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composite drawlings

Occasional political observations, occasional meanderings, occasional chairs and other mentally abused furniture

Updated: 2018-03-19T14:03:34.352-05:00


All the Wrong Lessons


If history teaches us anything, I would say that it teaches our society -- at best - very little.

In reading the (somewhat lengthy) introduction to Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, the editor,  Frederick Starr ("Formerly Professor of Anthroplogy at the University of Chicago") describes the lengths the Roman elite went to, in order to properly feed their guests. In doing so, he makes it clear that, in our own modern age, much of what we eat – flavors, sauces, prepartion techniques – has direct ties to the Romans, and their Greek slave cooks.

He also points out that this slave-dependent society meant that labor was cheap, and that the Roman middle class, such as it was, usually lived at a lower level of access to many things – especially foods – than household slaves did. This, of course, led to ill feelings between the classes (to say the least!). When it was evident to the entire of a city that a few were enjoying imported foods with exotic seasonings and rich, flavorful sauces while everybody else was suffering with the ancient equivalent of Top Ramen and an occasional boiled egg, one might expect some people to demand that "there ought to be a law".

I came across this passage, describing the official response to class envy over that very common brand of conspicuous consumption (emphasis mine):

During the reign of Cæsar and Augustus severe laws were passed, fixing the sums to be spent for public and private dinners and specifying the edibles to be consumed. 
These laws classified gastronomic functions with an ingenious eye for system, professing all the time to protect the public’s morals and health; but they were primarily designed to replenish the ever-vanishing contents of the Imperial exchequer and to provide soft jobs for hordes of enforcers.
The amounts allowed to be spent for various social functions were so ridiculously small in our own modern estimation that we may well wonder how a Roman host could have ever made a decent showing at a banquet. However, he and the cooks managed somehow.

Does this taxing and restricting use of perishables, to make the hoi polloi feel better about themselves, sound familiar?

But, wait. There's more:
How did they do it?...

Difficile est satyram non scribere! To make a long story short: The Roman host just broke the law, that’s all. Indeed, those who made the laws were first to break them.

In other words, laws were for the little people.

We really are learning all the wrong lessons from ancient Rome, aren't we?

Lesson learned


Today I was reminded of the hazards of sleeping late...

When I got out at first light to take my morning constitutional, I was ahead of most people, so I could walk in the street without worrying I'd disrupt automobile traffic. Today, I walked the city's uneven sidewalks, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- between an upraised square and basic laws of physics, I will be running out of acetaminophen and Myoflex this week.

Sum total human damage: scraped palms, scraped and bleeding knee, scraped cheek (yes, I did an actual, literal faceplant), slightly sprained right elbow and wrist, and popped shoulder (it does that. It took less than a second to put it right), all of which will provide me with hours of grumbles and some added color, tomorrow, but not much more than that.

Also, I scratched my favorite cheaters. Unlike me, their scraped surface means a prognosis of death.

On the plus side, I made my spectacular pratfall in front of a witness who *actually stopped and got out of his vehicle* to check on me! He waited until he was sure I could make the walk home, before he went on to his destination. I love small-town people!

But tomorrow, when I go walking, I will either go much earlier again, or find another stretch of sidewalk to venture down. Also, the cane is coming back out of the corner...for safety's sake.

Vocabulary Cop on Patrol


I am judging you

I know it's been a long while since I posted anything here. It's not for lack of time or interest, but a failure to focus which kept me away.

I'm easily distracted by all sorts of small things. (It's why I have more or less constant adult supervision.) I'm also, therefore, easily irritated by small things.
Take, for example, vocabulary use. Like the Grammar Nazi, I take umbrage at laziness in applying the standard tools of communication. And, under normal circumstances, I will leap upon the offender at the drop of the first apostrophe, the first obvious malapropism.

This year, however, something began as a niggling disquiet, and only recently have I found it to be an honest-to-Roget hair shirt, sending me snarling from the room.

My issue? The increasing use of the term, "abdicating responsibility" for people who fail to perform their duties, when context implies no stated intent. The word they're looking for is "abrogating".

In the dictionary, the two mean almost the same thing. The difference, though subtle, is enormous in context. To abdicate is to formally step aside, with stated intention that one will no longer perform the assigned duties. To abrogate is to evade.

Abdication is public announcement that you will not accept the duties, or even the role. This generally allows the affected parties to find a replacement for you, to fulfill your duties. Abrogation is to accept the title publicly, but just not allow yourself to be bothered with the terms of the contract (implied or written). A government agent who announces he will not accept a title of office he would be entitled to, under normal circumstances, abdicates. But if that same official takes the title, and then proceeds to draw a paycheck while doing none of the actual work of the job, he abrogates. Abdication of responsibility can be honorable. Abrogation...not so much.

Call me an angry old pedant, if you will, but I just want communication to be as clear and refined as is humanly possible -- not fancy, just lacking smoke and smudge.

Just Stop With the World Apologies Already


Note: I posted this to my Facebook timeline earlier today, & enough people asked permission to share it that I've brought it here to my cobwebby blog, as well.

To all the people who were so desperate to see Hillary win: please stop apologizing to the rest of the  world for the election of Donald Trump. You helped it happen. You chose the worst possible candidate to lead your party (outside, possibly, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi), meanwhile looking the other way while evidence stacked up as to how she and her boss destabilized the world with their inept and/or crooked policies.

The POTUS you gleefully elected these last two cycles enabled both the expansion of corruption in our federal government and the escalation of racial mistrust and rage throughout our cities, culminating in riots and murder.

You looked the other way when every other racial and social group went out of its way to savage the middle class working white guy.

You supported the passage of laws which stifled free expression of religion (because, you claimed, "intolerance must not be permitted." How tolerant of you to not tolerate somebody's differing beliefs). You forced people to pay out of their hard-earned wages for the products of your own excess.

You encouraged members of your element to menace those who voted against you, even going so far as to publish addresses for the homes of private citizens -- and their children! -- who had expressed differing views, for all the world to harass.

Had you been capable of the same tolerance you demanded of others, you might, today, have no cause for trepidation from a backlash.

Had you supported a percievably honest-ish candidate, such as Bernie Sanders, you might not be crying in your trendy little vintner's cabernet, tonight.

No exalted platform awaits you for your sactimony.  You helped build this house. You get to live in it with the rest of us.

There had better be a boy and several human-sized arthropods in each one


In my mailbox recently was an advertisement from one of my favorite cooking sites (their recipes are usually not entirely about exotic ingredients and three-day preparations). Now, I know that many of the items they promote are, to put it mildly, a little outside my price range, so seeing a pretty mortar and pestle going for $65 doesn't shock me.

However, their special was six New England peaches for $31 plus $8 shipping and handling.

For those of you too lazy to do math any more, that's six dollars and fifty cents per peach. I can get a whole peck of good pie apples, three pounds of fresh grapes, a dozen oranges, or two pounds of fresh bing cherries for the price of one peach.

The ad promised that said peaches would be large, juicy, and full of flavor.  But at $6.50 per globe, I'd be looking at the bottom of the shipping crate to see if Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker were squished into it. Anything less than full Roald-Dahl-scaled impressive, and I'd rather fork out that kind of cash on my own gol-durned peach tree.

Come to think of it, maybe that's what I'll ask for, when my birthday rolls around…we need to take out the dying crabapples, & find a proper replacement. And there'd be fresh peaches every summer and homemade pie very year for the rest of my life.

Mmm…peach pie. Any pie.

Dang it! Now I'm going to have to bake something I shouldn't eat.

Meanwhile, I'm going to reread that awesome book, and dream of trans-oceanic fruit flights.

Back Off, Boogaloo


I wonder if this bumblebee knows Winnie the Pooh?

I heard you the first 20,000 times you said it


This is to every Trump stumper whose sole argument for the conservatives to cast aside their principles and vote for their man is this : because Hillary.

You have repeated this, as you say, ad nauseam (when you had the wherewithal to use the Latin, let alone spell it correctly). You say we aren't listening. You say, "Get in line or else."

Well, bucko, your arguments have not fallen on deaf ears. We have heard you, loud and clear. And our answer is a resounding, thund'rous, "GET STUFFED!"

Your choice for candidate is, insofar as both his and your  behavior indicate, precisely zero improvement over the frail, senile female crook the other party is offering as its choice. He, like her, is a proven liar and a kleptocrat. He, like her, promotes vast expansion of the federal government. He, like her, behaves as though people were put upon this earth only to serve his immediate desires. And you would hand over the security and safety of all of us in what is left of the free world "because Hillary."

In other words, out of fear that a nasty, senile old crook and her cronies might be put in the White House, you have demanded we support a nasty, insane, slightly younger crook and his insider cronies.

Well, I've listened to that argument enough. Neither of your disgusting options will receive my vote. If it means the White House is lost to the Republican party -- again -- so be it. That was YOUR choice, when you foisted that orange-skinned, tiny-mitted vulgarian thug upon the rest of us.

I will vote for every conservative and Republican I can, down ticket, but as far as you and your Cheeto Jesus are concerned, I am moving to Fukthatistan.

Are you listening to me, yet?

How to Keep a Nerd Out of Trouble


My family has a habit of collecting books. I get this from the distaff side, since Pop buys his history books, reads them, uses the data for his fun activities on the internet and touring, and then gives the books to the local college library, where he used to teach and I once attended a class or two. (I suspect, therefore, that my alma mater has the best Civil War and WWII selection of any school its size.)Meanwhile, The Bat and I amass volumes. Between us, we managed to fill the pantry and kitchen with over a thousand cookbooks, and quite a few craft and art manuals. The downside to this is, one can never quite recall on short notice where a certain article or recipe is, and, if one does find it, one has to worry about smudging the pages or breathing in large volumes of accumulated allergens (yes, I have a dust allergy).So, while my health is still fairly good, I decided to do something about both issues. Page by page, I'm putting the Bat's and my libraries into a digital form and storing it outside the house, in an online cache. I have a scanner, I have an internet connection (such as it is) and I'm not afraid to use it. This means stirring up all that dust, and even some mildew, so that all I will need for reference will be a phone or tablet. I'm making myself sick for the greater good. Or, at least, for my own future well-being and comfort. I'm not sure how much of what I scan will fall into the category of public domain, so most will be stored behind internet walls. I hope to share my favorite pages with anybody who surfs into one of my public blogs, though.  Besides the books, though, we have several ring-binder notebooks filled with pockets, each filled with loose-leaf projects, recipes, etc.Like this one. Click any image to embiggenBecause you know we all want to make an 18th-century-style wooden "fashion baby". [...]

Mom? Mom? Mom?


Ahhhh...nothing like a small creature to help you relax and sleep in, in the morning...

New Toy for the Cat


She played until she wore herself out... and then she sat and watched the little mousie scoot across the screen.

One-Eye lives in peace


Little guy who feasts outside my bedroom window every day... I have no idea how his face got mangled, but he's getting along pretty well despite his loss.

The Joy of Tech


I've been scanning some of The Bat's favorite recipe pages -- as well as my own -- from our rather extensive library of cookbooks. It's a fairly daunting task, considering how much we both like to cook and bake. But it just got a little more challenging, this afternoon, when my spiffy high-speed scanner decided to roll over and play dead.

Oh, don't worry. I do have another scanner. It's part of an all-in-one device I bought for an indecently low price at auction a few years ago. The part where I cry "Alas! Woe am i!" is when I consider the clock.

The backup unit is about as speedy at scanning as I am at walking. Sure, we get there, but having plenty of patience is necessary. With my good scanner, I was easily getting 140 pages scanned and filed in a single day. With the backup, I'll be lucky to get 40, because the scanner itself drags along, but also because each page file needs to be renamed before adding it to its proper folder. My poor dainty fingers cry out at this abuse it has not seen since...oh, four or five years ago.

I'd take the good scanner to the repair professionals first thing tomorrow morning, except my chariot and my accountant are both a thousand miles away (and I am not being figurative in stating that...well, not about the distance, anyway. The Bat is my accountant, and the chariot is a relatively late-model muscle car).

But I digress.

The scanner quit. It will not be repaired or replaced this month. I am going to continue to work on this family project, but will take better than double the expected time to do it.

I can tell your heart just breaks from my tragic circumstances.

Tree Rat Boogie


I see this character outside my window at least once every day.  He seems to have figured out that the cats are no threat to him, and, most of the time,  neither am I.

Plus, he pigs out on the free food...

O Tannenbaum


Time to put the tree away again, until next year. After New Year's Eve, it was making me dizzy, anyway. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Like a Refugee


I've seen this meme floating about the web for a little while, now, almost always with some smug snark to head it, and tonight I finally decided that, before I try to sleep, I'd like to address this ridiculous Straw Man.

To begin with, very few people in this country have expressed any reluctance to take in true refugees from persecution in their home countries. Those who do object, generally have a problem not with the idea of helping those in need, but with being suddenly inundated with whole cities of people who have had no health checks, no way to check their backgrounds nor predict the likelihood of their becoming -- or being already -- a massive security threat that our own government not only invited in, but actually paid to come here,  using our own tax dollars.

But that's really the only reason most people have concerns about allowing a massive influx of refugees into this country. And, by and large, it doesn't stop most people from opening their hearts to true refugees.

As to the part about electing governments which don't bomb the hell out of countries to make all those fugitives...well, the majority of the current batch of refugees hoping to mass to our cities seem to be coming from countries like Syria, Somalia, Rwanda, Venezuela, Guatemala, Haiti, even Mexico...none of which has, in this century, been subject to "bombing the hell out of," or other means of slaughter by anybody but their own governments or other regional adversaries (e.g. Boko Haram or the Hutu/Tutsi animus).

Further, the government of our country now has been effectively under the control of Democrats for nearly a decade. It's time the Left took responsibility for the messes its own leadership created, instead of blaming the Bush Administration, the Crusaders, the Roman Legion or whatever figure from deep in history is their favorite  target du jour for impotent rage. 

You, along with millions of others of your mindset, voted in the current "Warmonger in Chief" and his current batch of cronies, who managed to turn two hard-earned victories in Asia (such as they were) into one giant cluster...grenade, enveloping northern Africa as well, thus endangering our allies worldwide. So stop deluding yourself that your vote produces nothing but skittles-pooping, rainbow-farting, winged unicorn kittens, and that the people who voted against your particular flavor of political animal are cloven-hoofed, fire-breathing demon spawn come to rape the planet and murder babies for fun and profit. That kind of nonsense makes you look ignorant, parochial, adolescent, narrow, and dogmatically partisan, any one of which fails to enhance a discussion, but in combination they are stultifying, and contagiously so.

TL/DR: just stop. You look like a dipstick and you make your party look like dipsticks, too.

Call Racism By Its Name, and Stop Right There.


In the shadow of the murderous assault at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, this week, there has been a demand – from both left and right – for the "white community" to "once again call racism by its name".

As stated by the young man who murdered nine good people, it was his aim to kill "those people" in order to start a race war, which makes his actions clearly racially motivated. Ergo, he is a racist.

But as of today, I have not seen anybody refuse to admit there is racism in this country. Not one. Indeed, there is no clear evidence before me that anybody has said white people can not be, are not bigots, have no trace of racist thoughts within them. We all know, and most admit, that there will always be those who prefer the company of those who look like themselves, disregarding the other commonalities. In a free society, it will always be their prerogative to be ignorant, to choose poorly. That does not mean the whole of society is driven by that ignorant behavior.

What I have seen is a years-long habit of labeling disagreement over policy as racism. What I have seen is a decades-long habit of calling crime statistics "evidence of racism" in law enforcement, without taking into consideration other factors. What I have seen is a justice system being labeled as racist because "a black man can't get a break" even when Michael Jackson, Orenthal J. Simpson, and others with money walk, despite the overwhelming evidence the public sees against them.

Even now, there are those who use the social media to "prove" the racial bias of law enforcement by displaying side-by-side photographs of a black scofflaw who died while resisting arrest and the non-confrontational capture of the very white Charleston terrorist. Obviously, to the people who post the paired images, there is nothing but open racism on display. There is no possibility in their minds that, ultimately, the behavior of each criminal is what will define the end result.

Again, I am in no wise saying there is no such thing as racism in this country – that would be an absurd statement no matter how peaceful our neighborhoods. What I am saying is, for years there have been cries of of racism a reasonable person would ascribe to other factors. It doesn't matter to some. The accusation makes it so. In this manner, as long as the accused continue to deny that racial bias has been the primary factor in X or Y or Z, then when a clear case of bigotry comes along, the accusers feel justified in shouting, "See? See? Racism is everywhere! And you're a racist to deny it!"

If there is no possibility of any other motivation, then  people should go ahead and call it by its rightful name, call it bigotry. But it dulls the meaning and stops real conversation when it gets tossed willy-nilly into every disagreement. And, where good people argue that racism is not the cause at hand, it is equally counterproductive to claim that there has been blanket denial of the presence of any such discrimination.

This is antithetical to free discourse. It is absurd. And it needs to stop.

What explosion and fire?


Around 5:30 yesterday morning, my alma mater, Monmouth College, suffered an accident which first required the help of the city fire department and then one of those professional cleaning crews. From what I was told later in the day, there was an explosion in the chemistry lab of the new business and science center, involving an organic compound in faulty storage.

My source tells me that the probable cause of the fire was several containers of ether having been stored in a somewhat-less-than-safe refrigerator. Said fridge, as its thermostat directed, would switch off and on, and each time it came back on, would create a small electrical spark in the motor...ultimately igniting vapors of the ether within. This caused an explosion which shook the entire building, causing "at least a half a million dollars in damages" to the newest academic building on campus.

We are all very lucky that this occurred when few students were awake and in the building.

We are not so lucky in this community when it comes to information. I learned details of the incident fully thirteen hours after it occurred, and then only because a member of the family spends his days on campus, and explained to us at dinner what all the fuss of the morning had been.

We have a daily local newspaper. Our neighboring city has a daily newspaper. Neither of them has seen fit to run anything about this on their web pages yesterday afternoon or this morning, about why the Monmouth fire department sped to the scene in the pre-dawn hour. And I guess none of the regional television news teams has anybody tipping them to real events in our sleepy little village, because I can't seem to find any mention of the accident anywhere -- even though one of them had a charming article about a cat stuck in a tree.

I am grateful to the powers that be for the news that there were no injuries in the explosion (I shudder to imagine, had it been later in the day, with the building full of people). I would also be grateful, though, if the news had come to me through something other than private channels. As a member of the community, I would like to believe we are better served than this.



When I saw the amount of fuss over the latest version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I began to believe the new law included admissions that they were, indeed, beginning to set up the pyres for gays and other non-Christians in the state next door to mine. After all, nobody would make such a fuss over a legislative act simply structured to permit an individual or a private business to use deep and abiding faith as a legitimate courtroom defense for refusing to perform some professional service against his strong beliefs! That would be absurd and bigoted, right?My bad. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">Some of my own best friends are scrawling all over the social media in defense of the right of gays to bully Christians into making offerings at their temple of hedonism. That is their right. You can believe whatever you want about the law. You can even, as a private citizen, act upon your beliefs.As a private citizen, you may at any time throw your own personal weight around, gather your friends together and threaten a boycott, or use all other forms of private persuasion to get businesses to do your bidding. But now the law of the land of Indiana matches that of the nation, in saying that you may not use the force of government to compel an individual or business to perform something which goes against its religious teachings. It states that deep and abiding faith is a fair defense, in court. It doesn't say that it's a good idea. It doesn't mandate the barring of gays or blacks or the out-of-shape from public parks or private parties, and doesn't reinstate laws against sodomy, miscegenation, or wearing a thong bikini at a public beach, even if many people would welcome the return of some form of discretion as applies to such lunar events. All it does is reiterate that the right you are born with – the right to defend yourself – is protected by law.The gay community is far from endangered by the possibility that a few of the faithful own and operate businesses which will not grant them their every whim. Indeed, in this country, the gay community is so far from endangered they'd need the Hubble scope to spot any light of said threat. It should show up on NASA's monitors in a few aeons.Yet in the most recent cases of Christians who were forced by the courts to participate in rites which were strongly against the teachings of their own faith – or, ultimately, go out of business – it has been made obvious there is a threat in the other direction. There is clear evidence that more than a few Christians have seen themselves targeted for not going along with the groupthink du jour. In the case of the baker who would not make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple's union, the baker believed the couple were her friends. She was not refusing to do any business with the couple – in fact, she offered several alternatives, and even suggested other bakers who might be eager for the business. But this couple had to make their point, that the Christian was depriving them of their right to force her to do their will. The law says you have to give in to our demands, because yours is a service industry, and service means you're a servant, and servant means obey or be punished. Sadly, a court seems to have agreed. The bakery has been closed down as a result of the complaint and subsequent legal and financial tangles. But this new Indiana law means you can ostracize me for being gay!Well, no. The law, to quote Dickens, is a ass…but not that big a ass, this time.The law had already said[...]

By All Means, Let's Be Reasonable


Today, for the umpteenth time, I saw somebody comment, in mocking tones, that religion is wholly irrational, and I've finally reached a tipping point.No, I'm not suddenly converted to some secure faith, comfortable that I have a place in the immortal realm. In fact, I'm probably less sure of my future than ever. But I will say, as a reasoning human being, that I find reality seems a mighty irrational, unreasoning thing.Where is the logic, where is the reason in any life? From the moment life begins, it is doomed to end, likely to feed another doomed life. The merest cell, though, does everything it can to survive. It pushes itself through chaos, consuming others to become itself, sometimes to exist for only a few short minutes, sometimes for days, sometimes even longer, perhaps to transform itself into part of something even larger. Does it reason its existence? Does something else provide its reason? Reason, such as it is, tells us we are incapable of knowing the answer to the latter.Life, itself, is without any apparent logic.Out of seeming chaos, despite all logic, we live. Despite all reason, through that chaos, we choose to continue to live. Despite all reason, we find ways to enjoy the random nature of our existences. We find joy in our lives. We find laughter, or we make it. We make music. We make art. We make love. None of these things has even the remotest basis in logic, and yet, it is logical to pursue it all, because without it, there truly is no reason continue a life.And so it is, for those who have faith. There is no logic behind the choice but that which says that to believe in an unseen force, a higher power, is to enhance one's existence in some way that defies reasoned language. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a human being. After all, it was those who believed in a Higher power who set themselves to the task of proving His laws. Those ambitious few established scientific method of inquiry, by which reason may be supported. And that scientific inquiry is what made modern technology possible, bringing joy  by way of advanced medicine, travel, communication, diet, and so on, to many more who otherwise would have lived and died in misery.Without the illogical mind, this would not existNeither would thislet alone thisand this. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"> So, believing in the unlikely has long had its place in society. A little lack of logic is not to be mocked. It's only reasonable.[...]

Tourism: a Retrospectable


All things considered, I am not at all sorry my friend followed through on her promise to get me on a cruise. I am sorry she was uncomfortable from the cold, but I'm glad we both got to see a whole new piece of America. Without her insistence that we go, I would likely never have seen the things I saw this summer. For that, above all else, I have to thank her.Were it not for my own depressions, and the difficulty I have every day trying to overcome my eremitic leanings, I suspect I'd have been less of a disappointment to my friend and her family. I know she wanted for us all to have the wildly, extravagantly good time on this trip that she had experienced on her Caribbean cruises, and I also know that the party life was never attractive to me, even in my days of youth, when I could hold my liquor and act with some reckless abandon.  I wish, in many ways, I could have shown her how much pleasure I found in just sitting quietly and drinking in the scenery...even just to look out at the open, ever-changing  ocean, or the rolling waves of earth that are the Prairie. Even when I was in pain, the light reaching my eyes did ultimately touch my soul.I wish, also, that my body and mind were not so much my enemies. What would, for any normal, healthy person have been two weeks of unequalled delight were brought lower, especially on the last two days of our vacation, in large part due to pain. That, of course,  is unlikely to improve.In spite of myself, though, I brought home some memories I will cherish until the day my mind is gone, whether that be before, or after the rest of me leaves the planet. For all of this, I have my friend to thank.Mary, you have been a very good friend to me, and I am grateful to all the powers that be, that we met.(Click on any picture to embiggen.)Friends, memorial, NebraskaHappy mountain is happy[...]

Tourism, Day Thirteen: Lucky Me


Saturday, 6 June, 2014, I slept fitfully in my seatbelt, and woke up in a fog.I kid you not. This was looking toward Cheyenne.We were pretty much socked in until we neared the Nebraska state line, when the fog lifted and we rode forth in intermittent rain.Somewhere just east of Lincoln, the clouds began to break up for us. We stopped for gas and whatever food was ready to go, and, while I was trying to unkink my legs by limping around the store, I found a display gondola filled with electronic accessories – including several different types and price ranges of adaptors. I pointed them out to my friend, who practically broke out in a dance of happiness. Not only was the one I pulled off the rack exactly the size and type she wanted, it was also only thirty dollars, including tax, which meant she could afford it, and she'd have a chance to plug in her laptop and do the paper which was due the next day at midnight (which, I might add, she had been given an extra time allowance beyond that Sunday for, because we had been out-of-country, but she's still a bit anxious about falling behind. Me, I'm a slacker. It's a wonder, opposite as we are, that we're still friends. I guess the universe really does enjoy mixed nuts).She quit driving, climbed into the back seat next to her nephew, and the foster son drove the remainder of the way home, while she worked on her assignment.Well, whoopee! Let's have a parade!Her mood was improved, but that didn't mean we were going to stop for anything but fuel, still.Naturally, I continued to stare out the window and take pictures of the Great American Midwest LandscapeUntil we passed through Des Moines and came out the other side with a full tank, heading southeast on US-65. Then I got a bonus activity…Des Moines, IA. Government is Golden.shaking. The camera could handle it, but not I.Seriously. If you have never driven the stretch of highway from Des Moines to Ottumwa, you do not know what shaking is. I don't care if you spent your career riding a jackhammer atop an out-of-balance washing machine anchored to an earthquake simulator, you have not been shaken the way US Highway 65 (and eventually US-63) will shake you. It is not safe to take babies on this road, for fear their little brains will rattle loose and Family Services will have you up on abuse charges.If I could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, I'd still be too stable for this roadLook at the above picture. Do you see the division of the wet patches, the little rectangles, with their demarcation lines crossing the road? This is not like the little separations on a sidewalk, or even little bumpy joints to the highway. These mark the waves in the pavement. One hour and thirty-five minutes of this rhythmic jarring of body and soul. And, lucky me! I still had a migraine. Plus, my legs and feet had swollen from their having been immobile so long, so they were tender as well…Modern chemistry is my lifeline, but there were long moments when I seriously wondered if there were a lifeboat tethered at its other end, or just some a-hole shark yanking me around.Agribusiness. It's a beautiful thing I distracted myself, as usual, trying to watch the scenery go by. That sort of worked. (Not really, but it was that, or whine. I hate whiners.)I like people who have definite plansIt looked as though we were following on the heels of some pretty serious wetness.In fact, we seemed to be gaining on the storm.I was hoping it would be just fast enough ahead of us to be done raining when it came time to unlo[...]

Tourism, Day Twelve: The Agony of the Seat


Friday, 5 June, 2014.  We arrived in the waters just offshore of Seattle sometime around dawn, but didn't get completely docked until breakfast was nearly over. Once docked, though, we were given instructions to line up on deck five, and wait for our release.Apparently, my friend (in her wheelchair) was given an easier out, and everybody else from her cabin went with her. They were away from the ship and comfortably waiting on a bench on the other side of Customs within a half hour. I was still standing and wincing and wishing I could trade in my knees for just about anything an hour after the line-up began. Go chasing a city bus just one time, and you pay forever after…Finally, after working my way through the system, I joined the gang again, with minutes to spare before my friend's niece saw her friend drive up. That was not only her ride, but the chariot for my friend to get back to the truck, parked at the Motel 6 in Renton. I said my farewells to the niece, telling her that, as soon as it was possible for her to come back to town, she should be sure to look me up. I might not be a party girl, but I did enjoy her company during my less cranky times, and let her know so.They loaded up her bags, and the three of them left.A little less than two hours later, the big red pickup truck arrived. We loaded up our gear, strapped my friend's wheelchair onto its platform on the back, and made our way away from the Pacific Northwest.It was here that she informed me that, not only were we not going to stop overnight near Wall, SD, but we were going to drive straight through the night and get home Saturday night.Yeh.Well, at least we'd looked at printed atlases and Google maps, and plotted the fastest route from Seattle, WA, to Monmouth, IL: drive straight across the mass of the nation on Interstate 90 to Sioux Falls, then cut south on I-29, to Sioux City, where we could pick up I-80 to Des Moines, then angle down on US-63 to Ottumwa and, finally, home on US-34.Easy peasy.Sure.A minimum of 29 hours on the road, without rest, without stops for any reasonable amount of time to stretch and unkink my already problematic knees. 29 hours sitting in a mostly-closed cabin, with three people who, when tired or stressed out, could not stop lighting up cigarettes, and my antihistamines already maxed out.I was going to have a swell time.We weren't even going to stop for meals. We had, I was told, enough crap loaded up, if we wanted to pick up foods, we'd have to pick out whatever the truck stops had to offer.But wait – it gets worse,The power converter my friend had originally bought for this trip, so she could plug in her computer and do her work for her graduate studies had been swapped out by one of the men in her household, and she was left with an old, unreliable one which, during the drive out was iffy, but by fifteen minutes into the drive home, was proven to be completely worthless. She effing couldn't do her effing homework, and she was effing…well, you get the picture. I had quietly, meekly tried to suggest we check out a truck stop, because places like Pilot occasionally carried odd electronic stuff, and we might find a working replacement I'd be willing to spring for with my remaining funds, but I doubt she even heard what I was saying.There was zero conversation.She drove, burning through cigarette after cigarette.The boys, having spent the previous week consuming all manner of fatty foods and great quantities of beer, had become greenhouse gas factories.O[...]

Tourism Day Eleven: Victoria (Not the Queen)


Thursday, 4 June, 2014. We arrived mid-morning at Victoria Harbor, in British Columbia. I'd been here a couple of times before, with The Bat, back when we lived in Bremerton, WA, but this was my first time without Mommy holding my hand.And, it was not going as I'd originally planned.The ticket I'd held in my hand was only for a bus ride around the city. There was no formal tea or garden tour waiting for me. My gang had booked a Hippo tour, which, initially, appealed to me, but, because my knees were already giving me more pain than I'd felt in a few years, the pain killers I took were giving me gastrointestinal distress of an extremely unattractive nature, and didn't want to inflict myself on anybody I liked. I was withdrawing from polite society.Putting on my game face, I went up to the Windjammer (the ninth-deck buffet hall where we'd consistently broken fast during this cruise), encountered the gang outside having a puff-puff and shooting the breeze with other smoking passengers, and grudgingly gave them a few minutes of my morning before heading in to load up on what energy I could, for the day ahead.(As always, click on any picture to embiggen it.)Looking out, from Deck Ten, at the entry to Victoria HarborOur ship moored at a pier just shy of the inner harbor of Victoria, where, once upon a time, the big car ferries used to unload on a regular basis. The Bat and I had come up by high-speed foot ferry, back in the day, via the Victoria Clipper from Anacortes, IIRC, but we had then debarked our small ferries right down in front of the Parliament building, among other landmarks, and had walked to the Royal BC Museum, had ridden the double-decker bus to the Butchart Gardens, and had, in general, roamed the not-so-commercially-driven tourist sites, nearly two decades ago. I was going to retrace only a very few of those steps, on this day.Pretty much just the bus ride. Up to a point. It wasn't the big loop, out to the Butchart Gardens and other distant posh quarters, but only around the city proper (I didn't have the opportunity to get any good pictures of the business district, though. There was traffic).The ship, pier, and a duty-free gift shopStrait of San Juan de FucaYep. Wanda Fuca again.Victoria's zoo (the petting zoo section)with saucy peacockPublic parksYep. More public parksAnd the the inner harbor. Public art. And not embarrassing public art, eitherO! my tormentor, the Empress! (Hotel, that is).Standing in clear view of the inner harbor, wishing I'd dressed for tea at the Empress (right), after allAfter strolling the quay, I made my way into the nearby business district (cough cough tourist trap) a bit, trying several times to turn around to get a good snapshot of the legislative building, or a better one of the Empress Hotel, or even one of the other local landmarks on my half-mile trek, but the sidewalks and streets were quite crowded on this balmy midday, so, mostly I did some window-shopping (except for my having twice –twice! – gone into shops to buy postcards and gifts for family back home).And then there were the three times I sat on city benches next to signs informing me that there was free wi-fi ("Use At Your Own Risk!"), and tried to upload a few of the three thousand photographs I had already taken on this journey.After roughly two hours, I had uploaded about a hundred pix.I had also exhausted the effects of my pain killers, and really couldn't safely dose up again for nearly another two[...]

Tourism Days Nine and Ten: A Great Honkin' Slab of Ice (and Some Rocks and Floaty Bits), then Ocean Again


I was up with the sun on Tuesday, 3 June 2014. In fact, I rose in time to turn off the alarm on my phone.You'd never guess I was still excited about seeing a great honkin' slab of ice.It's just that, well, we haven't had a glacier in my neighborhood since, literally, the last ice age. Tornadoes we get. Floods we get. Apparently solid blocks of ice which creep along and carry great honkin' rocks with them…not so much.As always, click on any picture to embiggen…As we approached our goal, the view from my cabin was impressive enough that I decided haste was in order.Objects in lens are larger than they appearI dressed for cool weather (sweatshirt and leggings – and, for a change, socks!) and hurried up topside, to deck ten, the upper observation deck, at the bow of the ship. My cane, my camera, and I took in the vista,Dang, are we going to get rain all the time? Must not be summer yet…such as it was, initially.  But, as it had been yesterday, in Skagway, after only a short while, the rains ceased, the clouds lifted and began to break apart enough to see more clearlywhat was around us. Peering at the crowd peering at the glacierDawes Glacier is feeling well-protected from sunburnDawes Glacier, with the sun trying very hard to shine upon itTurning counter-clockwise from Dawes Glacier, to our entry/exit passageFresh, intense glacial watersI listened to a few of the other passengers discussing what it was we were looking at (I'd overheard at least four being introduced by their companions as geologists or geology professors at small colleges. Useful to have around, when looking at rocks). Plus, the public address system carried the ship's captain's voice to us, explaining things like the vivid blueness of the ice, the bright color of the water (both having to do with the ice being purified and condensed under great pressure for millennia). The striations on the mountainsides, I heard, were from glacial movement dragging great stones across, to scrape and scour).Sure, it looks like just a chunk of ice, but (a) it's bigger than two double semi trailers, and (b) it's a very pretty blueWe stayed to observe the great honkin' slab of ice for the better part of two hours, I think, with the ship doing a complete 360º turn so everybody got a great shot or two.After the full doughnut, the ship pointed away from the glacier, tracking back out as slowly as we had entered, so as to keep the wake to a minimum. And, when you get right down to it, for a floating city, the wake we left was very small.For more than an hour, the waters were glacial-water vividand laden with icebergs, all sizesBut eventually we got to a point where regular waters overran the pretty aqua of the glacial supplyStill moving at just about 15-20 knots on our way out from the narrow channels of Tracy Arm Fjord,the clouds came back over us for most of the dayWaters were still almost like glass as the waterway widened toward the oceanOut on the open seas by sunset, with clearing skiesWednesday morning: somebody else's cruise ship is heading north, while we're heading back south.This is what the weather looked like pretty much all day. Wednesday, after I returned from my breakfast, I found a note on my bed, along with the usual stack of papers – schedules, announcements, and coupons – a notice that, due to a lack of sufficient interest from the passengers on this cruise, my prepackaged excursion to the Empress Hotel for formal te[...]

Tourism Day Eight: Skagway and the White Pass Rail


Monday, 2 June, 2014: a day I had been anticipating for months and months – ever since my seester had sent me enough money for my birthday to pay for a train trip. It was, in fact, the one thing she informed me I must not miss.There had been two separate excursions available – at 9:30, and then again, at 11:45-ish. Knowing how likely it was that I'd be up late every night, I didn't think it wise to book the earlier trip, so I'd booked the lunchtime run up the hills. That gave me plenty of time, once I woke at an indecently early hour, to have a leisurely-paced and luxurious breakfast with a view of the train I would be taking,My chariot awaitsfollowed by an easy fifteen-minute stroll from the pier to the town of Skagway.I really did feel welcomedWell, easy for most people. For me, it was a challenge, especially as it was sort of drizzling, making the footing faintly slick. But, since it was cool and damp, I was in heaven.Along the path beside the road, the city had posted a sign encouraging people to enjoy everything Nature has to offer, there. I had to take a pic…mostly for the spelling error (or, was it deliberate?).Pedal/peddle… It's nice to see that they encourage salesmanship over bicyclingI walked past most of the little shops, but I did, actually, stop in to see what postcards they had at the WP&YR book store and gift shop…besides post cards.They had quite a bit of historyI found a book for Pop, a set of magnets for The Bat, and a couple of other items (plus, of course, some post cards), and, having had a pleasant chat with the store manager, I took my bag and wandered out to see the town.I guess the early-20th-century architecture didn't really blow me away, and they had yet to open, that morning, the Red Onion Saloon and Bordello (which the boys were bound and determined to visit), I didn't take pics of the town itself. Well, not the buildings. Just the stuff which piqued my interest:You know you're in trouble when this is your snowplowI confess to being a foamer. Of sorts. I can't afford to follow my impulses very often, but give me the opportunity to put my grubby paws on a locomotive, or spend a night in a caboose, and you have me at "choo."Seriously, cut through your snow in Virginia or Texas with this. Ha!Well, after all, isn't the big draw for tourism today in Skagway that they have this rail excursion? The ships can't all be coming for the Red Onion…Okay, well, maybe the scenery has a little to do with it.Which is my other reason for booking the rail excursion. Besides being a train ride.It wasn't cheap – it ran to $129 per person, when I booked. And, for a three-hour tour (a three hour tour!) that seemed a bit steep, initially. But my seester had told me it was a can't-miss, and she had paid for it, so, there I was, biding my time, hoping the weather cleared up enough to warrant the trip. After all, if the clouds are low and dropping drizzle the entire way up the slope, blocking my view of the landscape, there isn't much point to following my seester's instructions. But I was hoping I wouldn't need a refund. I wanted to brown-bag my lunch and see more of Alaska. And I wanted to ride that train.Into the heart of town I went, to window shop some more, and to pick up the freebies and otherwise affordable items I could find for presents, now that the stores were finally opening for the day.  For the record, the people who work [...]