July 30, 2008
They had arranged a self-defense pact with the few remaining neighbors to keep an eye on each other’s properties if one group of homesteaders traveled to the mainland for additional supplies.
Besides depending on armed and watchful neighbors, the pod also relied on traps and mines to protect their territory. Yoshi, skilled with the use of surreptitious weapons, had booby trapped the land around the homestead with pitfalls, snares, and mines. They had decided to make a trip to the mainland to see what supplies they could bring back to help see them through the uncertain future. They had brought both cash—in the form of gold coins—and weapons, unsure which they would need.
Circumstances had proven they needed both. First they had gone to a large pharmacy on the mainland and purchased a variety of medical supplies. Then they had headed toward a large sporting goods store to stock up on additional weapons, ammunition, and other survival gear. Unfortunately, as they were in the store, they discovered others approaching with similar goals and little willingness to wait patiently in line for the rapidly diminishing supply of vital items.
Following Mia’s quick-thinking directions, they fired some shots in the air, told everyone else in the store to get down on the floor, and left quickly. As they left town and headed into the woods, they observed several armed people tracking them purposefully. They opened fire on the pursuers. Several fell; several fled. One of the fallen was still alive.
Chad, their interrogation expert, quickly persuaded him to tell how many were in the party. “It looks as if there are three more alive,” he warned the others.
When they reached the bluff down to the beach where RG waited in the boat, they avoided using the trail, instead using their machetes to cut through brambles and berries. Two of their pursuers, thinking to head them off, raced down the path, falling victim to some of Yoshi’s artfully hidden traps.
When they reached the ship, they found RG eagerly awaiting them, with the engine already running and ready to go. Although wind was the main source of propulsion in these gasoline-scarce times, the boat was also equipped with a motor for those times when speed was of the essence.
As they quickly loaded the supplies on to the ship and prepared to leave, Mia called out, “Watch out!” The last of their pursuers had approached underwater and was now climbing over the side of the boat to attack them on deck. RG whirled, kicked, and chopped. Mia fired once; just to be sure the idiot pursuer was really dead; they then tossed the body overboard. They quickly sailed from the inlet where RG had concealed the boat. As soon as they were safely away from the shore, they turned off the engine and used sail to head toward the island.
Chad grumbled, “We’ll have to eat berries and nuts and packaged food from our emergency supplies until our first grain crop is ready to harvest and we can hunt and slaughter some wild animals from the woods.”
“We can do worse than nuts and berries,” replied RG, as they sailed quietly through the night.
July 29, 2008
Each member specialized in characteristic dreams. Chad’s Dreamstage name was Touch&Pound. His dreams consisted of a variety of feelings of being touched, ranging from the most feathery caresses to the most savage pummeling. After sleeping with one of Chad’s dreamsicles, the dreamer woke aching and sore.
Yoshi’s Dreamstage name was Deeper Than Terror. He specialized in nightmares. During the night the dreamer’s experiences ranged from anxiety and unease to stark screaming fear. Usually a dreamer awoke drenched in sweat amidst tangled, soaking sheets after taking one of DTT’s dreamsicles.
Mia, possessor of an incredible IQ, was known as Differentiate/Integrate to her fans. Her dreamsicles took her fans through vivid excursions of pure mathematics from differential calculus through symbolic logic. As they awakened, her fans often said, “It all made sense to me during the dream, but now I can’t remember a thing.”
RG was known by the dreamstage name, FallingFree. When she was a toddler, her grandfather had noticed how much she loved being held upside down as well as spinning around on a merry-go-round and joked that she had evolved to be an astronaut and live in space. RG, had in fact, as an adult, traveled to a space station and experienced weightlessness.
Her dreams evoked flying and falling. After throwing up in their sleep, RG’s fans learned not to eat very much before they went to sleep with one of her vivid dreamsicles.
RG had inherited her grandparents’ five acres on an island. Picking and eating berries in her grandparents’ garden had been a primal experience for her. Although RG and her companions were too much citizens of the world to settle permanently in one location, they regarded RG’s island land as their summer home. In her education, RG had pursued not only art—dreamsicle composition (her Mommy had been a violinist), but also was a scientist—expert in expert in genetic engineering (Mama had been a biologist and statistician).
Her grandparents would have been impressed to see how she had expanded their garden, focusing primarily on berries, but as devout organic gardeners, they would have been horrified to see how RG had used her genetic engineering skills to create new varieties of berries, many of which were psychotropic and produced strange and bizarre dreams. RG had become rich twice over after she created her famous Random Berries, which not only emerged in a variety of spectacular colors (reminiscent of the water colors she had played with as a child), and flavors, but also produced a variety of bizarre and unpredictable visions after one consumed them.
July 28, 2008
When I taught high school, for a while I participated in a half-day alternative school called “Alternative Futures.” Our goal was to prepare young people for a rapidly evolving future.
When I was young, I read a lot of science fiction. As someone with a small talent at writing (and not much else), I dreamed of being a science fiction writer. I made a few stabs; it was obvious to me that my talents do not lie in the direction of writing fiction.
As a young person, science fiction was mostly a form of escapism for me, though I did think about what it said. As an old person, the science fiction I read about when I was young is now coming true.
When I wrote an earlier scrap of blog science fiction, Spectrum wrote:
What about RG? What about her future? I don’t like this dream.
Like three grains of sand in an oyster, Spectrum’s three sentences stimulated me to write three—not pearls—three alternative futures for RG.
They will follow this week.
July 27, 2008
When my wife and I married, I was 21 and she was 18, way too young to get married. We didn’t hate each other, but I don’t know that we were “in love.” Perhaps not having much romance at the start of our marriage saved our marriage.Without meaning to, and even though we used protection, we conceived a child on our honeymoon. We probably would not have ever had children if it had been up to us, but having a child probably saved our marriage some more.
When our child was born, I thought, “I have no idea how to deal with being a parent. All I know is that I will not do what my parents did.” Surprisingly, I stuck to that vow to at least an 80% consistency. As I struggled to figure out how to be a parent, I developed what I now call, “Mad Scientist Parenting.” Even more surprisingly, my daughter, who will be 42 in August, still speaks to me and visits us voluntarily without nagging.
When I have to deal with my very extended family (siblings in Maine, Vermont, Missouri, and California, aunts in Australia, New York City, and Connecticut, obscurely famous uncle also in New York City), I feel great anxiety. When I was invited to a family reunion about eight years or so ago, I resisted going. When my travel and lodging expenses were mysteriously paid, I went; it seemed ungracious to refuse to go. (I didn’t realize at that time that my cousin Joanna had gone to Taiwan to learn Chinese and had turned into a millionaire and to please her mom, my Aunt Naomi, had paid for the entire reunion.) I teach computer classes; I tell my students, “Don’t worry so much about learning about computers; study your Chinese if you want to get rich.” As a fair number of my students are native Chinese speakers, they regard me with some bewilderment, or at least inscrutable expressions.
Relatives wanted me to call them on Saturday. I put it off for a couple of hours, and then forced myself to act like a family member.
I started with my aunt Henriette. A year ago or so, her husband died in her arms as she tried to carry him to an alternative health practitioner. Her son had already moved as far away from her as he could. As everyone in my family detested her husband (whom she married and supported because he said he would train her to be an opera singer for the Metropolitan Opera), and he felt the same way about my family, she is rather isolated from other members of my family. As I was first nephew, and as someone who knows a (very) little about computers, she has focused on me as the family member she can reach out to. One of her sisters (Diana, the most like their awful mother, Agnes) is in an home for people with Alzheimer’s. Her other sister, Naomi, who was a ballet dancer and teacher and health food and exercise fanatic, is now living in Australia and crippled.
I suspect that Agnes, their mother and my grandmother, was a narcissistic personality. (David is certain his father is also a narcissistic personality.) Diana (who fled her family because their dad, dentist turned naturopath who was at the least, a crackpot, insisted on trying to provide enemas to most of Chicago, including to his three daughters and his son-my father)-had lots of personality. I figure as a way to stick a finger in her parents’ eye, Diana married a conventional doctor. When I met Diana and her three children at the reunion, they told me that she had “destroyed” her husband, by then dead. Although Diana did not strike me as being as dreadful as her mom, there was still a lot a lot of firepower present; I could easily imagine her doing in her husband by sheet force of personality.
Naomi, the ballet dancer, married an engineer from a Hemet, California cowboy family. He had probably grown up roping cows and riding bucking broncos; he was at least a match for Naomi. He was about ten years younger, as well. I am not exactly sure of the dynamics of their marriage: most of the time Donald is quiet but exudes confidence and an air of inscrutable profundity. Naomi speaks of him with respect and dominates everyone else in the room.
Naomi had two daughters. Joanna became the Chinese-speaking millionaire.The other, cousin, Valerie, is a chiropractor educated in Australia but now living in Spain. I had met Joanna’s husband, an Australian chiropractor, who joked around so much he dismayed even me. Joanna has since kicked him to the curb.
Compared to her older sisters Diana and Naomi, Henriette is merely a turbine-powered drill who quietly wears away at whatever is in he way. Since I last talked with her, she has gotten a part time job at a senior center. As her son Carl (much more of a computer nerd than I) refuses to talk to her any more when she has a technical support question, I am her main source for computer assistance. At 82, she is more adept with computers than 80% of the students I work with who are over 70, which means that she knows enough to get herself in difficulty. She taught herself some Excel to use in her job; so Saturday, she had some Excel questions which she tried to describe over the phone. Every time she wants computer help over the phone, she drives me crazier.
I bought her a computer and a fancy inkjet printer. She is repaying me at $35 a month. Now that she has a job, she proudly informed me that she is going to pay me $70 this month.
She made up some calendars to sell, using fine art reproductions she copied from the web. She sold a fair number of her calendars; unfortunately, with the cost of ink she loses money on each calendar she sells. She asked me to find a way to get the printer company to sell her ink more cheaply because she is in business. I suggested she find someone from SCORE to give her advice on running her business.
After I talked with Henriette, I called my youngest brother, J, just diagnosed as suffering from bi-polar disease.
His wife had written to me and my other brother:
J will be getting out of the psych. unit this afternoon. They ran more blood tests this morning, checking levels of medication, cholesterol, etc. and if all is well then he is good to go!!! He is very happy about this and will be coming home after a week and a half of being away. The psychiatrist told me that J followed the program really well.
Please understand that he needs to be on medication and please be supportive of his recovery. It is his choice to take the meds and to go through therapy. There are chemical imbalances in his brain. He will continue with psychotherapy [at the clinic]. He plans to get back to working with vocational rehab. and ARC of the Ozarks, an organization helping to find job placement. He may also get an extension on his unemployment which would help financially. Even with insurance, which I pay an unreal amount of premiums for, we have hospital bills that are mounting up. I am so glad that we bought up to the “premium” insurance plan. I am certain that this will pay off in the long run – whew!
I am trying to be positive and am hopeful that we will see differences in J’s mental stability within the next 6 weeks (time for the meds to work). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he was able to think more clearly and to function and be productive. A brilliant mind is too beautiful of a thing to waste!
I talked with J. There is almost no affect in his voice. As at the last time I talked to him (at the family reunion about eight years ago), he strikes me as almost entirely out of touch with his feelings.
I told this to my wife. She looked at me. I said, “Why do you think it is so difficult and threatening for me to talk with my brother? He’s like me, except worse,” I said.
July 25, 2008
I don’t understand how cars work. Gasoline explodes and pushes pistons. Plugs, and hoses, and pumps, and transmissions, and drive trains, and axles are involved. It all sounds like a damned hum to me.
I can’t service or repair cars either. When my wife and I were our twenties, and we were pretty broke, we desperately needed a car for a new job location, so I bought an ancient Volvo for $100. It ran. A work friend of mine, a very nice guy even though he was very adept and macho, told me I should learn to maintain my cheap car myself.
Trying to live up to his expectations, I tried to change the oil myself. After several hours of frantically trying to get the filter off (with no success) so I could drain the old oil, I drove it to a nearby gas station where a mechanic got the filter off, drained and changed the oil, all in a few minutes. I sulked and hated myself.
Then the car started to spray gasoline over the hot engine. Terrified that I would be consumed by a spark turning the car into a giant fireball, I drove to a Greek mechanic (I think Volvos are from Greece, are they not?) who examined the carburetor. After his investigation the mechanic told me (through his thick Greek accent) that the previous owner had repaired the carburetor himself, and when the previous amateur mechanic had re-assembled it, he had left half the parts out. The Greek Volvo expert got the right parts and put it all back together properly and the car ran for a couple of years.
From those days forward I decided to leave my automotive life in the hands of qualified mechanics.
As we have never bought a new car, I have mostly used small, independent repair shops. By the principle that God loves fools and drunks (though I don’t drink much alcohol), I have been very fortunate for the most part in the auto mechanics I have used.
On the few occasions I took a car into one or another dealer’s service department (because I needed some specialized service), I found them officious, impersonal, unfriendly, inconsiderate, and people you wouldn’t send your worst enemy to.
When my wife bought her little used truck, she took it into a dealer a couple of times. My wife is a person of strong opinions and intense emotions (traits she obviously inherits from Random Granddaughter), and she swore she would have nothing more to do ever again with this dealer’s service department, whom she considered rude scumbags.
As we moved from impecunious and debt-ridden poverty to genteel and debt-free poverty, we bought a couple of nearly new cars from rental car companies. This method of purchasing is not a bad option for people in genteel poverty who need to purchase a pretty good but not completely new car.
With the last car, I bought an extended service contract. When the car started having an argument with the Check Engine Light (which eventually proved to be the result of an illicit relationship between the car and a pollution control device), the contract required me to use an authorized dealer for repairs.
Much to my surprise, the service staff and other employees of the dealer turned out to be courteous, thoughtful, competent, cooperative, good-humored, flexible and generally pleasant people to deal with. So I have used them ever since. (If you treat me nicely, I am very loyal. If you betray me or disgruntle me, I will hold a grudge for a long time and seek revenge. I tell people this when I enter a business relationship with them.)
My little car has held up well, but I am wearing it out. It is an interesting question whether the car will wear out before I retire next year, or I will wear out before I retire, or we all will be still operating.)
Recently, the key stopped opening the lock on the passenger’s door. To unlock the door, I had to open the driver’s side door and reach over. Not a disaster, but inconvenient, and if the driver’s side door did the same, we would be up the creek without a paddle.
I sprayed dry graphite lubricant in the lock. I sprayed liquid graphite lubricant in the lock. The lock leaked dry and liquid graphite all over the driveway, but the key still did not work.
I called the dealer’s service department, though I figured fixing locks was not their thing. A mechanic told me that all they could do was replace the entire lock.
“How much?” I asked with foreboding.
“About $200,” he answered.
When I took the car in for an oil change I asked them to look at it, but not to do anything heroic [expensive].
I carry two sets of keys with me. Over the years, I have locked myself out of my car and out of my house, so I always keep spare keys in a jacket pocket. When I take the car in for service, I leave spare key with the service department.
After my car was serviced, the service coordinator said, “I don’t find any problem with your passenger’s side lock. It opens fine.”
I said, “I have to see this.”
He opened the door, using the spare key. I tried my key. The door wouldn’t open. He looked at my key. He said, “The problem is not with the lock. It’s with your key.”
He examined both keys. He pointed out some imperceptible flaw (to my eye) in the bits that go in and out on my key. Because my keys worked on the driver’s door but not the passenger’s door, it never occurred to me that the problem was not the lock, but the key. I put the spare key on my keychain as my main key. (I still don’t understand why the worn out key works on one side and not the other.)
The service invoice charged me the normal charge for an oil change and lube. There was no charge for “fixing” my lock. I figure if they had added a $10 charge for “helping clueless customer” I would not have complained, but there was no charge and they didn’t even chuckle, much less guffaw, at least not in front of me. Although their location is less convenient now that I live on an island, I remain a loyal customer.
July 25, 2008
I’ve had more emails from my youngest brother’s wife. At one point, she asked me if there were any history of mental illness in my family.
I resisted the impulse to say, “We are all crazy,” though I suspect it is true. I mentioned that I had been treated for clinical depression, and that I thought that both my mother and father had been clinically depressed, though I didn’t know if they had ever been so diagnosed or treated.
The upshot is that a psychiatrist has diagnosed my brother as suffering from bi-polar illness. He is now home and receiving medication. I had been a little reluctant to call, but my sister-in-law said they would both welcome calls, so I guess I will.
Although she has an occasional tantrum (which we call a “melt-down,”) I think Random Granddaughter is doing OK. Also she has no genetic relation to us, though I suspect a lot of this stuff is infectious.
I worked for a while with someone who was bi-polar. He received a lot of medical treatment, though as far as I can tell it didn’t seem to help him much. But I guess every case is different.
July 24, 2008
At the last farmer’s market, Mrs. Random made a gross profit of $10.11, selling baked goods at the coffee stand where she volunteers.
Now that she is working up to the big time as far as revenue goes, I am urging her to prepare some marketing materials. As she is reluctant to engage in “hype,” as she puts it, I have assigned the task to myself. Today I suggested the following to my wife. She didn’t throw me out of the house, perhaps because I left voluntarily to head for work.
Chickadee’s Earth Muffin Baked Goods:
Psgotti, Skones, & Lighter than Lead Healthy Cookies
It ruins jokes to explain them, but I have no shame.
When my daughter was tiny, she liked spaghetti but always called it, “psghetti.” (She also called flowers, “fowfers.) I don’t know of any cute mispronunciations by RG.
My wife has become a zealot about healthful eating, but she decries “health food” cookies that feel and taste like bricks, and takes pride in making nutritious baked items that are also light and tasty.
She is also a perfectionist. When she baked some scones that had the slightest bit of excessive browning on the bottom (from being in the oven a few minutes too long), she refused to take them to the market.
July 23, 2008
From an early age (3), Random Granddaughter has been considering her career options. In reverse order, she seems to lean toward becoming 3) a ferry captain, 2) a railroad engineer, or 1) a fire captain.
Now that she has reached the ripe old age of 4, she seems to be sticking with these career goals. However, I don’t want her to get “pigeonholed” by these fairly narrow and typecast possibilities, which might fall into the category of “feminist stereotypes.” Although she’s not much of a fashion-obsessed person yet, I do think she should consider careers where she might be able to wear pretty, feminine clothes. RG has been known to put on a dress now and then.
My wife and I will be providing daycare for our granddaughter during the last week of August because day camp is ending and her new pre-school (based in the home of one of her mommies’ friends) hasn’t started yet.
I thought I might read to her from Bedside Book of Bad Girls: Outlaw Women of the American West by Michael Rutter, a book I snatched up when I recently came across it in a library.
I was immediately struck by the picture on the cover, showing Anna Emmaline McDoulet and Jennie Stevens. Jennie, better known in her time (1890s) as “Little Britches,” showed a lamentable tendency to dress up in jeans. However, her partner in would-be crime, Anna Emmaline McDoulet, who became better known as “Cattle Annie” after she decided to take a whirl at cattle rustling, poses in the picture wearing a dress while holding a carbine by her side.
RG sometimes gets headed off before she can really get into an activity she would really like to pursue, much as Little Britches was frustrated when after the two desperadoes were pursued by a couple of lawmen, Marshall Bill Tilghman caught up with her after a long chase. Although Little Britches shot at him as he chased her, he was reluctant to shoot a woman, so he shot her horse dead instead.
She was said to have thrown dirt in his face and bit and scratched him, until he finally overpowered her and aggravated beyond all measure, gave her a spanking. (Although our family does not spank, I’m sure RG will identify with Little Britches’ frustration and humiliation.)
Although both young female desperadoes rode with the famous Dalton and Doolin gangs, they had trouble getting the male outlaws to fully accept them. The men had a tendency to let them mend their clothes and do the cooking. By the time they were sixteen, the law authorities were tired of two teenagers’ juvenile delinquency antics and both were sentenced to prison (sent from Kansas to Massachusetts).
Little Britches died of consumption a year after her release, but Cattle Annie settled down and “went straight.” In fact a descendent of her posted the following on a web page:
Cattle Annie was my aunt – she did not remain ‘back east’ after reform school. She returned to Oklahoma, married, had 2 sons (who were mainly raised by their father & paternal grandparents), divorced, traveled with the XIT Wild West Show, remarried, became a devout Christian, devoted wife & very respected member of the community. She remained very active right up to the end. She learned to water ski the summer she was 72 (after having had a broken hip), but had to give it up because it made her ‘too tired’. She went surfing with her great grandson at age 80, because according to her, her grandson was too big a ‘fuddy duddy’. She was truly a remarkable lady. She lived in Oklahoma City up to the time of her death & is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
If the mommies don’t want me to read the Cat in the Hat to RG just yet, I suspect that the story of Little Britches and Cattle Annie would go over even less well. I will restrain myself.
July 19, 2008
“I had some errands in this area, so I am a few minutes from your house. If it’s not an inconvenience, I will stop by for a few minutes,” I told Mommy (Random Daughter’s out of law partner and birth mother of Random Granddaughter).
“Sure, stop by,” she said.
As I pulled up to the little house in the medium-sized city, I saw a little form quickly entering the house. I am not sure that Mommy had warned RG that Grandpa was coming, but as an introvert, she needs more time to prepare herself to deal with me.
Sure enough, when I entered the house, RG was clinging to Mommy and avoiding looking at me.
I petted Sylvie, the world’s most extroverted cat. Sylvie purred.
I greeted everyone and talked to the mommies for a bit, updating them about my job travails. Then I mentioned how much the Friendly Neighbors had enjoyed RG’s visit to their chickens and ducks. RG perked up a bit.
“Ducks eat slugs,” I said.
“Grandpa touches slugs,” said RG with disapproval. (Thinking RG was too prissy in regard to bugs and slugs, I had tried to toughen her up by touching slugs in front of her to set a bad example, but only grossed her out and provided fodder for future visits to a therapist.)
“You asked me not to touch slugs again, so I stopped,” I said. “However, ducks think slugs are yummy.” RG looked away, perhaps in disgust. (Note to RG;s future spouse: she may not appreciate you ordering roast duck when you go out with her on a date.)
“How is camp? Are you having a good time?” I asked. RG is in between pre-schools and going to day camp sessions at the private school where Mommy works.
RG began to tell me about camp. She kept turning her head away, mumbling, and hanging upside down from the back of the couch.
Mommy was kind but firm. “Look at Grandpa when you talk to him. Be polite,” she said to RG.
Finally, RG launched into a story, though it took her several tries and encouraging prompts from Mommy to get it straight. I got a little confused and I’m not sure I’ve got it straight myself.
She said, “We took a bus. We went to the Children’s Museum. Then we took the Monorail downtown. Then we took a bus and came home.”
At four years of age, Random Granddaughter can write her name and a few words such as “cat.” She knows the alphabet and can read a few words. She is not encouraged to use a computer and she can’t type yet. For right now, I have to be her Boswell.
Taking that into consideration, I think you have just read Random Granddaughter’s First Blog Post. I think it’s better than a few blog postings I’ve read from time to time on other blogs.
July 18, 2008
when do they have time to get enough sleep?