Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.

The first story actually goes back before the story of Maria and Kip in my life. At one time, my wife and I foolishly started a pre-press graphics business. We had two motivations:

1. We wanted to make more money than we were making in our fairly dead end jobs.

2. We were tired of working for domineering and arbitrary bosses.

There were several problems with our choice.

1. We knew nothing about the “typesetting business” as the enterprise was known in those pre-personal computer/ pre-desktop publishing days. We actually became fairly competent at running our business (as far as the quality of work we produced), but the education process was wasteful and time consuming.

2. It was a business that was seldom profitable for the participants unless they worked in special niches, mostly doing work for advertising agencies, a niche we knew nothing about and had no access to.

3. The equipment needed was expensive. We had no capital and put ourselves ruinously in debt leasing borderline, marginal quality equipment we barely knew how to operate.

4. The business was eventually doomed entirely as personal computers and desktop publishing software developed. We had no clue this was going to happen. Most people in the business, even the successful ones, had no clue we were going to become a “buggy whip” business.

The business came close to ruining our lives, our relationship with our daughter, and our marriage. (As our marriage is currently in trouble, some of the roots of our present problems no doubt link to this disastrous business venture, though it’s quite possible the marriage was doomed from the outset, though it’s also possible it can be saved even now. But that’s another story.)

One of the differences between then and now is fonts. At that time, getting a variety of type styles and type sizes was enormously expensive. We spent thousands of dollars on the few score fonts we had and always tried to talk our customers into settling for what we had in our library. However, from time to time we had to go to a competitor and ask them to set a few lines of type for us and then we would provide it to our customer at a tiny mark up.

Our business was located in Beaverton, a suburb to the West of Portland, Oregon. The successful typesetters, who mostly dealt with advertising agencies, were located in downtown Portland. One day I went downtown to buy a line of type for a business card and letterhead and met Tammy.

Tammy was tall, elegant, blonde, attractive, and very intelligent and assertive. In looks she reminded me a bit of Jean Harlow, the “blonde bombshell” movie star of the 1930s. Tammy grew up in a very religious evangelical Christian family. As far as I could tell, her relationship with her parents was positive and friendly, but for whatever reason, she had married fairly young, given birth to a daughter right away, and was abandoned by her husband within a year or two of the marriage.

[I suspect he was weak and good-looking, and when he married a woman who was not only good-looking and fertile, but also very smart and very tough he fled in terror.]

Tammy and I hit it off well when I met her at her shop. She lived in Beaverton, so sometimes on her way home from downtown Portland, she stopped in our shop and purchased some type from us if we had a font her shop did not; or more often the case, dropped off something we had ordered from her employer.

Although Tammy had no formal academic graphics and business training, her intelligence and drive meant that she rose quickly to executive positions in graphic design and pre-press businesses in the Portland market of the time (mid-1970s). She obviously spotted very quickly that the business my wife and I owned was doomed, but she was too kind and polite to say this to us.

Tammy was well aware that she was a “bomb shell,” as looks go, and cynical enough to regard it as a business asset. As we became friends, she sometimes laughed about how she would participate in a high level business meeting (perhaps the only woman, or if not, but by far the most attractive one) and how men would be so distracted by leering at her that she could gain better deals and terms. She was not quite this crude in how she expressed herself ( though she came surprisingly close) but I will take the liberty of summarizing what she told me as If they are so befuddled by imagining it would be like to screw me when we are negotiating a deal that I can screw them in the deal itself, that’s fine with me).

Eventually, our business collapsed, leaving my wife and I with huge debts and a need to get jobs quickly just to survive. Through a friendly competitor named Ken, who owned a similar doomed business with his wife (who left him with the collapse of their business) I came into contact with a start-up business that was trying to invent “desktop publishing.”

The business was begun by a would-be entrepreneur named Paul, and his father Paul, Sr. Paul considered himself a brilliant entrepreneut and business man. To my eye, Paul was bright, arrogant, moderately slimy and while largely unethical, I did notice times when he was hampered by a few scruples.

His dad, Paul, Sr. was a hard-driving salesman freak, something like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, but much less attractive and interesting than Willy Loman. Paul Sr’s main schtick was hiring pretty saleswomen and then sleeping with them.

Paul and dad started a company they named Accucom, bought some very early IBM personal computers, early Apple computers, and early laser printers and started trying to develop technology that would let people set type themselves.

Even to this day, decades later, the Oedipal and Freudian implications of their relationship, with son as boss of the company, and dad under his direction, are monumental.

Their main aid to management decisions was to drink copious amounts of alcohol. A typical day would run like this. In the morning, Paul would gather the management team (of which I was the most junior member, but not quite the stupidest, try as hard a I could to function down at their level) and make a management decision or two that might be diluted by about 25% good sense, and perhaps little or no alcohol. In the evening, the top management team (although I on occasion got dragged along) would meet at a close-by tavern and hold another management meeting, this time enhanced by copious amounts of alcohol). It was my observation (which being very foolish I sometimes shared) that the evening revisions of the management reduced the 25% good sense to as close to zero as could be achieved by human beings.

I still remember with great fondness a special treat that Paul once provided. The typesetting machine owned by the newspaper could advanced type fairly quickly, perhaps a foot a minute (.3 meter). The Pauls decided that they could sell “rush jobs” for large projects by advertising these impressive specifications. However, a few seconds of consideration revealed the “fine print.” The specification was only how fast the machine could advance blank paper. As it as it actually was setting type, changing fonts, enlarging and reducing type, and so on. The speed went down to a half or a quarter.

When I tried to point this limitation to the Pauls, the blew it off as a minor detail. One day, Paul Sr. arrived at the business with a great air of triumph. He had bagged a stupendous job, a technical manual consisting of thousands of pages that had to be delivered in three days. Based the specs for blank pages he had promised the job could be delivered in that time period and been promised a huge bonus.

When I scanned over the job (which also presented many other complications and difficulties), I tried to explain to the Pauls there was no way the job could be delivered in that time period.

I was scolded for thinking negatively and told to get to work. I gathered my crew and we set to work. After working around the clock for about three weeks, we finally completed the job about 7 pm one night .

I thanked the crew who had worked energetically, skillfully, and cheerfully over the whole time period. As a special thanks I walked to a near by convenience store and bought enough six packs of beer so everyone could have one bottle to celebrate. I believe that I asked that at least one person who was driving (they had come in several groups) no open his bottle until he was home.

Just as we were packaging up the completed job to be air express to the company, Paul Jr. walked in. Instead of apologizing for inflicting an impossible job on us, or even thanking us for doing a job that properly would have been a six week job in three weeks, Paul went into a tirade that I was providing employees with alcohol on company property and putting everyone in danger of a lawsuit. He grabbed the bottles of beer (none open) from me and the employees and locked them into his office.

This was especially rich, as I had often seen him stagger out of a bar after one of his late night management meetings and drive off loaded and barely able to drive. I am not a violent person, but even so he is fortunate that I did not take one of the bottles and smash it over his head. I have observed many powerful examples of hypocrisy over my life (and probably inflected a few), but this had to rank as one of the all time truly great ones in my personal life.

(In the next part, I will get to the first evangelical feminist I am going to introduce to you.)

Hen Pecked

November 14, 2010


Most people who keep chickens around here only keep hens. There are a lot of problems with roosters. Not just the crowing in the middle of the night. They don’t live that long. They are vicious and jealous as well, When my wife and I affectionately pet our three hens (who are now all laying eggs), they all “assume the position”; that is, they squat down so the rooster (which they think we are) can mount them.

If we had a rooster and he observed us petting our chickens (which we do affectionately) he would be outraged and likely attack us in a fury. “That’s one of my harem you blankety-blank!” he would scream. An outraged rooster can do a lot of damage.

Lots of people around here keep chickens; most of us avoid having roosters. For various reasons lots of people hatch or purchase small chicks that turn out to be roosters. It’s hard to tell the difference. People also become very sentimental about their chickens; they don’t want to eat or cull the roosters.

I dropped off some stuff today at a local recycling center. They often have chickens wandering the center. Hmm…they all look kind of big; they look like roosters, I thought today.

I asked the manager, “Don’t you lose some of your chickens to predators, letting them wander around free like that? I have some chickens, but they are really safely caged in.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Those these have been around for a year or so; that’s pretty good. My hens at home are well protected, but I don’t worry about the roosters here at the center. People hate to kill their roosters, so they just drop them off here at the recycling center.” Her shrug eloquently said, Where they have to survive on their own.

So remember when you drop off a nice couch at your local thrift center; it better be able to take care of itself when the coyote, raccoons, and eagles come around and start scratching the furniture

Hello, my name is Random Granddaughter (you may call me “RG” for short) and I am here to present my grandparents’ three hens in this year’s County Fair “Chicken Olympics.” A few years ago, my grandparents attended a “Cat Olympics” at that year’s fair. My crazy Grandpa once asked me if my little cat Sylvie was doing what I told her to do, and I replied, “Kitty cats don’t do what you tell them to do.”

He said that showed I was very smart for a four year old girl to realize that. However, now he thinks his chickens will do what I tell them to do. That’s why I call him my “Crazy Grandpa.”

Anyway, Grandpa was not surprised when one of the cats went to sleep when it was asked to jump through a hoop.

OK, here are my grandparents’ chickens. First, I will present “Big Mama.” She lets me pick her up and pet her! She is a very smart chicken. Second she is eating lots of her very healthy well-balanced multi-grain chicken food. She is growing very big and strong and healthy.

Second I will present “Moll.” Moll is an excellent jumper. She will jump up on this table to get some oats. She thinks oats are like chicken candy.Moll has a lot of attitude. Little girl, sitting in the front row, please come up and hold out your hand to Moll. Look, she will peck you very hard! Little girl, you can stop crying now. How old are you? Four? Well, you should be a big girl now, and not cry so much just because a chicken pecked your finger. Well, maybe when you are six years old like me, you won’t be such a little crybaby.

Finally, I will present “Little Peep.” Little Peep is an introvert and does not like people looking at her. That is why she is hiding in the corner. Little Peep is also an omnivore. She especially likes meat. She is also an excellent hunter. She catches a lot of imaginary bugs. Look at her running around the stage pecking at imaginary bugs!

But I also brought her some real bugs. Perhaps some of the children in the audience would like to help me feed bugs to Little Peep. Here, hold out your hand, and I will put some “rolly pollies” in your hand. My grandpa says they’re called “sow bugs.” Now here are some ants. And here are some termites. Grandma gets very excited when she sees them around the house, so she is very happy when she sees Little Peep eating termites. And here is an earwig–Little Peep thinks they are especially good–look how she gobbles it up!

All the chickens like clover a lot also. Because they have been such good chickens, I am going to give them a bunch of clover leaves. Grandpa says to me, “Look how the chickens eat all these different foods, RG. You should stop being so fussy about your food and try a little of everything.”

Did I mention before that I consider him my Crazy Grandpa. I have five grandmas and four grandpas, but he is the only really crazy one.

Word Press or Blogger?

November 21, 2009

I have tried to use blogger, blogsource, and word press.

I never could get blogger to work for me. It is owned by google, which is the new evil empire as opposed to the old evil empire, which is owned by Microsoft.

Blog source went out of business and lost all the information stored on their host.

I sometimes read blogs on blogger. The blog home pages usually show up with most of the information in Chinese or Japanese. Am I the only English-speaking person this happens to? What is this all about?

Verry Berry

September 2, 2009

My wife and I live on a very fertile island in Puget Sound, a kind of temperate zone jungle. Berries grow very well on our island.

We grow and pick quite a few kinds of berries. For example, we grow strawberries. Strawberries are very well behaved. They have no thorns and grow well. I can envision strawberries sitting in neat rows at church on Sunday.

We also grow boysenberries. Boysenberries are a California crop more than a Pacific Northwest crop. Growing boysenberries brings back memories of her youth in California to my wife. Her family didn’t grow them, but they went into the countryside to buy them.

They grow quite happily here in Washington. They seem vigorous, but they tend to be “sickly.” They also are rather thorny.

Two years ago, they produced a lot of fruit, but then the vines looked very sickly.

At the end of the season, my wife cut them back to the ground. This year they are growing well, but it takes two years for them to produce fruit, so they are just practicing this year with lush vines and no fruit. Boysenberries go to church, but their attendance is a little spotty.

We grow raspberries. Raspberries are a little rambunctious. They produce well, and have a few thorns. They go to church, but argue with other church members when they serve on church committees.

The pastor would just as well the raspberries would pass on joining the committees, but they always do. In our garden, little raspberries side sprouts are always popping up.

We grow blueberries. Blueberries sit quietly in the pews. They don’t stand out much, but the pastor knows he can depend on the blueberries.

We grew tayberries. Tayberries go an odd church on the outskirts of town. If they drop into your church, the pastor would be just as happy if they went back to their odd sect. Pete, a fine and long-time reader of my blog, sent me some bushes. My wife was very suspicious of them and wouldn’t let me plant them in the garden for a couple of years. After they grew in the garden for a while, my wife said, “I don’t like the berries very much. The roots are stealing nutrients from the currents and the potatoes. I want to get rid of them.”

I asked Pete’s permission. It seemed rude to me to dig up a gift plant by the roots. Pete, kindly and patient as always, said, “Sure. Good luck.”

At my wife’s request, I dug up the tayberries. However, they are difficult to eradicate. They will keep popping into the church from time to time, just to be difficult. The pastor may have to spray these congregants with Round Up.


We also pick berries that grow wild. For example, we pick salmon berries. Salmon berries taste rather bland. Salmon berries are kind of like slum children from the “working poor.” They are harmless, but there are always a lot of them wandering around on the streets and playing pickup football and baseball games. If they come to church, they are restless, and sit in the back.


Then there are the blackberries. There are two kinds of blackberries. The native blackberries are very small. They are hardly worth the trouble of trying to pick and eat.

 They native black berries send their children to school, and they don’t go to church very often, but they don’t cause much trouble.

The Himalayan Blackberries are troublemakers. They ride loud motorcycles or drive souped up cars with no mufflers and play their radios very loudly as they drive by. Himalayan Blackberries hang out in bars. When they bartender sees a Himalayan Blackberry come into the bar, he makes such his blackjack is handy under the counter and the phone is within easy reach so he can call the sheriff’s deputies in a hurry.


So far I’ve been mostly using feminine metaphors describing berries, and mostly describing them in terms of members of a church congregation. I’ve always had a weakness for mixed metaphors in my writing and my Himalayan Blackberry metaphors are hopelessly out of control, as are the vines and the berries themselves.


Blackberry vines are guys. The kind of guy who looks like Marlan Brando when he was young. The kind of guy who has no trouble attracting women.

If you marry a blackberry guy you will have to call the cops because he will beat you.


The berries themselves are girls, the kind of female known as “jail bait.” They look ripe and luscious before they are of legal age. They are surrounded by vicious stickers that will sting for a long time after they rip into your clothes and your arms as you try and pick them and even your legs as you try to get to them. The stickers are the brothers of the Himalayan girls, and they’re always looking for a fight to defend their sisters’ “honor.”

If you get a blackberry when it is really ripe–a period that last for about two days–they are incredibly sweet. A ripe blackberry comes off in your hand easily, and tastes delightful. After about two days, they start to dry up and they are not so good anymore.


Neither the blackberry guys nor the blackberry girls age very well (just as Marlan Brando did not age very well). You probably don’t want to marry a blackberry. It’s probably a good idea to wear protection, such as gloves, when you go out to pick blackberries. I picked a bowl of blackberries today. When I held up my hands to my wife, they were stained with juice, and they were stained with blood.


Good luck in getting a Himalayan Blackberry to go to church.

Cats in the Military

August 7, 2009

I own a silly book which I bought for 25 cents somewhere called The First Pet History of the World.

The author talks about dogs helping in wars; no surprises there. I was entranced though by a section about cats assisting the military.

In 1967, the United States Army tried to use house cats to assist soldiers in the Vietnamese War. The goal was to take advantage of feline night vision to help soldiers as they patrolled in the dark. The author claims to be quoting from an actual military report on the experiment. I have no idea if this is really true or not, but I think it’s a hoot to read, so I will quote it here.

Soldiers were harnessed to tom cats and set loose in the jungle after dark.

Quoting from the supposed military report:

The animals led the troops racing through thick brush in pursuit of mice and birds.

Troops had to force the the cats to follow the direction of the patrol; the practice often led to the animals stalking and attacking the dangling pack straps of the soldier marching in front of the animal.

If the weather was inclement or even threatening inclemency, the cats were never anywhere to be found.

Often when the troops were forced to take cover, the cats took the opportunity to sharpen their claws on the boots of the troops, regardless of the seriousness of the situation.

A number of the troops traded their cats to Vietnamese women for their favors. When questioned about this, the troops claimed the animals ran away.


David, have you considered enlisting Little Liu?



It is unnerving that I have outlived my old treadmill. Just as there is something wrong with white lavender, there is something wrong about lasting longer then my treadmill.

When we originally purchased it, we expected the treadmill to outlast us and told the salesman our expectation. He assured us the company made quality equipment, mostly aimed at the professional gymnasium market, not the gimcrack home market. I expect the cheap treadmills sold at Wal-Mart and Costco to fall apart after a year or two. However, the fitness equipment shop that sold me the treadmill is no longer in business.

The manufacturer is still in business and still makes treadmills as well as other exercise equipment.

The motor expired on my old treadmill. When I called the manufacturer’s technical support line, the representative first told me he wouldn’t talk to me if I were not working for a gym and after I became insistent, told me they no longer provide motors for the model I bought and indicated complete indifference to my situation.

I sent the company’s President a letter expressing my opinion about their unwillingness to support a device I purchased for several thousand dollars with the expectation it would last longer than I. I did not get a reply. I was not surprised.

Despite efforts at resuscitation by a repairman, my old treadmill now rests in a landfill. I was not surprised when a CD player I bought for a couple of hundred dollars failed and could not be repaired, but the complete expendability of an exercise device costing thousands of dollars still horrifies me a bit.

We bought a new treadmill a few months ago after quite a bit of research into the reliability of the company and the equipment they sell.

Our new treadmill came with a heart monitor. The treadmill just isn’t happy unless it is displaying my heart rate on the monitor to inform me if I am in the proper cardiovascular “training zone” for my age.

If my heart is pumping too slowly, I am not developing enough heart strength for when I will need to flee pursuing coyotes this winter. If my heart is pumping too vigorously, I may collapse on the treadmill.

The premier heart-monitor company is named Polar. (As you will shortly see, this name is quite apt.) Polar is located in Finland.

I have had doubts whether the country of Finland actually exists. It sounds like a country that Dr. Seuss might invent. However, my daughter assures me that Finland is indeed a real country. One of her best friends, Annina, a college schoolmate for two years, is Finnish. I have also doubted that the language of Finnish actually exists. Annina, for example, speaks six different languages. I have met Annina. She speaks English better than quite a few Americans speak it. I have no doubt that her French and her German and her Spanish and her Russian and, of course, her native Finnish are equally fluent and impeccable.

Finnish is supposed to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, perhaps even more difficult to learn than Chinese. My cousin Joanna Nichols became fluent in Chinese and as a result became a millionaire. I presume that if child genius Random Granddaughter some day becomes fluent in Finnish AND Chinese, she will become a billionaire.

However, Joanna never learned Finnish. My brother, who majored in linguistics and became fluent in French and German and Wolof, never learned Finnish. I have never met a non-Finn who knows Finnish.

Anyway, my theory was that there is no actual Finnish language. Finns, I figured, are cuckoos who pretend to speak an incomprehensible language as they insert themselves into other countries, perhaps engaged in a sinister plot to take over the world.

However, both my daughter, Mama, and her partner, Mommy (as they are known to our granddaughter) spent a week in Finland with Annina and her husband, and they heard and observed Finns all speaking Finnish to each other and accomplishing useful tasks of everyday life, indicating there is a real language and not just a charade to con gullible non-Finns.

Finns are also known for a characteristic known as sisu, the only Finnish word I knew (until a few minutes ago).

Wikipedia describes sisu as follows:

“Sisu is a Finnish term translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. It has been described as being integral to understanding Finnish culture. The meaning is equivalent in English to “having guts”, and the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. Sisu has a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain it.”

In trying to look up the Finnish term for “sissy” I discovered that “sissi” in Finnish refers to elite military forces in the Finnish military, more or less equivalent to units in the United States military such as “Green Berets,” “Special Forces,” or “Seals,” or in England as “SAS” [Special Air Service], in other words, people you don’t want to irritate by referring to them as “sissies.”

If one is trying to learn Finnish in Finland, it would probably not be a good idea to get these words mixed up.

The Finnish word for “sissy” is nynny. As this word is close enough to the English word “ninny,” I can remember it in case I suddenly find myself in Finland. I will point at myself and say loudly as soon as they approach me with cross-country skis and parkas: “Nynny! Nynny! American nynny!”

My new treadmill came with a sensor belt for detecting my heart rate. As the belt picks up the heart rate, a radio transmitter sends it to the treadmill. The treadmill then displays it on the console.

Here is the problem. In the morning, before I start using the treadmill, I take my shirt off and strap the Polar sensing belt around my my chest. The strap is COLD. Even after I hold the strap under running hot water–recommended by the Polar Corporation, as the sensors work better if wet so they conduct the electrical signals from one’s beating heart more effectively to the sensor–the belt immediately feels icy cold to my bare chest–I then squeal and whine in agony as the cold strap hits bare my bare skin.

Actually, truth be told, after a few minutes my body gets used to the strap and then I laboriously plod away on the treadmill watching my heart rate get up to as high as 130 beats per second. This chart from the American Heart Association shows recommended heart rates for exercise and training for different age groups.


However, I dread that initial moment of icy contact and put off engaging it as long as I can, muttering “Nynny, nynny, nynny,” to myself.

For age 65, the training zone is 78-132 beats per minute. I usually plod along at about 120 bpm. The maximum is 155. I don’t know what would happen if I went over 155 bpm; I am not planning to test it.

I went to the Polar Corporation web site to see if they might be able to help me.

The Polar Corporation has web sites for many languages. Finnish, of course. English, naturally. I am not surprised there is a Chinese language site as well. On the web page for English speakers (and I presume for the web pages for all the other languages) Polar Corporation has a discussion section where customers can ask questions and discuss training problems. The typical question runs something like,

I am training for a marathon cross-country ski race where all the competitors cross the tundra during a blizzard, pursued by polar bears. My polar heart-rate monitor is not holding up very well under these conditions. It tends to freeze up and stop after only two hours or so of sub-zero skiing or if chewed by a bear.

The Polar Corporation has a corporate slogan on their web site: Listen to Your Body. I don’t think Polar Corporation wants to hear my body whining and kvetching about how their sensor strap causes me to squeal from a moment or two of chill.






Almost a year ago, David said:

I’m thinking that your aid campaign is what turned my life around. You’ve got a powerful tool there. Use it wisely.

I started what I called a “shareware” program where I sometimes send $5 to someone who is blogging and evincing some distress. David, Waxingstrange, and more recently a person on worldmagblog, the evangelical Christian web site, have all been recipients of my tiny postal mail donations.

In each case the recipient reported some benefit.

Here is my thinking.

1. All human beings are crazy. We are crazy because of our self-awareness of our mortality. (Becker) There is no cure for our condition. Religious belief is the most common method of alleviating it.

2. There are many sub categories to our craziness, such as the “I’m no good” syndrome (original sin).

3. Two common symptoms of the I’m no good syndrome are the “I am ugly,” and “Nobody loves me” feelings. David, for example, suffered severely from these symptoms, though he is not ugly and people do love him.

Here’s my theory. It is based on “cognitive dissonance” theory. This theory suggests that humans resist holding contradictory ideas in their minds. So if a person thinks, “I am ugly,” and a beautiful woman sleeps with him, he then thinks, “She is only doing this for my money.” This issue is complicated by the fact that in some cases the conjecture may be true. I don’t think like a woman, but the a woman may think, “He only loves me for my body.”

It may take a fairly strong and unexpected shock to break through this resistance. In Zen Buddhism, the master sometimes “slaps” the student to force him into a new awareness. Apparently, sometimes getting five dollars in the mail can sometimes have the same result. It’s only good for a few days, though.

My father served in the military during World War II as a sergeant in India. The United States feared that Japan would invade India. As Japan invaded other places than India, my father was not exposed to combat.

He once said to me, “I learned that there is the right way to do something; the wrong way to do something; and the Army way to do something. God help you if you are in the United States Army and do it some other way than the Army way.”

My youngest brother enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a weatherman. He did not serve at a time where he would have been in danger of being exposed to combat. After he left the Navy, he did nothing in regard to the weather. A couple of years ago, he left home in the middle of the night and wandered the streets until picked up by the police. He was subsequently diagnosed as bi-polar. Perhaps he was under the weather.

During the Vietnam War, I was called up for the draft. I passed the physical exam. I passed the mental exam. [Why?] The birth of my daughter made me eligible for a deferment. I took the deferment but resisted the urge to name my daughter “Deferment.”

I don’t feel guilty for not serving in Vietnam For one thing, I would have been the wost soldier in the history of the United States military. However, I don’t feel great about it either when I think about the thousands of Americans who were drafted and who enlisted, many of whom were killed, many of whom were injured, and many of whom had their lives disrupted and damaged.

The only other relative I know of who served in the military was my mother’s stepfather, Alex, whom I remember as a dour, taciturn man who owned and drove an old school bus instead of a automobile as his personal vehicle when he and my grandmother retired to California after selling their farm in Indiana.

My mother said that Alex had served in the Russian army during World War I, where he spent most of his time as a soldier trying to stay as far away from combat as he could.

I always thought of him as a sort of Ukrainian Corporal Švejk, the leading character in the Catch-22 of the First World War, The Good Soldier Švejk.

Information about the novel.

New translation.

Background about new translation.

In fact you may never see it. The hand may be too fast for the eye to detect.

At this point, I will say something not particularly intelligent about intelligence. Over the years, I have read various articles and books about intelligence and IQ (the measurement of intelligence). I’ve forgotten most of what I read, which isn’t especially bright.
Intelligence in theory perhaps measures one’s ability to manipulate one’s environment.

It does seem to me that there are many kinds of intelligence. It also strikes me that there is very little correlation between intelligence and emotional stability. Almost everybody in my family is very intelligent. I am perhaps the “runt” of the family in this regard. However, a large portion of the members of my family are emotionally disturbed. Among my siblings, my youngest brother was this year diagnosed as bi-polar. I have always regarded him as having something seriously wrong with him and as being much like myself. My wife tells me that I am crazy to worry about whether I am as crazy as littlest brother.

My littlest sister probably suffers from a personality disorder. Personality disorder seems to mean that you are too smart and cunning to get yourself locked up, but you are strange enough to drive everybody around you crazy. Perhaps the two best known disordered personality varieties are sociopaths and narcissists.

I think my paternal grandmother was clearly a narcissistic personality and her three daughters (my father’s sisters) have some of this disorder in their personalities.

My father probably suffered from a personality disorder also.

Looking at the Wikipedia page on personality disorders, I see there are a variety of varieties, so I am not sure of the exact flavors of my father, my littlest brother, and my littlest sister.

I don’t think I knew the word sociopath when I was 12 years old, but I knew the concept and I believed it described my next brother (then 9) quite well.

As I was chasing him with a knife in my hand as I was dwelling on this thought, I am perhaps not a stellar witness for the prosecution.

These diagnoses, even if accurate, are not set in stone.

My three aunts managed to lead normal (if very eccentric) lives. My brother up until his twenties showed some definite tendencies toward being a sociopath. I won’t detail them except to say I don’t believe there were any human bodies that lost their lives involved in my sibling’s activities, but he eventually grew out of his worst tendencies and by his second marriage became a reasonably respectable member of the community, including husband, father of three children, and owner of a respectable craft-related business with some national presence.

As my millionaire “Chinese” cousin died of breast cancer, my father’s oldest sister has Alzheimer’s, and his next sister, the ballet dancer, is crippled, I doubt we will have any more family reunions. However, If we did all get together again, we could open a 31-flavors of personality disorders store.

I have a vague and uncertain memory that my IQ once tested at 121. I think this classifies as a butter knife in the silverware drawer: high dull.

My wife says our daughter was scored at 140 when tested, which puts her in the bright category.

My wife did not go to college. She has a complex because my daughter and I have Masters Degrees. As my wife was sulking about this the other day, she told me that her IQ was measured at 80.

This is ridiculous. My wife is a very intelligent woman. Her intelligence is creative, intuitive, and immensely practical. In the practical details of everyday life she is a genius compared to me. We fight over her efforts to get me to fly right every day, but there is little doubt in my mind that she is much smarter than I am and a smidgen ahead of our daughter in practical life skills.

They tested Random Granddaughter again, both on her social skills and her IQ. I still don’t know how you measure the IQ of a four-year old child. I also don’t think Mommy provided RG with a “cram session” on social skills, though social skills are a useful thing for a child to have. As far as I can see they are still working on getting RG to say “Please” and “Thank you” without prompting. However, I am certainly clueless about what is going on in that very cute little head.

In any case, the School for Very Bright Children tested RG again.

This time they said:

Her social skills are fine. We measure her IQ at 146.

They also said, If she goes to a public school, she will be very bored and probably be unhappy and get into a lot of mischief.

This is somewhat believable (though they have a vested interest in getting her into the School for Very Bright Children).

As grandparents, my wife and I by default believe our grandchild is very bright. I think she is especially bright at watching people and figuring out how they work and how to get her own way without people realizing that is what she is doing. From the ages of 0-4, she used methods such as screaming. At almost five, she told me, “Buy me a stuffed animal and I will take a nap.”

By the time she reaches the age of five, which will arrive in February, RG will be a professional level manipulator.

While the news media has been occupied with admiring Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme as the largest individual con game of all time, people have failed to notice that the entire country of Iceland has gone bankrupt.

You haven’t seen anything yet now that Random Granddaughter has discovered the power of money.

Within a month or two of starting school, she will probably have the entire United States embroiled in a massive Ponzi scheme centered in her kindergarten.