June 29, 2008
Mommy, my daughter’s out of law partner and birth mother of Random Granddaughter, teaches at a private school for high IQ children. As the mommies became aware of problems at RG’s pre-school, they decided to switch RG into the pre-school at Mommy’s school.
RG was rejected by high IQ pre-school, a bit of a shock. Unfortunately, I unintentionally created a misleading impression. The mommies were not trying to accelerate RG into a super-bright child on a fast track to Harvard. She is a bright child, and she gets lots of educational stimulation, but she also gets lots of opportunity to just be a little child and play and explore and learn at her own pace and in her own direction. They just wanted a decent pre-school, and a school where Mommy works seemed practical and convenient. (If RG later decides to go to Harvard, that’s fine, though we rather doubt that Harvard is good enough for her.)
In any case, when RG was rejected, the teachers who rejected her suggested that Mommy read a book called The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child by Marti Lani. When Mommy said to me that RG is an introverted child, I was astonished. I have seen RG be very sociable, and in fact, be the “life of the party.”
But as Mommy explained to me and I had a chance to glance at the book, the diagnosis began to make sense. As both my wife and I are introverts, it’s another case of strange inheritance from non-genetically related parents.
This is based on a superficial understanding of the book on my part, so take what I say with a grain of salt. The basic thesis is that the brains of extroverts (about 3/4 of the population) and introverts (the other 1/4) are wired differently, and process information and experience differently. Introverts are not unsociable and are not unwilling to interact and relate to other people. However, they need time to deal with new objects and especially people in their environment. Don’t rush the introvert.
Even as a toddler, when RG encountered grandparents after not seeing us for a while, she would be very shy and reluctant to talk with us and interact with us. After a while, she would warm up and have lots of fun interacting with us. This is typical introvert behavior; we hate to be rushed into new situations, especially ones where we are not yet comfortable and feel as if we are unable to control the situation.
In my work, I teach classes with small groups of people where I can control and set up the situation. My wife will happily spend hours by herself on our five acres of woods, gardening, weaving, “puttering” as she calls it. She now volunteers once a week at the organic farmers market where she knows many of the people and she is comfortable with the situation and environment.
When extroverts need to “unwind,” they like to be around other people. You’ll see them at the bar during “happy hour.” When introverts need to “unwind,” they will putter by themselves.
When I bring RG home from pre-school on days where I care for her, she will play with her toys by herself for a while; then she is ready to interact with me or others.
Once when Mrs. Random and I were taking care of her (and planning to take her to the playground), a cleaning woman whom she had never met before (as she had always been at school) came to the house.
Although the cleaning woman was perfectly friendly and pleasant, the sudden appearance of a stranger in her house caused RG to be stressed and agitated. “Hurry up,” my wife whispered to me. “Let’s take her to the playground. She is getting very upset.”
Sometimes when she wakes up from a nap, expecting Mommy to be there and finds a babysitter (such as Grandpa) she starts to scream for Mommy. Well, if you woke up from a nap or a night’s sleep and suddenly saw a stranger by your bed (forgetting that the stranger was a welcome guest you had been perfectly comfortable with before you fell asleep, in the daze of waking up, you would be a bit agitated as well, wouldn’t you?
So give your introverted child a break.
June 27, 2008
Besides the gray squirrels (living on borrowed time) and the red squirrels (fed by the Friendly Neighbor and tolerated by Mrs. Random), we live with chipmunks.
The chipmunks are very cute. Nevertheless, they are little pests. Like the squirrels, they are rats with furry tales, just smaller and cuter.
There is a definite pecking order amongst these small creatures. When a red squirrel spots the chipmunks grazing in the seeds under the bird feeder, it savagely charges them and drives them away so it can pig out without having to share. If there are two squirrels, one of the squirrels will chase away the other. Squirrels are not politically correct creatures.
Juncos are ground-feeding/ground dwelling birds, so they peck away at the seeds on the ground rather than eating up on the bird feeder with the chickadees and the finches. After being chased by the squirrel, the chipmunks chase away the juncos, just so they can find somebody smaller than they are to bully and torment.
We don’t usually see the rats and mice (as they sneak out at night) but they climb into the engine of my wife’s truck and my little car, especially when the nights are cold. A rat built a nest in the engine of my wife’s truck and damaged some wiring. Some mice, with great skill, chewed some wires on my car, getting deep into the wiring for my headlights and doing a thousand dollars worth of damage. The auto mechanic told me it took hours for him to work his way to the point where the clever mice had been “working.”
After these little episodes, I got in the habit of putting re-usable plastic mouse traps out by the cars every three or four nights, and frequently I find dead mice in the morning. Occasionally I put a rat trap out as well. The other morning, I crowed triumphantly to my wife, “I caught a rat!”
My wife said, “I don’t think that’s a …” As I got closer, I realized she was correct. I had caught and killed a red squirrel in the rat trap. It’s just at first glance I had missed the tail. All together now, squirrels are just like rats with furry tails.
As my wife has concluded that the red squirrels belong here (while the gray squirrels deserve to be shot), she was rather sad.
The Friendly Neighbors dropped by later that day. Mrs. FN was complaining about the chipmunks. They had burrowed under a cloche where she had been protecting some seedlings, and eaten the young plants. My wife also complained about the chipmunks. They wander in and out of the garden and up and down our porch as they please and snack on whatever plant suits their fancy. Also, sometimes I find them sitting expectantly when I open the front door to our house, eager to come inside. Obviously, they are just waiting to walk in and start investigating our cupboards and perhaps taking a nap on our furniture.
I mentioned to the Friendly Neighbors that I had come up with a product idea for us to sell. We would create little snacks of dried chipmunk pemmican. We would market them as Chip Chips, though Jerky Chips might do as well.
Mrs. Friendly Neighbor reacted quite enthusiastically. She is quite ready to start jerking the chipmunks.
June 26, 2008
In my last post, I wrote:
I’m pretty dumb, but I haven’t done anything that dumb. At least, not since I started fooling around with a gun.
I confess, however, that while I have not shot through a closed window, I am guilty of being pretty dumb with my pellet rifle, though not in a fashion dangerous to people, pets, or property. A few days after I “demised” the gray squirrel, I spotted a couple of rabbits. As usual, I had trouble aiming properly, and it took several shots to dispatch them. On the last rabbit-shooting, I bumped the rifle’s sight rather vigorously and it seemed to come loose.
When I studied the sight, I realized I had not broken it. I had merely knocked the protective caps off. These caps were not like the completely opaque lens cap on a camera. These caps were transparent lens on top of the basic lens. I figured out they are for use in rough conditions in the out of doors, and protect the “real” sight against dirt or sand or other hazards, perhaps if one is using the rifle in a storm or other rough conditions. They are held together by a cord. Probably everyone who uses guns (besides me) understands all this.
Obviously, when using the rifle and sight from indoors or in reasonable clean, calm conditions, I don’t need to use these protective lens caps over the main lens caps.
Without the protective lens caps, it was like a whole new world had opened up to me when I looked at a target through the scope. Rabbits and squirrels now look gigantic and unobstructed to my (poor) eye.
Since then, I’ve shot three more bunnies-or as Mrs. Friendly Neighbor (also a gardener) says—these are not “bunnies,” these are “damn rabbits”—and I killed each one with one shot. I now, quite absurdly, regard myself as a great sniper AND a great white hunter.
Although I have seen a couple of deer in our yard as well in the last few days, so far I have been able to restrain myself from trying to kill a deer, a very sensible self-restraint considering: a) it’s not deer hunting season yet; b) I know nothing about butchering and cleaning a deer if I did manage to slay one; and c) to kill a deer with a pellet, I would have to place my shot precisely in the deer’s brain or heart. I rather suspect that even such a brilliant (and unlikely) shot might not bring down a full-sized deer. In fact, I might have an enraged deer pursuing me for years with both a pellet and revenge firmly in its heart, something like John Wayne’s character stalking the Comanche chief who stole his niece in his (perhaps greatest movie role), The Searchers.
June 25, 2008
When I was young, I would go to a barber to get my hair cut. Now that I am old, I still have hair because the men in my family die with a lot of hair still on their head. Now that I am old, I get my hair cut by a hairdresser. It’s odd how these fashions change.My hairdresser’s husband and her son (in junior high) go deer hunting every fall. She belongs to a hunting family.
I was telling her about my rabbit and squirrel hunting adventures. I was hoping that as she is a person from a real hunting family she wouldn’t start laughing too hard while she had scissors near my head. She did laugh very hard, but not for the reason I expected.
She said, “Those squirrels are real pests. My son was over visiting my father-in-law and a squirrel started teasing my son from a tree. They both got really mad, but they didn’t have any weapons handy. My father-in-law said, “I have to get that damn squirrel! It’s a pest!”
From her tone of voice, I got the impression that there are “issues” as the saying goes in regard to her father-in-law. This impression grew as she continued her tale.
“About a week later, I was over visiting my father-in-law and noticed one of their windows all boarded up. I asked my mother-in-law, “What happened to the window?
“She said, ‘That damn fool!’ referring to her husband.
“Apparently he had seen the squirrel out the window, rushed to get his gun, aimed, and fired. Only he hadn’t bothered to open the window first, so he shot out the window.”
My hairdresser laughed very hard. However, she pulled the scissors away from my head as she started to guffaw.
I’m pretty dumb, but I haven’t done anything that dumb. At least, not since I started fooling around with a gun.
June 24, 2008
We didn’t think much about different races of squirrels. But note that the squirrels in the city are gray.
When we moved to our country estate, consisting of five acres of mostly alder woods and had a house built for us, I asked the contractor, “Have you ever built such a small house before?”
Alders are to woods what dandelions are to lawns.
The contractor replied to my question, “Yes, but it was somebody’s weekend vacation home; not the home people live in year round.”
(The contractor was not being sarcastic; he is a very nice guy who did a good job; he was just answering my question in a factual way.)
I said to my wife, “My dear, we are now landed gentry.” She beamed proudly.
Squirrels and chipmunks are our nearest neighbors. The Friendly Neighbor shoots rabbits but feeds his squirrels. The squirrels have a lot of nerve. If he doesn’t feed them right away, they run up his pants leg and stick their heads into his pockets looking for nuts. He stores the supply of nuts in his workshop. One day he didn’t close the workshop door all the way. The next day, most of the nuts were gone. Guess where they went.
Mrs. Random doesn’t feed the squirrels. Our bird feeder has a baffle. Every day the squirrels run up the baffle hoping they can get through solid metal to the bird feeder. Squirrels are very smart, but often they are as stupid as people. The squirrels also scold us every day for being on their property and for not feeding them, even though they spend all day eating the seeds that fall out of bird feeder because the birds are sloppy eaters.
The squirrels that live near us and the neighbors are red. Even though they are pests, Mrs. Random considers them to be “OUR pests.”
One day, I heard my wife fussing and scolding with considerable forcefulness. I went downstairs and asked, “What’s the matter?”
She was looking out the window. She said, “I just saw two gray squirrels!”
It turns out that gray squirrels are sort of the starlings of the squirrel world. Just as starlings drive out other birds (even those that are pest birds, like English sparrows), gray squirrels drive out other squirrels. Apparently there are hierarchies of pests.
I asked, “Do you want me to shoot the gray squirrel?”
“Yes! Yes!” she said. “Don’t go out on the porch, you might scare them away. Here I removed the screen from the kitchen window. You can rest the rifle and aim better.” [This is more foreshadowing.]
One of the squirrels ran into the woods. The other, a piggy squirrel, too greedy to flee, continued eating fallen bird seed
I cocked the pellet rifle. I aimed. I have bad eyes and thick glasses; it is hard for me to see through the scope. I shot. I missed. The squirrel ran away. A few minutes later, it returned. For very smart animals, squirrels sure are dumb. I shot four times and missed. A few minutes later, my wife said, “It’s back.”
This was a REALLY dumb squirrel.
It was at the very back of the cleared area. A borderline distance for me, though six feet is borderline for me. I aimed carefully. The squirrel thrashed for a second and then lay still. I put on my shoes and went out, carrying the rifle, to examine it. Often I don’t kill my prey on the first shot. I don’t like to make the animals I shoot suffer, so I kill them as quickly as possible if I just wound them.
It’s hard to make a kill shot with a tiny pellet, so I usually have to finish them off.
On examination I could see that I had hit the squirrel in the head and it was very dead. I tossed the squirrel in the woods for the coyotes or crows. (Another terrible example of my not eating the animals I shoot, which in some people’s eyes might provide at least a little justification.)
I returned to my wife and told her the gray squirrel was now an “ex-Squirrel.” She uttered words of delight and praise.
The next day, the Friendly Neighbors were over on an errand. Mr. Friendly Neighbor said, “I heard you killed a gray squirrel with one shot. Pretty impressive.” My wife had apparently bragged about my shooting prowess to the friendly neighbors. Apparently she had provided information in a selective fashion.
I said, “Well, I completely missed the squirrel four times before I got it.” I thought, A stopped clock is correct twice a day; if Mr. Random shoots his pellet rifle enough times at a very dumb pest eventually he will look like a great white hunter.
June 22, 2008
Are you really offing bunnies?
I don’t have a problem if you kill them for food but otherwise they’re aren’t really doing much harm so why not leave them alone?
Wild rabbits eat vegetables from the garden we spent hours planting and tending and weeding and intend to eat. We don’t share well.
June 22, 2008
Are you coming back to WMB when your sabbatical is over?
The reference is to worldmagblog, aka World on the Web, a magazine and web site for evangelical Christians. Although I am not a religious believer, I have participated on this web site for several years. A number of the people who read my blog and post here from time to time are Christians I met at World on the Web. I appreciate their kind, cheerful and tolerant participation, even though our belief systems differ.
Finding myself feeling cranky and testy about my participation at World, I took a six month break. Several people claimed I could not do it. At the beginning of July, my “sabbatical” will be over, so I at least demonstrated a tiny bit of will power.
I have not made up my mind whether I will return and particapate again.
macmurray, thank you for your inquiry. What is your advice for me in this regard?
June 21, 2008
Whenever I think of guns and hunting, John and Mary come to mind.
John and I worked for the same company for a few years, an enterprise that owns a chain of quick printing stores. At the time I worked for it, the chain was owned by a very intelligent, skilled, and troublesome married couple I will discuss in other posts.
John was a very gifted artist. His artistic talent expressed itself in two ways. For one thing, he was a talented cartoonist. I was writing some training manuals for customers just learning to use our computers; I used John’s cartoons for illustrations.
John was also a fine “fine artist” who painted quite well. He mostly painted wild life, especially ducks. He showed me a few of his paintings; they looked very good to my unsophisticated eye. Better judges than I also admired his work.
For example, in most years, John submitted an entry in the national duck stamp contest. Duck stamps are not postage stamps, but serve as licenses for duck hunters and collector’s items for some people who appreciate wildlife art. Sales of duck stamps raise money for wildlife preservation. John never won the national contest, but he had made the finals several times. As there are thousands of entries each year, making the finals is quite impressive.
John was such a good painters of ducks because he observed them very closely. He observed them very closely, because his favorite activity in life was shooting ducks.
John also had a lively sense of humor, fairly compatible with mine. For example, a stream ran along the rural street where we walked to the pizza parlor. One day we saw a few ducks paddling in the stream and John burst out laughing as he contemplated the ducks. I raised a quizzical eyebrow. John explained, “I figure if I end up in Hell, my eternal punishment will consist of thousands of ducks with guns shooting at me as I flee from them.”I met John’s wife, Mary, a few times as once in a while she picked him up at the end of the work day. Like John, she loved guns and hunting. They had two adult sons. One son was engaged in a military career; the other was a patrolman for the Oregon State Patrol. Like their parents, they also cherished guns and hunting.
They seemed like an affectionate, relaxed couple. Similar to her husband, Mary also seemed to have a lively sense of humor and a quick wit. One day John mentioned to me that when his wife had turned 40, he teased her by remarking, “I think I’ll trade you in for two 20-year old women.'”Very quick on the draw, Mary had instantly responded, “I’m sorry, John, that won’t work for you. You’re not wired for 220.”
John’s artistic talents and experience with marketing his art and hunting expeditions led him into a career in marketing and advertising. Mary’s experience with tracking and hunting had left her handy with guns, physically fit, and good at pursuing prey. She went into a career in law enforcement. When I met her she was working as a sheriff’s deputy.
They loved guns and shooting and hunting just as some people love driving fast cars, fast boats, or fast motorcycles, or flying or jumping out of airplanes, or diving in the ocean,, or pursuing other exciting toys and activities.
There is a lot of controversy about guns in our society; some people want guns mostly banned for safety issues. Other people decry hunting and shooting birds and animals. At the other extreme, there are people, such as many members of the National Rifle Association, who consider the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution as our greatest bulwark of freedom and vigorously oppose any restrictions on use and ownership of weapons.
John and Mary fell into neither extreme. They were just fairly ordinary people who loved guns and who loved to shoot birds and animals with them. Until my recent madness with my pellet rifle, I was not much of a gun person, but I’ve never been particularly perturbed by guns or gun owners. As with any other group, people who like and use guns should be evaluated as individuals and not as a group. John and Mary struck me as perfectly sensible and responsible in their handling of firearms.
I never saw John and Mary’s house. As John described it to me, it was filled with guns and memorabilia they had collected over the years. The walls held animals and birds they had shot (fine examples of the taxidermist’s art), John’s paintings, and many fine guns (carefully unloaded).
With my sarcastic sense of humor, I sometimes wondered (but never said out loud to John), about how safe their home decorating scheme was. Even happily married couples have arguments and fights and disputes. If your house is full of every variety of firearm, doesn’t that add an extra amount of risk during a marital spat?
Sometimes people I have known as friends toss out a revelation that startles and mystifies me. One day, as we walked and chatted, John suddenly burst out with the following statement. I don’t think I had said anything to stimulate the comment, nor had any event in our environment or work life provoked it.
John suddenly said to me with some forcefullness, “When I think how terribly I treated my wife a few years ago, I am filled with shame. I am amazed that we are still married.” He offered no further explanation.
This is not the only time in my life when an acquaintance has startled me with an unexpected revelation. When astonished in such a way, I tend to remain in respectful silence rather than asking probing questions, so I didn’t question John about his surprising remark.
Had he cheated on his wife with the wife of one of rich hunters they guided? Had he engaged in physical abuse? I really don’t know, but it struck me as very dangerous indeed if your wife loves guns and knows how to use them very well, to treat her badly. It made me think there was a Hemingway story in his past. As I have little talent for writing fiction, I will leave the tale that must have been behind his remark to your imagination.
June 19, 2008
Unfortunately, although the new company that hired me was also started by a man named Paul, this Paul was a bit of a jerk and the company is long gone and completely forgotten by everyone but me. The company had a round of venture capital funding, but never came up with a viable product. In the meantime, as I had experience in losing money running my own typesetting business, Paul the unsuccessful entrepreneur ordered me to run a typesetting department, so we could lose money on a larger scale while we were waiting for our cargo to come in.
We rented space from a suburban newspaper and rented time on their huge typesetting machine. I hired half a dozen experienced typesetting operators. One of the rooms we rented was a huge empty office space (that begged to be divided into a hundred cubicles) but at that time only had a carpet and bare walls. We plopped a few tables on the carpet, placed a few dumb terminals on the tables, ran cables through the walls to the typesetting machine down in the newspaper’s basement, and embarked on my second great experience with losing money.
On about the fourth or fifth day of my running the department, I arrived at work one morning, and one of the operators warned me, “Be careful. Don’t step on the rabbit.”
Not believing my ears, I said, “What?!”
The operator pointed her finger at one of the walls. Crouched next to the wall, sitting very still, was a large white rabbit. The operator explained that she was moving to a new apartment, and while she was in the process of moving, she had no place to keep her pet rabbit, so she had brought it to work. She assured me that the bunny was a very well-behaved bunny and would cause no harm or trouble. She looked at me beseechingly and begged me to allow the bunny to spend the day in our nascent operation.
I went over, petted the bunny’s head cautiously, and said, “OK, you can stay, but let’s not make a habit of it, unless you can learn to enter type into a VDT terminal.” The bunny did no work that day, but caused no trouble either.
I think in forty years of working at various jobs, hearing “Don’t step on the rabbit” was one of the strangest beginnings to a work day I ever had. It ties with the day (described in an earlier blog posting) when as a high school teacher I was teaching my first class of the day and saw a white rat peering out at me between a couple of unbuttoned buttons of a student’s shirt. In third place comes the day in the same high school when one of my students, walking down the hallway, asked me, “Do you want to hold my tarantula?”
I held out my hand and the student placed a large tarantula (are there any other kinds?) on my palm. The tarantula looked at me and I looked at it. At least to my eyes, tarantulas tend to have an inscrutable expression.
We live in a strange world. Probably the tarantula was thinking the same thing.
June 18, 2008
Thank you for all supportive comments in regard to the rejection of my job application.
All my life, I’ve never had a job for which I was well-suited. I’m fairly-well suited (well, I don’t dress that well, but that’s another story) for my present work, but I haven’t developed my career well. What little of a career I have is dissolving beneath my feet. I have learned there is almost no way to make a living helping computer-confused people to comprehend computers. Let them suffer in confusion and bewilderment! I now say.
If I had been able to retire a year ago, I would have parted ways from my employer on somewhat amicable terms, but now the divorce is getting bitter and nasty.
If one wants to make a living in computer training, the path to take is to become hideously expert in some obscure geeknerd specialty such as breaking into networks, hacking databases, or writing destructive viruses and worms. From that self-training, one proceeds into extorting protection money from governments and large multi-national corporations. Unfortunately, I am not smart enough to pull off such a life of blackmail and crime.
My wife and I ran our own typesetting business for five years. Our intent in starting a business was not so much to make a lot of money (though we would not have minded), but to be our own bosses and escape the tyranny of working for idiots.
Although we produced good work, we knew nothing about what running a business really involved and missed the point that making money is the ultimate point of running a business, and put ourselves deeply in debt, almost ruined our marriage, appalled our child, and damaged our lives for years. Also, if you run your own business, customers are the nastiest bosses imaginable and one’s self is the biggest and most tyrannical idiot imaginable.
Based on those excellent qualifications and superb training, we feel well-prepared to try again. About the time I retire, I am going to start a small, part-time computer-related business, in between shooting bunnies and squirrels.
My wife is entrepreneuring a little also. She’s been volunteering at the snack stand at the local organic farmer’s market. First, she served coffee and tea and lemonade and handed out the lunches. The drink money goes to the market, and they have a good cook who pays the market a cut and keeps the rest of what he makes from cooking lunches. They have no baked goods, so this year my wife started serving biscotti and scones at the food stand. She came home last Saturday, announced she had sold all the baked goods she had brought, did a few calculations, and then announced, “I didn’t make any money.” I haven’t started yet, but I am sure I can do as well as my wife in terms of my business plan.
If one can’t ruin one’s life on the first try, try, try again is what we always say. As I tell my students, practice, practice, practice.