M&M Monday - OCD

One of the comment traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the need to have items in straight rows or consistent groupings. I clearly am not OCD because when I offered this picture as a joking example to two of my moderately OCD friends, I received the following responses:

"The yellow are too high and completely out of square, have you considering using a straight edge to get them right?"

"When you enlarge the photo you can clearly see that there has been no effort to align the embossed M's on the individual candies."

Also I can now attest that cats are seldom OCD or at least Midnight is not because just after I took the picture above his paw snaked up from the dining room chair to this result.

"Before there was Prozac, we had purring cats."
M&M Art by me and Midnight

Hair, less Hair, Hairless

For many years I had a hairy tradition of growing a winter beard and taking it off during the spring conference I attend in late March or early April. Intervening warmer climates, like Las Vegas, disrupted my hirsute practice.

This year I grew the beard and the hair, which is to say what hair I still have; but I find myself unable to wait until late March to divest as I will be returning soon to more temperate climes.

Several friends tell me the beard makes me look older; must be the grey.

While other friends, all of the female persuasion, prefer me with facial fuzz.

As I say in all of my relational endeavors, if there were a consistent female presence in my life, she could request any flocculent configuration she desired.

Until that time, it will be a thermal decision.

Star 80

I 've had this post lingering in the queue for several months or more. Then last night it came up again "the scariest movie I have ever seen was . . . " For me the scariest film  is derived from the scariest character ever. If you have seen Star 80 you probably agree with me and very possibly you are not going to finish reading this post because you don't want to be reminded.

Star 80 is the story of Playboy playmate of the year (1979) Dorothy Stratten, played in the movie by Mariel Hemingway. Eric Roberts plays her boyfriend and low life Svengali. The story plays out in Hollywood and in particular at the Playboy Mansion. It ends when Paul Snider (the real life character) murders the real Dorothy Stratten and then kills himself. Now the story itself is not that unusual. What is compelling is acting of Eric Roberts.

If you have ever known a person, probably a man, who could literally go from love to hate in an instant, then you know Paul Snider. The mercurial explosions of anger, hate and the fear such behavior engenders has never been depicted as frighteningly as it is in Star 80.

The film came out in 1983, it was not a big success; too close to the truth apparently. But still today Roberts is often asked about the film and finds people still reacting to the brilliant fearfulness of this character.

I highly recommend the film and I strongly suggest you see it with the lights on.


Do you train your friends to not send you internet humor? I do, or at least I discourage most of it but leave a couple of avenues open because several of my friends and relatives have very strange and entertaining funny bones. The other day someone not on my 'humor allowed' list sent me a list of 50 one-liners and a note that said "I'll bet that you wouldn't be ashamed to put at least a dozen of these on your blog." Let's see, remember he said a dozen. [added comments are mine]

3. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die [along with emptying the contents of 'that' drawer or in the case of certain friends 'that' closet]

9. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong [the measure of wisdom is what you say next]

16. There is great need for a sarcasm font [if only so people we are trying to insult would get it and visa versa]

21. Google maps really needs to start directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure by now I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

29. Bad decisions make good stories [and great blogs]

31. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call [Yep, I have two]

38. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still don't understand a word they are saying? [I did this once on a date, I was shocked when I later discovered what I had agreed to]

42. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974.That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important [I like juxtapositional humor. Two contortionists walk into a bar . . .]

So, 8 out of 50 not bad but not a dozen either.

Let me leave you with a blond joke from one of my unblocked sources.

A short, thin heavily spectacled middle-aged guy shuffles into a bar, sits down in front of the bartender and orders a shot. The bartenders smirks, assumes he didn't notice he had walked into a bar called the Dyke's Den, she serves him his drink. The man downs the shot and says:

"You wanna hear a blond joke?"

The bartender says: "Maybe you want to look up here first."

The guy looks up at the six foot two blond bartender as she says:

"Wendy here is our waitress." 

Wendy has more tattoos than the guy has ever seen and she too is blond.

"Joyce at the door is our bouncer."

The guy swivels in his chair to see golden haired Joyce in full motorcycle leathers and a nasty look on her face.

"and Mary over there is the owner."

Mary seems to fill the door of the office near the back of the bar, she has to go 250 and, of course, platinum hair. 

"You sure you want to tell a blond joke?" asked the bartender.

"Well hell no," said the guy "not if I am going to have to repeat it four times."

M&M Monday - BiPolar Disorder

I mentioned that my M&Ms series was prompted by some psychologically based art I saw on the web. I was struck by how some psychology terms could be graphically represented. Today three images of what we might visually imagine as bipolar disorder, which used to be manic-depression and before that schizophrenia.

Sometimes we think of bi-polar disorder as being an A or B state of mind (below); when, in fact, it is very often more like AcdefghizyxwvutsrqwnkthvydhskB multi-stated state of mind (above).

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
Art by: me

My Alice's Restaurant

I wonder what is the subset of poor souls who read my blog but have not heard nor seen Alice's Restaurant? If by any chance you, by some freak of history, are such a person; I would strongly suggest you have missed one of the great culture experiences of our time, nay of any time and you should endeavor to hear and see AR as soon as possible. You may immediately hear a contemporary rendition with film clips by clicking on that there link. Doing so will delay your enjoyment of my words by about 18 minutes but will be well worth the journey. In the alternative you will, even without the clip, be able to follow my story below but perhaps not catch all of the whitful nuance. 

My story, much like the original is not about Alice's Restaurant, which is not the name of the restaurant anyway. No, my story is about the draft, which by no small coincidence is what Alice's Restaurant is about. You may remember this exchange from about midway in the song and the movie.

"Kid, see the psychiatrist, room 604."

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna se blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies, I mean kill, Kill, Kill, Kill." And I started jumpin' up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin' up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, said, "You're our boy." 

Now that's not my favorite exchange in the tale, story, movie or song; no that comes much earlier and goes like this: Twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used in as evidence against us. But like I said this is a story about the draft, my personal story about being nearly drafted and not as you might have thought a story about Alice or the restaurant, so I should probably get to my story. But you can still chose to hear the whole original AR with that link up there or you could read the lyrics or even come back later and do both. In any case I should get on with My Alice's Restaurant Story. 

Back in the late fall of 1967 I dropped out of college. I left college on a Thursday, I remember this because on the following Wednesday, a mere six days later, I received a notice to report for my draft physical. Back in those days there was a lot of political pressure not to allow college students to avoid the draft my hanging around a campus without actually advancing towards a degree. Many college registrars felt compelled to vigorously inform the selective service of any change in student status and many recruiting centers acted with haste to fill their body quota.

So this is the story of one cold December 22nd, 1967; when I was selected to have my classifying pre-induction general physical and screening at the army's Fort Wayne facility in Detroit, Michigan. The bus was scheduled to leave the Ann Arbor bus station promptly at 7 a.m. on one amazingly cold winter morning. A snow storm two days before had left piles of now plowed snow all along the roads from my home nine miles away, the dark morning had shards of icy snow whipping on the wind.

Our bus was full but just as it started to roll there was a thump on the door, the driver let one more passenger/victim/future cannon fodder on and said:

"Find a seat somewhere, we're full up today."

The slight and clearly confused new arrival wore a huge winter parka with a wildly fur-lined hood. He took a quick glance down the four rows of faces and sat down on the steps by the door.

"Suit yourself," said the driver and we were off into the still dark morning heading for Detroit an hour away.

Slowly we all warmed up and woke up and conversations began. As it turned out only about half of the bus were there for our first physical. Others were being called back because they failed previously and as many as ten or twelve were there to actually be inducted into the military, they would not be returning with us to Ann Arbor that evening. No, they were off to war. Vietnam did come up in conversation and several of our crew were eager to get there, the dissenting opinion was not aired in the early morning light. Our last minute arrival stayed fully cocooned in his ginormous parka and did not participate in the chatter.

We arrived at Fort Wayne and entered under an newly installed archway that read: "Induction Center". I felt somehow that the day would not go well. Our busload was moved to a classroom to take a screening test prior to our physical. A sergeant stood at the podium and instructed each entering group to find seats and fill out the basic information on the form with the pencil provided. Then we were to color in the dots beneath the letters and numbers. These instructions were repeated each time a new group entered the room and a immediately dislikable private strode about the room in his pressed green uniform and checked our work.

I was in my second year of college, so under years of education I had put 14. The private glanced at my info. sheet and said:

"Fourteen, you know that means you've had two years of college."

I decided at that point I would go with silence as my default mode when dealing with anyone in uniform.

"What you couldn't keep your grades up even to avoid vietnam?"

Nope, I was going with silence. He moved on. Seated two seats in front of me was the parka wearing introvert and he was clearly struggling with the concept of coloring in the boxes under the letters of his name. The private prick in green pounced. He berated the kid and it became obvious fairly quickly the kid was not faking it. He either had taken one too many tabs of acid this morning or he was just not right in the head. In any case he was  a helpless target for the asshole in green and the sergeant, not twenty feet away, showed no interest in ending the torment.

I briefly considered intervening but we were in land of the military. We had already been told several times that they could keep us overnight for any reason at any time, we would be told that at least a dozen times during the course the day. I decided that hero was not the wisest course of action while inside of a military induction center. We took our test. The tests were immediately graded, the 90%+ who passed were moved out to begin our physicals and the remaining group, including parka boy, were told they would now take another test and if they were trying to fake a failing grade they would be discovered and kept overnight. The last I saw of parka boy, he was being taunted again by the evil green private.

The details of the next five hours spent in shoes, socks and underwear are a story for another time. I'll make a note to put that story in the queue, it's funny but distracting from todays Alice's Restaurant theme. You basically process through 22 physical stations and get a check mark at each one. Near the end your file gets reviewed and you are sent to a final guy who tells you your immediate fate. Mine was to get dressed and follow the signs.

I got dressed, checked the boarding board and discovered my bus was 1-2 hours from departure. So I followed the signs for the lunch room. I found myself walking down a long hallway, near the far end were a couple of people I could not make out until I got closer. Facing me was parka boy now moaning, crying and shaking violently; with his back to me was the same private prick still berating and taunting the kid. I look behind me and saw no one, I was alone in his massively long hallway with parka boy and the evil green military incarnate.

Now remember I am nineteen at this time and had just been poked, prodded, injected, selected and rejected for five hours. I made a somewhat irrational decision, I was now ten feet from the evil green tyrant, I raised my left arm to throw a forearm shiver at the private's head. I figured that between my arm and the concrete wall, he was going down and out. What would happen next, well I hadn't worked that part out. My adrenaline spiked and ...

At that moment a large dark green uniform pushed past me, I had not heard him coming and only had an instant to notice a lot of scrambled egg yellow on his shoulder. He spun the private around with one hand and with the other he grabbed his name tag and ripped it and half of the front of his shirt off. The major or general or whatever put his arm around parka boy and took him through a nearby door. The whole scene took less than twenty seconds.

I was now alone with the private who had turned as white as his cotton t-shirt that was exposed through the huge hole that the officer had torn in his shirt. He was using the wall for support or he would have been curled up in a ball on the floor. I leaned in close to his ear and whispered three syllables very slowly: Vi - et - nam.

Now that is a great finish to the story I know but there was one more scene. When our bus was finally loaded several hours later, as we pulled away from the induction center into the dark winter evening, I looked up to a second floor window and there brightly illuminated was parka boy standing on an exam table with three white coated doctors around him. He was waving his arms and jumping up and down; and although I couldn't hear him, I was was sure he was shouting: "I wanna kill! Kill! Kill!"

"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant, excepting Alice."

The Girl Who Played with the Dragon's Nest

Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? If yes, then have you read the sequel - The Girl Who Played with Fire? and, of course, having read two you must have gotten to the final book - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. All three remain in the top 30 on Amazon nearly three years after Dragon Tattoo (english version) was released. 

So I have a question - why? 

The writing is not brilliant nor is the mystery unique. A New Yorker article attempted to answer the question: Why Do People Love Stieg Larsson novels? An interesting article that poses even more question than I have and informs us that Larsson may have planned a series of 10 novels with these characters but he died having completely only these three.

I think the answer has to come from the lead female character - Lisbeth Salander. With a Nazi monster for a father, victim of all sorts of abuse; childhood and contemporary, tough, smart, silent and a feminist of a very unique pedigree. The attraction to the books must be a strong affinity to the girl with the dragon tattoo.

For me the books were interesting beach reads, though I consumed them during this northern california winter. The setting in Sweden meant readers are exposed to a different corrupt government than Russia, China, U.S. or Vatican City; that was refreshing. You never get a really good dose of neo-Nazism at work in American novels.

But after the change of setting, the novels are not particularly well written politico-mysteries. No, it has to be the girl in the titles. Don't get me wrong, the stories are good, at times very good; but the delivery is weak. The New Yorker article summarizes all the controversy about who may have helped with the editing of Larsson's original drafts. There is much agreement that he had more than substantive editing revisions to get the books to their current condition.

But even with a gang of editors the books really are nothing unique. Not a single orc to be found, nor actual dragon to be slain or ridden.

Can someone explain this to me?

Literature on the Road

One perk of my semi-nomadic wanderings is that I get to sample the daily lifestyles of the friends and family I visit, including their choice in literature and periodicals. Right now, here in Lake Shastina, California the magazine selection includes two of my favorites: National Geographic and Discover. And while I will go home with a box of older editions, I thought I would share with you the January/February lead story in Discover - The Year in Science: 100 Top Stories of 2010.

To pick my favorite story I had to skip a couple of NASA tales, which I am very fond of, particularly those with photographs from the Hubble. There were also several fossil finds, which made us several tens of millions of years older and set the dinosaurs back nine digits in human years. There were solar planes and green cities; avian optical illusions and rocks in Death Valley that move.

But being the anthropocentric fool that I am, I had to go with a finding from neuroscience about another capacity of the human brain. We know we can measure the neural response in the human brain to nearly any stimuli. So a test was done to first notice the neural activity via fMRI when someone told a vivid memory from their life. Next a group of volunteers were scanned as they listened to a tape of that same memory. 

Two results were discovered. First, the more closely a listener paid attention to the story the more their own brain activity mirrored that of the original story teller. Attention was measured by a follow-up questionnaire. Even more interesting was the discovery that among the most attentive listeners, "key brain regions lit up before the words even came out." Listeners were able to anticipate the coming direction of the story just as the original speaker would foretell their own tale. The short conclusion:

"The more you anticipate someone, the more you're able to enter their space."

For those interested this article is #78 in the top 100, titled: Good Listeners Get Inside Your Head.

M&M Monday Vol. 1

Welcome to the first installment of M&M Monday. For awhile I have been feeling like I needed some artistic outlet other than my writing. However, I have discovered over the years that I have very little ability when it comes to singing, dancing, paint, clay, watercolors, musical instruments, sculpture and well the list goes on. Then last week two elements converged.

First were the on again off again Liz Lieu Tuesday offerings on my friend Pauly's blog. We all wish for more of those posts, they tend to be more frequent when Liz goes into the studio for a new photo shoot. But I really like the serial aspect of those posts and I consider Liz one of my best friends from my years around professional poker. She is the very hot lady in those pictures, yet I know her as someone completely different.

Then during a surfin' expedition, on an obscure blog, I ran across a several pieces of psychological art rendered using M&Ms as the medium. I immediately thought of half a dozen melt in your mouth tableaus.

Several days later I had six bowls of M&Ms in as many colors and sizes as I could find strewn across a glass top table and I began to assembly my first portfolio of chocolate infused art. You should not expect anything as brilliant as the piece at the top. Yes that is Eminem in M&Ms. But I think I can manage to be thought provoking at times and perhaps the slightest bit whimsical but always with the hint of a sugar high.

Here is my first piece of M&M art. In the future I promise more creativity but I thought I should begin with the source, the essence, the beginning, the alpha and the omega.

You can click to make it bigger if you have critical interest in the nuances of M&M art. My first rule of inspiration is that deconstruction be followed by consumption.
Eminem Art not by me

Writing Lesson Learned

Reflection should be well-timed,
rather than time-consuming.
Elizabeth Kostova
The Historian

Back in the late 90s when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation I stumbled on a little writing trick that has served me well ever since. I break up long projects into pieces (yes, dear writing teachers using an outline). Then I break the pieces into smaller pieces and if possible in to even tinier bits. For my dissertation I had 107 chunks of writing. Then each morning or evening when I sat down to write I would glance at the list and find something that interested me that particular day.

Now you might think that you would write the easy parts first or the ones that you really were interested in and that eventually you would be faced with a remaining pile of unwritten pieces that you had rejected several score of times in the past. For me, at least, that did not happen and has not happened since. I really try to avoid long projects that don't interest me through and through. So some mornings I am more than willing to take on the heavy dialog sections and some evenings the interior psychological musings seem to be ripe for the writing.

Recently I have discovered that thinking about my writing has a similar quality. It almost never works to try and think through a particularly troublesome section of a chapter. Best to leave it alone, not to reflect on it at all. I know the pieces of the puzzle are floating somewhere in my mind or occupying the nearby ether and they will come into view if left to themself and my unconscious receptors.

So don't push the reflection, it tis after all reflected brilliance and sometimes the reflecting surface is subject to cloud cover with the chance of partial eclipse.
photo by Richard Adams

Politicus Vomitus

An opinion is an opinion is an opinion. Yes, there is a difference between expressing an opinion based on fact versus one based on personal belief. Also facts are made to be altered, misunderstood, distorted and misinterpreted. It seems to me the larger question is -- does the first amendment mean what it says or only what current political winds interpret it to mean.

Some examples: 

Yesterday I was running errands and Rush Limbaugh showed up on the FM dial. I haven't listened into the olde Rush dog in awhile so I gave him his sixty seconds. It seems some sheriff in Arizona said that right wing commentators, specifically Rush rhetoric, had caused a 22 yr. old adult to open fire on those people in Tucson.*

*notice I have used some facts here. Tucson is a fact. People and open fire are facts. I have gleaned from the news that he was 22 yrs. old. I have added what I consider to be a fact that he is an adult not a "kid" or "disturbed youth" as some reports have characterized him. I would compromise on "young man" but that's as far as I would tolerate this stretching of the facts.

Back to Rush. Apparently the sheriff in question went on to say that one political party was trying to save America and the other was attempting to destroy it. So Rush asked whether he should turn the other cheek and not respond, after all the sheriff was speaking under some duress. But Rush being Rush suggested that the sheriff was being coached by 'democrat policy makers'. I have no problem with this Rushism, he is who he is. You know that first amendment thing I mentioned before, let them all speak I firmly believe.

Here is where Rush and I have issue. While ranting (I rant, you rant, he rants, we all rant...) Rush said that he clearly disagrees with the sheriff's characterization of the republican party and the good Rusher went on to make some good points about how the politics of the last two years illustrates the democrats may not actually be "saving the country". Again, no problem with the argument at all. Rush further said that making statements like that about the two parties only serves to divide us further at a time when everyone should be working together in a non-partisan way. Particularly, says Rush, on issues like the Arizona shootings. No place for inflammatory speech. Now I was a bit shocked to hear that out of the olde Shockmeister himself, so I stayed tuned.

Rush once again read the sheriff's statement verbatim; one party saving, one party destroying. Then, wait for it, you knew he would. Rush said: "Since I completely disagree with the sheriff and I happen to believe just the opposite is true about the two partys." Well so much for non-partisan, non-inflammatory, we're all in this together. Al Franken was wrong; Rush Limbaugh is not a big, fat liar; he is simply a bigot and he knows it.

Part two. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tripping and falling down is not news. And no matter how much Wolf Blitzer, Hannity, Rather, Koppel or whomever is playing the role of talking head today protests-- you are not journalists. At best you host an infotainment show on cable, at worse you are a media whore hucking Toyotas and Subway foot longs for your corporate overseers. By the way, CNN (The Cable NEWS Network) did a montage this morning of dozens of politicians slipping and falling. You all remember Gerry Ford right. No not John Steward nor Steven Colbert but CNN, I assume Fox covered Hillary's pratfall as well, but possibly with some comment about Obama's foreign policy taking a fall.

Let me repeat - Not News!

Final part for today, I had six but three will be enough, I am beginning to feel better.

Sarah Palin, need I go on?

Seems Sarah had a 'hit list' for last fall's election. Seems Sarah has a graphic display of the U.S. with  gun sight superimposed on each congressional districts she was "targeting", seems Sarah does not think that was inflammatory. Now she could have approved something like a braying donkey or maybe a donkey sitting on his ass or even a big, bold red X over those congressional districts. Nope it was a gun sight.

Yesterday Sarah said linking that graphic to the violence in Tucson is ridiculous. I agree. Not that her ad was a good idea, but that she had the right to use it. However, Sarah also said yesterday that we should all be working together to lower the level of the political debate that has gotten so out of control Sarah Palin said that, no really Sarah Palin. Next thing you know Ann Coulter will be wearing flowers in her hair.

So to Sarah's speech writer, try this on for size.

"You know, sometimes things get by us when we have a big staff. In hindsight, we should not have used that graphic. We should be debating the merits of our positions and not demonizing our opponents who hold views different from our own. Using that image, which appears to be a gun sight was poorly conceived and I regret that we used it."

You see we call that lower the rhetoric, I believe that is what Sarah was suggesting we all do. I suggest leading by example.

I will now return to never-neverland where all the men are beautiful, all the women are strong and they all think I'm wonderful.
US Map graphic -- NYTimes

Whores of Convenience

Now that some of the noize around Wikileaks and Julian Assange has died down, I have a question of my many liberal friends and, of course, the liberal media. How is it that Julian Assange is some kind of hero, when he is charged with sex crimes against two women in Sweden? How does his leaking of governmental information obscure violence against women. Can't he be both your driveling hero in the great tradition of Ralph Nader and Daniel Ellsberg and still be a sexist and a criminal?

I would like to remind some of those same left leaning friends and all of the liberal press of how the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas sides were chosen. No one on the left gave Thomas one iota of potential of being innocent 19 years ago. He was a pervert and a near rapist because of what he allegedly did to Anita Hill and it had nothing at all to do with his reactionary politics.

Did it?

So how do Julian Assange and Clarence Thomas end up on opposite sides of the liberal fence?

Or perhaps a better question. How do Anita Hill and Julian Assange end up under the same blue tent?

Just how convenient are the politics of sexism?

December-January Link Dump

Last month while I took a break from blogging, I did not take a break from surfing. As usual I came across many websites I thought worth recommending. Here is a somewhat expanded link dump of cyber tidbits and morsels. I think nearly anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will find something of interest here.

The first link refers to the picture above. Islamophobia Today is a great source for articles and incidents to throw at any closet bigots you might know. I understand all of your friends, like all of mine, are free of bigotry. But there is always a scapegoat of the moment that many consider deserving of what they would never admit to be prejudice or bigotry. These days it is Islam that fills the bottom rung in our collective psyche.

One of my favorite links from the past (three years ago) is the Ben Cohen BB video about nuclear arms using BBs to illustrate, yes this is Ben of Ben & Jerry's. Recently I found this one on the Obama $100 million budget cuts, this one uses pennies to provide the scope of the U.S. budget.

One final site with a political tinge. Not My Priorities. Not only do you get to express our views on how your tax dollars should be spent but they have free postcards to send to your representatives that give you the opportunity to vent a bit. I sent mine!

On a completely different plain I found Wisdom Bits - Nubbins of Wisdom from Everlasting Song Mavens.  A bit of quotable fun.

I remain amazed that JG Wentworth spends millions of dollars on television advertising to people who have structure legal settlements. I am amazed that it is so profitable for them meaning there are tens of thousands of lawsuit winners out there to be advertised to. Now I find that if you are in a really long divorce battle and your are running low on money to live and to continue to sue the bastard who left you for his 22 yr. old secretay, there is a company that will invest in your divorce settlement. Balance Point Divorce Funding will give you a lump sum to live on and to be able to continue the divorce proceedings. Their cut? Well they get a piece of the final divorce gouging.

How about a World Clock, not just of time or time zones but of world population, deaths worldwide, U.S. budget deficit, world wide energy, environmental numbers, food and more.

I point out this next website without looking in a mirror or trying to touch my toes. Fat is the new thin when it comes to male sexual performance or size does matter kind of. No not that size!

You know I seldom let a month go by without some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. This is what NASA calls the Advent Calendar 2010. Twenty-five shots from Hubble, some old some new. The pictures are beautiful, the words will provide the wonder.

Final, two posts from friends of mine who also engage in this frustrating, egotistical adventure we call blogging. The I Don't Give a Crap Tax from Michelle Lewis and techno-bling and the demise of a Qigong Master by Mira. Interesting reading, admirable writing.

Welcome to the new year, remember the days really are getting longer but the nights are more inviting.

Morning Routine

I was up just after dawn this morning, not my usual rising time but when a large black critter decides he wants breakfast and you are the only one with an open bedroom door. Well let's just say I pulled on a few pieces of cotton clothing and fed the cat. Then I was standing at the porch door still blurry eyed when I noticed the hummingbird feeder was a block of ice, so I put on a few more layers of garments and switched out the frozen feeder for the warm one from the kitchen counter.

That's when I noticed.

We have been having some deep fog layers the last few nights. In the frozen morning that translates to every branch, leaf, needle and stalk being hoarfrosted in the early morning. Lovely, beautiful, enchanting - pick your adjective. But something else happens if the morning dawns with direct sunlight as it did this morning. The ice crystals get dislodged and fall towards the earth catching the sunlight in all their facets as they do.

First one or two small motes of sparkle drift down. Then as the sun hits the trees more and more twinkles, flashes and sparks fly. Finally I walked out among a nestle of scrub pines and stood in a tinkerbelle fall of fairy dust.

I would tell you fair readers that I then rushed to my keyboard to share with you this bit of magical winter wonder but I did instead go back to my warm bed for another hour or so of blissfully cozy sleep.
photo credit: Cyndy's shot of last evenings alpine glow on Mt. Shasta

30,000 Words or thereabouts

Last month while I was taking a break from blogging I was working on a novel. I had thought that by middle to late December I would have the first 30,000 words ready to send to my small cadre of readers for evaluation and critique. The way I have this novel structured there is a big reveal, a climax, a turning point at about a quarter of the way through the story. At least that is how I thought it was going to go.

Last night I reached that all important reveal at something over 60,000 words. A tad beyond the first one-third of the book and double the number of words I had expected to expel getting to that pivotal point in the story. Rather than make some arbitrary adjustment I decided to let the readers have at it. But I couldn't possibly throw sixty thousand words at readers who have done nothing wrong other than be my friend and let me have their email eddress.

So as a compromise I sent out three chapters, around 8,500 words. If anyone likes those I will supply the remainder. After all, if I can't hook you in three chapters why would you want to read more? I was reminded of that last night when I was looking around my friend's library for something new to read. I started four books and each time I tossed it aside when the author failed to grab my attention with the first chapter. One was so confusing I didn't get past the first page.

Why do some authors think they don't owe their audience some semblance of value. I paid for your talent, okay in this case my friend paid for it, but the point is - have some respect for the reading audience and give them something to hold on to.

Hopefully, my readers will find something to: sink their teeth into, wrap their arms around, dip their toes in, tickle their fancy, capture their spirit, let their heart take wing, or simply enjoy.

I'll let you know.

Facebook Reality

Yes I have a facebook account. No you don't capitalize facebook. No facebook is not Big Brother, more like a big sister who is a fifteen year old gossip, an addicted texter and isn't bright enough to be on Jersey Shore.

But there are lessons to be learned from facebook or any other social networking site. First thing everyone needs to admit is that all of these websites are businesses. They are trying to turn a profit either by selling you stuff or selling your stuff. Your stuff being your personal information and internet preferences. If you equate capitalism with evil then they are indeed the spawn of satan. If you believe otherwise then you are a fool but facebook is no more evil than Bank of America or McDonalds.

But back to those lessons to be learned. Here are several examples I have gleaned from facebook.

My nephew has finally taken heed to his father's and my comments that someday he would actually want to apply for a real job and what is out there on the internet with his name attached will be there for all of his potential employers to find and consider right along with his college transcript. My rather bright nephew has found a way to play at will on facebook without having all of those beers and babes attached to his name. I am not going to give away his secret, but I will say -- Well Done Mister!

Next, in the category of double-edged sword, you will be judged by the content you post on facebook. Be sure you are reflecting the real you. I had a couple of coffee dates with a very nice lady, life intervened and our only contact for awhile was what each of us revealed online. In my case there is this blog, in hers there was her facebook page. Bottom line, I liked the person I met face to face; I really didn't care for the facebook version and that soured any future relationship.

In a similar vein, I know of two examples of rejected lovers following their former partner on facebook and coming away with exactly the same impression: "How did I ever think it would work with him/her."

Now part of this disjuncture has to do with the superficiality that pervades facebook and all the other social networking sites. They do not exactly encourage depth or insight. But even those who attempt to deepen the context seem destined to failure. I know I have a friend, someone I thought was becoming a close friend, but after following her for several months I was simply bored by the thin content of what she reflected as her life.

Final example. If you have something important in your life, like a philosophy or a mission; be careful how you reflect that on the net. I actually was asked to engage in a "conversation of depth" with a three people I thought were substantial. But after reviewing their facebook posts over the last year it was clear that they are deeply into the most superficial new age gloss on reality.

You know you can hide someone's posts on facebook without unfriending them. It's a way to not say to their facebook face: "You're an idiot!"
Big Brother/Facebook poster from collegecandy.com

I'm Back

Well at least "I'm back" to blogging if not back to Berkeley quite yet. The remodel on my apartment back in the Bay Area is going as slow as expected, so I will be up here in Weed/Mt. Shasta for a continuing indefinite period of time.

As for the hiatus from this here blog, I must admit for the first week or so I was queueing up a goodly number of posts for the new year but more recently I have been happy to just not think about blogging at all. We will have to see how that all plays out over the next weeks and months. I will admit to having twenty-one blog post topics all dated for January or February, again let's see how that goes.

I have been working on my current writing project, a novel. I am close to having a large chunk of pages to offer to my victims kind volunteer readers. I will talk about that when the time comes in the next few weeks.

The other issues of life and limb continue in a miasma of yet mysterious origin. I sense that 2011 will be a period of exploration unlike anywhere I have personally ventured in the past. I anticipate being moved to provide you with footnotes and references along the way; crystal clarity will be optional.
photo: Me & Midnight