Norm’s Reading Challenge Update #4

Autumn is here
Autumn is here

I took this picture earlier today. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the green leaves are losing their luster. Soon they will be changing to the browns, golds, oranges and reds of true autumn. And soon I’ll be raking and blowing leaves from our yard.


It has been quite some time since I gave an update on the reading challenge I set for myself. I will admit to a long dry spell when I couldn’t seem to finish a book. I’m going to blame it on the good weather that we’ve had in Indiana since the rain storms passed earlier this year. Good weather outside is not conducive to reading inside. But I have finally finished three books since my last update.

Against the Odds
Against the Odds

The first is Against The Odds by Kat Martin. Reading this book fulfilled the challenge to read a romance novel. Let me start by saying that I almost never read books that label themselves as Romance. This book purported to be a danger filled mystery as well as a Romance. There was danger, but the mystery wasn’t all that mysterious, and the romance seemed more like lust to my mind. I guess I’m not a fan of the genre.



Go Set A Watchman
Go Set A Watchman

The next book was a late addition to my list. It is Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It was a much appreciated gift from Cindy. It fulfills the challenge of reading something from this decade. It has been a controversial publication, upsetting many fans of her To Kill A Mockingbird. I have to admit that I have never read Mockingbird, though I have seen the movie. Mockingbird was too recent a book to be included as reading in high school when I was growing up, and for whatever reason it was not included in any of the college literature courses that I took. Just my luck. Actually it was lucky because it allowed me to read Watchman with undistorted eyes. I saw the character of Atticus as an old man who exhibited prejudices that he had learned as a child. He had been able to put them aside as an adult during the time of Mockingbird, but they were back in his old age when his thought processes weren’t as clear as when he was younger. That seems perfectly normal to me. This book is a good read and I would recommend it.

Elizabeth: Virgin Queen
Elizabeth: Virgin Queen

This next book, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen by Phillippa Jones, fulfills the challenge of finishing a book that I had previously started but gave up on. I had two other books that I tried for a second time but gave up on for a second time before I finished this book. I was never quite sure why I put this book down before, because it is interesting. It deals with Queen Elizabeth I of England and the rumors surrounding her virginity. I don’t want to give anything away, but more than one rumor is investigated. I will state, however, that there are no rumors of her copulating with aliens from outer space. At least there are none in this book.

Well, I have four more books to read before the end of the year to complete my challenge. I don’t know how easy or hard that will be. I have to consider that if I take of the NaNoWriMo challenge again this year, the month of November will be taken up with it. By the way, right now I do plan on doing NaNoWriMo again, so wish me luck with the reading.

A duke’s mixture #2

Another view of the stream bed
Another view of the stream bed

I took this picture on the same day as the picture from my September 24th post. This is just a different view of the same stream bed.


Finally I’m ready to offer you a few small items that I thought were worth sharing, but didn’t deserve a post each to itself. These items are sitting in my phone’s notes section, and I want to clear them out. That being said:

1) I seldom use a shopping cart when I go to a big box store, because I think that they breed over buying. Plus I always know in advance the things that I want to buy. I always try to get a basket that will comfortably hold a few items. Wal-Mart, at least locally, doesn’t supply said baskets. If you want to purchase more than a handful of items, you must use a shopping cart. That is one reason that I shop at Wal-Mart as seldom as possible.

2) Sometimes I am forced to use a shopping cart, as when I am buying liquid chlorine for the swimming pool. I buy it by the case, usually two, so that I don’t have to go to the store often. I noticed that when I went to the Meijer store to buy chlorine the last time that the shopping carts had cup holders on them. This, of course, is a subtle encourager to buy something to drink as you walk through the store. Most stores now allow customers to eat produce and other products as they shop, and hope that they pay for it on their way out. If I had tried that as a child I would have been escorted from the store by my parents and discipline would have ensued. Today you see adults doing it. It is another change in our culture; we allow everyone who craves instant gratification to have their way. I see some logic in profit driven businesses doing this, but I can’t say that I am a fan. I live with it.

3) Cindy and I were shopping the other day and I noticed a mother and son having a brief argument. I would say that the son was between two and three years old. He was sitting on the floor and was clutching some item tightly; I couldn’t tell what it was. He, of course, was saying “I want it!” His mother was saying, “We’re not buying it.” I think she meant, “I’m not buying it.” The lad said again, louder, “I WANT IT!.” The mother said, “You don’t even know what it is.” The boy said, “I WANT IT. IT’S BLUE!”  It looks like another instant gratification/impulse buyer has been spawned.

A duke’s mixture

By the bank of Wildcat Creek
By the bank of Wildcat Creek

I wanted to get a picture of Wildcat Creek a few weeks ago, and went to a public landing spot to get a good view. The view wasn’t all that good, but these pretty wildflowers caught my eye. I don’t know what they are, so if you do, please enlighten me.


I had originally thought to title this post “this and that,” which I have used before. But I like change, so I wanted to title it something else. Then I remembered my dad often use the phrase “a duke’s mixture” when he was talking about a mix of different things. It is sort of like Mulligan Stew (another of his favorite phrases), but can be applied to non-food mixtures as well.

Curious person that I am, I decided to Google “duke’s mixture” to find out which duke was being referenced and why. I supposed that it was another English duke; remember the Duke of Sandwich?…wait. He was an earl, not a duke. But those English titled guys like to name things for themselves or for their monarch (suckups that they are). But I was receptive that the duke might be from another country.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was an American Duke, James Buchanan Duke. Yep, the same Duke who gave his name to Duke University in North Carolina. The man who made a fortune selling tobacco in all its glorious forms. You may have heard of Bull Durham tobacco and cigarettes. That also came from Duke’s tobacco empire. Of course when I think of Bull Durham I also think of the Kevin Costner/Susan Sarandon/Tim Robbins film. Cindy and I went to that movie on our first date. I remember being embarrassed by the language in that movie. The language is mild by today’s standards, but I thought that the good Christian woman I was with would be offended. But I digress.

Duke’s Mixture was a blend of loose tobacco that was sold in small white bags and used by those who rolled their own cigarettes. It was THE cowboy cigarette before the Marlboro Man came along smoking pre-rolled filtered cigarettes. It doesn’t seem quite as masculine when you think of it that way.

Anyway, instead of writing a post about a number of subjects, I’ve ended up writing about the title. Perhaps I can do a Part 2 that isn’t just about one thing. Not that this post is.

My morning at the opthalmologist’s office

Stream by the ballfield
Stream by the ball field

This stream runs past a couple of little league baseball fields. We actually had to ford the stream to get to a parking area. We were there a couple of months ago to watch our granddaughter, Maely, pitch for her team.


I went in for my six month check up at the ophthalmologist’s office on Tuesday. I go there for follow-ups on the AMD in my eyes. As has been true since I got injections in my left eye four years ago, there has been no deterioration in my eyesight. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I arrived at the eye clinic at 10:45 a.m., fifteen minutes early to check in. I like arriving early because sometimes it gets you back to see the doctor quicker. That didn’t happen on Tuesday. The waiting area was already full of people. I checked in and was told to have a seat; it wouldn’t be long.

As I sat down I noticed, as I always do when I go to the clinic, the waiting room was full of people with gray hair. I fit right in, though I prefer to think of myself as having a very, very, very, verrrrry light shade of brown hair. The things that we tell ourselves! I only saw three people in the waiting area who had hair color other than gray, and they appeared to have self-administered, poorly done dye jobs. I know that one woman’s hair was a shade of orange that doesn’t exist in nature.

There were other signs of age. At least three people who entered after I sat down were using walkers. Very few people could walk without hobbling or shuffling their feet. I swear that one man creaked when he walked back to the exam area. Perhaps I was wrong, and he was wearing new shoes that needed to be broken in.

Two women were chatting. One said to the other, “I tried to find you on the Internet last week.” She didn’t explain why she was looking, just that she had been. Then she pulled out her iPad and started showing pictures to the other woman. At one point she said, “I don’t know where some of these came from, and I don’t know how to get them off.” Later she was naming the people in a picture and said, “That’s Jesus in the middle.” She didn’t use the Hispanic pronunciation so I assume that she had some powerful people at her party.

Twenty-five minutes after I sat down I was called to the exam area. There I was led to a room where they went over my file to see if my medications were the same, checked my blood pressure, puffed air into my eyes to check for glaucoma, tested to see if my eyesight had changed, and dilated my eyes. Then they took me to a dim waiting area to let my vision fully blur. After about fifteen minutes they called me across the hallway and took pictures of the inside of my eyes and put me back in the waiting area. I waited there for quite a while.

As I waited, a woman and another whom appeared to be her daughter came in and sat down. They started talking about people they knew. For the most part it was boring so I didn’t pay much attention. Then they started in on a man they knew, and they both started laughing. The older woman said that the man might as well be a monk because he felt he had to marry any woman with whom he had sex. Then she said, “My daddy always said “Love ’em and leave ’em.'” The daughter said, “Yeah. Take ’em to the movies, love ’em, and leave ’em.” So, is that the way they expect to be treated?

Finally, around an hour after I was called to the exam area, they came and got me to see the ophthalmologist. The nurse sat me in the exam chair and as she left the room she said the doctor would be right in. Half an hour later he bustled in, showed me the pictures they had taken and compared them to earlier pictures, looked in my eyes, told me that I was doing fine, and said he would see me in six months. That took about ten minutes.

If it weren’t for the people in the waiting areas, going would be very boring.

Shopping for a pair of shoes

My new shoes
My new shoes

When you want to buy a pair of shoes you might well go to a shoe store. I have done that; but probably only a few times since they stopped having the X-Ray machines available to look at your feet and give you uncalled for levels of radiation. No, I tend to go to department stores and use their shoe departments. That was my plan yesterday.

I needed to buy a new pair of shoes for walking, so I went to the mall to find a bargain. I found a bargain, but that wasn’t all. I found something to write about. Hence, this post.

I parked my car and entered Kohl’s, one of the anchor stores. They usually have a pretty good selection of shoes, so I started there. There wasn’t much to choose from. I found one shoe on display that I thought that I could be happy with, and since no sales staff were working in that department (these stores seldom have staff working in them) I made a mental note of the style number and started looking through the boxes for a matching number in my size. There was only one, so I pulled it from the bottom of the stack (my size is always on the bottom) and peeked inside to make sure it was the correct style. It was correct, but there was only one shoe in the box. “Hmm,” thought I, “perhaps the shoe on display came from this box.” A quick check made me believe that my solution was incorrect, because both the display shoe and the shoe in the box were designed for a right foot. That made me wonder if a peg-legged pirate had bought a left shoe, or if someone is out walking around in two right shoes. Insert your own joke about dancing. 

I wanted to check the next aisle to see if there was another style shoe that I might like; but the aisle was blocked by a woman who was standing, silently staring at the boxes of shoes while her young son raised holy hell, having a tantrum over something. I saw that and quickly retreated.

I decided to walk over to Sears, another anchor store, since I had good luck buying shoes there in the past. I was lucky because there were no screaming children. I was also lucky because I quickly found a pair of shoes that appealed to me. Of course they were in a box on the bottom of the stack, but they were my size.

Now Sears has cut down on the number of cash register stations that they staff on a full-time basis, so to check out I had to take the shoe box to the ladies’ clothing department. When I got there I found one cashier on duty and two women in line in front of me, and another woman standing resolutely at a cash register where no one was working.

The woman who was checking out was using a number of gift cards to pay for her transaction, and the cashier, who appeared to be new, was having difficulty with the cards. It didn’t help that the customer was trying to tell her how to handle the transaction. Meanwhile, the woman at the empty cash register stood, looking straight ahead.

I had time to observe the woman standing in line ahead of me. She was wearing a black jacket, black trousers, and a white blouse. All of the visible items of clothing had price tags on them. She was carrying another set of clothes that looked identical to what she was wearing. Meanwhile, the woman dealing with the cashier finally finished her transaction and walked away with two large bags of clothing. Also meanwhile, the woman at the empty cash register stood, looking straight ahead.

As the woman ahead of me walked up to clerk, she leaned in and whispered so that everyone could hear, “I want to wear these clothes out of the store. I brought along another set that you can ring up.” Sensing that this transaction might also be problematic, and because more people were lining up behind me, the cashier got on the house intercom and asked for assistance. That was good, because soon another cashier arrived and started working with the woman who was at the other register.

The original cashier actually had no trouble ringing up the woman ahead of me, though I know she wanted to check out the large bag that probably held the shopper’s original clothing, to check if they were covered in blood…or maybe chocolate, or to see if there was yet another set of matching clothes. The shopper handed over the requisite amount of cash to pay for the clothes while fumbling with her smart phone. The cashier took the cash and gave the woman her receipt, along with a half-dozen coupons that also printed out. As the shopper accepted the receipt with one hand she showed the cashier the screen of her phone and asked if she could get the 30% discount that was available on the coupon she showed her. The cashier looked at the screen, voided the previous transaction, and tried to scan in the barcode that was on the screen. It didn’t work. She tried entering the information manually. It didn’t work. At that moment a third cashier walked up and the original cashier asked her how to enter the information. The third cashier looked at the phone’s screen and said, “That’s from J.C. Penny, we can’t accept it.” The original cashier started re-ringing the merchandise from the voided transaction.

Meanwhile, the second cashier was ringing up about a dozen pieces of ladies’ apparel as the shopper stood, looking straight ahead. The third cashier beckoned to me so that she could ring up my shoe purchase. She tried to scan the barcode from the shoe box into her register, but the scanner wasn’t working. So she took it and gave it a hearty rap on the counter, which caused the it to start working.

Meanwhile, the second cashier finished the transaction with the woman who had been staring. That shopper took the receipt and stuffed it into a large bag of clothing. As she pulled her hand out of the bag, she brought with it an orange sweater and said, “I changed my mind, I don’t want this.” The cashier told her that she would need the newly printed receipt in order to refund the shopper’s money. The shopper started rummaging in the bag, looking for the receipt she had just buried.

My transaction was finished, thank goodness, and as I turned to go, the original shopper who had been using gift cards, stepped to the end of the line with another article of clothing that she wished to purchase. Is the ladies’ department always like this?



An Oxpecker pecks again

Back yard devastation
Back yard devastation

I took this picture through a dirty second story window. I did my best to clean up the picture, but I’m not sure that it is a good enough job. Read on to see what it is all about.

Because Cindy felt that there was too much shade on the pool (just to the left of the picture), she set one of her oxpeckers the task of alleviating that supposed problem. He hasn’t finished yet, but this is his progress as of around noon today. I had to force myself to look out of one of our windows to take this picture. I’ve closed all possible curtains and blinds to keep from seeing the devastation to the trees.

It doesn’t help me that we are experiencing a power outage as I write these words using a pen and paper (what a concept!). I’m destroying my hearing by using my MP3 player at top volume to shut out the sound of the chainsaw. I’m also hoping that the music will help lighten my mood. The first song is helping, It’s the Moody Blues. At least the tempo is helping. The lyrics are kind of a downer.

OK, the next song by Lou Rawls is definitely a downer. It fits my mood, but I was really hoping for something happier. I may need to rethink having the player on a random shuffle setting.

The damned MP3 player is conspiring to lock me into a foul mood. Even Linda Ronstadt is in on it. At least my mood isn’t bad because of a failed romance. Those days are thankfully far in the past.

Two hours later and the power is back on. According to the power company, the problem was about a block from our house. If there had been power lines near our back yard I know who I would have blamed. I guess that I’ve got the rant out of my system, but it will be some time before I can bear to go into the yard, or even set on our shade free deck.

Here is an idea


This is not the graveyard that I reference in this post. I couldn’t quickly find a photo of that one. Instead, I selected this picture from an album of graveyard images on Flickr. I just hope that I haven’t used this photo in Classical Gasbag in the past.


So I had an idea this morning, and I want to get it down while it is still fresh in my mind. Some details need to be worked out, some laws (domestic and international) need to be investigated, and I should probably see if there is a way to make money from this idea. Please read on. Oh. Before you go to the next paragraph, let me assure you that I am in excellent health.

The idea grew out of a short video that I took with my phone this morning. I was driving past a very small family graveyard and pointed my camera out of the window. It isn’t a good video, though you can hear Stan Rogers singing “Northwest Passage” in the background, so unless I can get a good still image from the video, I’ll have to go through files of graveyard photos to see if I have an image of the place.

Anyway, I viewed the video when I got home and the motion brought on my idea. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I want to be cremated. My original thought was to have the cremains placed in a Mason Jar so that Cindy could take and display me everywhere she goes. Then she could, at an appropriate time, pass me down to Trina. I suppose that if Cindy wished to, she could also be cremated and have her ashes mixed with mine.

Why stop there? Why not divide the cremains (I almost typed spoils) and mail bits and pieces of myself to friends and family? Then they could do what they wanted to do with me. For example, they could put me in their compost heap, or feed me to their African Violets, or mix me into a can of paint and put me on their living room wall, or…well let your imagination run wild.

Of course I haven’t checked to see if there are any laws restricting the mailing of cremains. What if it was legal in the U.S., but illegal in India? Would my idea go all to smash? Is this already being done? As I said, more research needs to be done.

If you have any ideas you would like to share, feel free to comment. If you want to invest in this idea, please use the form below to contact me.

By the way, I haven’t shared this idea with Cindy. I know that if I did she would just shake her head and give me a look of disgust. She needs to lighten up.

It just doesn’twork

Somewhere in the country
Somewhere in the country

I took this picture in Tippecanoe County…unless I was in Montgomery County. I don’t really recall where I was. I know that I took the picture around three weeks ago. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.


A short while ago I shared some political/topical songs from the 1960’s with a friend of mine. They were songs that I enjoyed back then, and still enjoy today. I knew that my friend would not enjoy them as much as I, but I hoped that she would listen and understand my political feelings when I was a youth.

Upon reflection, I see how silly I was. After all, my friend does not live in the U.S., nor has she, I believe, ever visited here. Also, she is very young, and wasn’t born until decades after the songs were new and relevant. What could I do?

“Hmmm,” thought I, “I can write out an explanation of the social, cultural and political references made in the songs. To make sure that I could do it, and to be prepared to offer explanations if asked, I took one of the songs and wrote an explanation. I chose “The John Birch Society” by Michael Brown, as sung by The Chad Mitchell Trio. I printed the song lyrics on left side of an 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet of paper, and set to work putting my explanations on the right side of the sheet.

I tried to keep the explanations as brief as possible so that I wouldn’t have to add another page. That was my first mistake. I came to realize that what was so obvious to me would need a lot more explanation than a one half page précis. But even if I expanded the explanations, it wouldn’t work.

After mulling it over, I came to realize that even if I wrote a spectacular explanation that answered all possible questions, it would not work, because I couldn’t take my friend back to be in the moment. The song worked for me and others because it didn’t need to be explained. We were there. I cannot describe the cultural/political atmosphere, for lack of a better word, that we were experiencing without telling our views about the Cold War, Indochina, McCarthyism, and a ton of other topics. It was all part of whole that can’t be broken apart and then expect to tell the same story. I can’t recreate that, though I wish that I could. It just doesn’t work.

Side trip

At the Shaker Village
At the Shaker Village

I ran an errand for Cindy yesterday, returning some books to a publisher. Don’t ask; it’s a boring story. The trip was to Lexington, Kentucky, which is about 250 miles from here. There was a lot of road (re)construction going on. Well it is that time of year. I don’t believe that I have ever traveled through Louisville, Kentucky when there wasn’t road construction being done on Interstate Highway 65. Yesterday was no exception.

But that isn’t the thrust of this post. I made a side trip on the way back, and stopped at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village. Of course there aren’t any Shakers in the Village, but it appears that there once was quite a community in that location. As many of you know, the Shaker religion is an offshoot of the Quaker religion. Shakers are best known for their furniture, communal living, gender equality, the hymn “Simple Gifts,” and celibacy. Nobody is born into the church, so other means must be found to convert people to the religion. It is a tough sell, and has led to the dwindling of the flock.

When I arrived at The Village (not Patrick McGoohan’s Village in The Prisoner), there was a sign that declared it was Quiet Monday. In practical terms that meant that there was no admission fee. I believe that it also meant that there were no guided tours, but I could be wrong about that. The gift shop, however, was open. After wandering the grounds for a while and taking some pictures, I went in to the shop.

There were some items that you would expect to see, such as oval boxes, hand-made(?) brooms, wooden children’s toys, and some canned goods among other things. I was surprised to see a number of variations on Shaker Salsa. Who would have guessed that such a simple order of people would have developed such a fondness for spicy food. By the way, when I Googled Shaker Salsa, I got some disturbing results, so if you are family friendly, I would advise you to not look it up and click to see the YouTube video. Believe the warning that it may not be suitable for all audiences.

While perusing the tags on many of the items, I found that very few were produced in Kentucky, let alone by Shakers. But despite my cynical nature, I enjoyed my side trip, and I picked up some fruit jam for Cindy and a couple of post cards for myself. Who mails post cards anymore?