posts that I did not achieve my Reading Challenge goal of reading twenty different types of books, I have only related sixteen of the seventeen that I did read. The seventeenth book was Shooting In The Dark by Carolyn Hougan. It fulfilled the requirement to read a book published in the 1980’s. It id a thriller along the lines of something that Alfred Hitchcock would turn into a movie. I enjoyed it.

I also want to reassure you that I read more than seventeen books. I read multiples of some types of books, such as mysteries and thrillers. The challenge fell apart when it came to a few other types of books. I hope to show more resolve in that area in 2017.

***

I have spent a lot of time thinking this year. I must admit that it hasn’t been much in the way of thinking “deep thoughts.” No, most of my thinking was about politics or even less important things. For instance, I started wondering when, in the past, we made the switch from calling a class of diseases Venereal Disease (VD) to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)?And why did we make that switch? A quick Google brought up a 1981 article in The American Journal of Nursing by Charles E. Campbell and R. Jeffrey Herten titled VD to STD: Redefining Venereal Disease. The title pretty much explains it, VD had been redefined. The medical profession had loosened the definition to include new ways of contracting these illnesses. I’m not sure why that warranted a change in name, but I’m not a medical person.

***

I have decided that in 2016 many of the local retail businesses have spent time and  money putting their front line staff through customer service training. Specifically they have been taught that every person, upon entering the establishment, must be greeted and shown a toothy smile. In addition, any staff person who interacts with a customer must be effusive in their happiness over dealing with the customer and must show an abundance of good will towards the customer. Very few of these staff people can carry it off without seeming phony, but at least they try.

***

In one motel in which we stayed on our trip to Las Vegas, I am almost positive that the previous occupant of my bed had been a 500 pound cannon ball. Thank goodness we were only there for one very long night.

While at the pool at our timeshare in Las Vegas I was worried that if one of the people who was at, but not in the pool, entered it, there would be a serious displacement of water, and that the whole pool area would be flooded. Thankfully they decided to stay dry.

Believe me, I am not weight-shaming anybody in particular. I have my own problems with weight.

***

I like to have a new wall calendar each year for my office. Usually Cindy buys me one as a Christmas gift. Sometimes I also buy one. Occasionally I will get one in the mail from someone who is trying to sell me something. In the past few years I have waited until after Christmas before purchasing a calendar because if I buy one and Cindy also buys one, I know that I’ll be hanging Cindy’s. It is often the small lessons you learn early in a marriage that serves you well through the years. Before I retired I would hang Cindy’s at home and the one I bought would go up in my office or cubicle at work.

This year Cindy did not buy me a calendar. I wasn’t sure that I would find a calendar I liked, so I was prepared to dig into my pile of old calendars (no, I don’t throw them away), and pull out the 2006 calendar and use it again. But I was lucky and found a calendar with art work that I like, and bought it for 50% off the original price.

***

And then I have the one-line notes:

I can remember when backpacks were only worn by boy scouts and men in the military.

Are you offended when politicians don’t curse?

Anger is a killer of reasoned thought.

Why does no one confuse my writing with that of Salmon Rushdie?

OK, that last one is a joke. Still…maybe in 2017.

2017 Reading Challenge

Tags

,

The road home #3

The road home #3

This picture is the third that I took on my way home to Lafayette after my mother was buried in Rolling Prairie. As you can tell, I do my best to avoid cities. Not that that there is much in the way of cities between the two places.

***

Well, I failed to meet the goals of my self-inflicted Reading Challenge again in 2016. I read only seventeen of the twenty types of books that I set in the challenge. Has that brought my spirits down? Yes, a bit. Is it deterring me from trying again this year? Not a whit! In fact in 2017 I’ll be shooting to read 21 different types of books. The twenty-one types are:

  1. A book by an author you have never read before.
  2. A biography or autobiography.
  3. A book recommended by a friend.
  4. A romance novel or a western.
  5. A mystery or thriller.
  6. A book on a historical subject.
  7. A book of science fiction or fantasy.
  8. A graphic novel.
  9. A book of short stories or essays.
  10. One of a series of books.
  11. A book previously started but never finished.
  12. A book that has been the basis of a movie or television series, or vice versa.
  13. A book written in each decade that I have been alive, so one in the 1940’s.
  14. A book written in the 1950’s.
  15. A book written in the 1960’s.
  16. A book written in the 1970’s.
  17. A book written in the 1980’s.
  18. A book written in the 1990’s.
  19. A book written in the 2000’s.
  20. A book written in the 2010’s.
  21. And a book of any kind.

The challenge begins on January 1. As in all of my challenges, you are invited to play along with me. I don’t take myself so seriously that I don’t see this as play. If I did, I would be weighed down with self-recrimination over past failures to achieve my goal.

If you want to play, you have a few days to start picking your books. I would be interested to know how you do. I already have my first three books in mind; and I’m eager to start. I’ll give updates on my progress as the year goes along.

Happy reading!