Jabberwocky – Android Voice Recognition Version

(Much to my surprise, Android was able to render “Jabberwocky” and “Jabberwock” correctly, most of the time.)

Cause belly, Kansas why the toasty,
Guy ring gamble in the way;
All men 0 the Boro goes,
Home rest out grade.

Beware the Jabberwock my son!
The jaws that bite the claws to catch!
Me where the job job bird, and Sean
The funniest Anderson inch!

He took is Oracle sword in hand:
Long time the max om so he saw–
So rested he needs a TomTom train,
Text a while in pot.

And as in the fish study study,
The Jabberwocky with eyes of flame,
Came with link to the tailgate wood,
And purple has it came!

1, 2! 1, 2! answer went through
His were played 1 sneaker snack!
He left a dead end with the Ted
He went clubbing back.

10 past I’ll swing the Jabber walk?
Come to my arms might be mission point!
Of rap just a! Clue! Call a!
T trouble joy.

Cause belly, Kansas why the toasty,
Guy ring gamble in the way;
All men 0 the Boro goes,
Home rest out grade.

My apologies to Lewis Carroll.


Memory and the Fantastic – The Monster

What follows is another “homework” assignment from the St. Louis Library writing group.  I’m really enjoying these exercises.

The exercise was:

“Write about a strong memory you have. This does not have to be a dramatic or important memory in your life — just something you remember clearly and well, a school dance, for example. Fill the page with as many vivid sensual details as you can remember, giving the reader the feeling that she is “there”. You might choose to free-write or journal about the experience, simply writing down as much concrete detail as you can without worrying about form or structure.

Then, introduce a fantastic element to your piece. *This should be fictional, NOT a part of the remembered experience*. This could be a rare natural occurrence, such as an eclipse, or an earthquake; it could also be something surreal or “impossible,” a zombie invasion, for example.

The challenge of the piece is to bring the same level of vivid, believable detail to the fantastic element as you do to your personal memory. (500-1000 words)”

This is a modified version of an anecdotal post from a few years back.  I revised the beginning and added the fantasy at the end.  The fantastic portion is in italics.

The Monster

I was around ten and it was my first time outside the United States. Dad was trying something new and Mom, my cousin Don, and I were coming along. We were spending a week at Penney’s Timberlane Lodge, a remote fishing camp on Lac Suel in Ontario.

Being in Canada was an unsettling experience. It was just like home, but different. There were strange candy bars among the familiar. Nobody was celebrating the 4th of July. But the fishing! We’d always gone to lakes in Minnesota and Iowa where catching a Northern Pike was a major event. Walleye were unheard of. At Lac Suel, every time you dropped a hook in the water, the Northern and Walleye were waiting to strike.

I’d never liked fish unless it was Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks, served with lots of tartar sauce. That summer I discovered how good fresh fish could taste. Every night we were in Canada, Mom batter fried Walleye, the Walleye we’d caught that same day. Mom was not a great cook, her chili was Germanic; there was an occasional kidney bean and chunk of hamburger floating in a thin broth, with just a hint of chili powder to provide ethnicity. There were a few things she did well; her meatloaf was great (I thought) and her Maid Rites and chocolate chip cookies were renowned, at least in our extended family. That summer we learned her batter fried Walleye was ambrosia, especially with lots of tartar sauce.

The fishing camp was primitive and remote compared to what we were used to. In Iowa you were never much more than a ten minute drive from a town. In Canada, there were trees, trees, and then more trees for miles, miles, and then more miles. When we got to the camp we seemed cut off from the world. All the food we brought with us was preserved. On that trip I learned potatoes and bacon came in cans. The cabin was made of rough-cut logs and the kitchen area was primitive; the stove consisted of exposed gas pipes with burners attached to the ends.

Fishing was my Dad’s passion, not mine. I was always more interested in comic books and science fiction. My cousin Don was (and still is) an avid fisherman and hunter, but I was just there because my parents were. But the fishing was so good, even I became enthusiastic about it. I was, however, most assuredly not a morning person and Don and my Dad liked to be out on the lake at an hour when I was usually snug in bed. They would drag me out to the boat at the crap of dawn and I’d spend the first hour or so huddled in my jacket, trying to stay warm, sullenly wishing I was still in the sack. One morning we were performing the usual routine, Dad and Don had their lines in the water and I was wishing I was someplace else, warm and cozy.

Then I saw something I’ll never forget.

The water was smooth as glass and the lake was quiet, not a breath of air moving. We were fishing in a drowned forest—the lake was lined with them—the trees had been under water long enough to lose their leaves, bark, and small branches. The trunks and larger branches still protruded above the surface. I was staring at the drowned trees, thinking about how eerie they looked, wondering why they had been underwater for so long. Without warning, fifteen or twenty feet before my eyes, a half-dozen gigantic tentacles thrust up from the depths, loomed over the boat, then withdrew below the surface. I was petrified. My brain was operating on overdrive but my body couldn’t move. I was looking at something impossible, something out of a horror film. But it was real.

I froze for what seemed like a minute but couldn’t have been more than a second. I was experiencing tachypsychia, Greek for “speed of the mind.” It’s what special effects people call “bullet time” in the movies. You know, the scene where everything slows down to the point you can observe a bullet in flight. As I sat there, stunned, the tentacles emerged again, just a few feet, then withdrew, and suddenly I was back in real time.

We became aware of something huge moving beneath us as the boat began to pitch and roll. I gripped the gunwale of the boat, hard, and Dad and Don braced themselves. There was no swearing in our family, not when I was around anyway. Mom didn’t even allow me to say “ain’t,” so the words I was hearing from Dad were—unusual. I was still too shocked to speak. As we watched the disturbance in the water it began to form a bulge, like the water above the bow of a submarine about to surface. It moved toward the shore, the drowned trees parting in its wake, giving the impression of elephantine size and strength below the surface.

As it neared the shore, huge tentacles, the tentacles I’d seen less than a minute before, emerged and began to feel about the trees at the water’s edge and then wrapping around the trunks. A monstrous shape broke the surface, sending tentacles deeper into the woods, searching for purchase in the trees further from the shoreline. A vast, obscene body, shimmering like wet leather, pulled itself onto the shore, pulling and humping its bulk toward the camp.

I thought to myself, “This is what comes of reading aloud from the Necronomicon last night.”

– Poppa

The Bugtussle UFO Incident Report

What follows is the result of my first homework assignment from a writing group I just joined.  The assignment was to create a “Fraudulent Artifact.”

The Fraudulent Artifact (exercise for April 4, 2012)

Try writing a piece of fiction that masquerades as another form of
nonfictional writing. This could take a number of shapes, including a
letter to the editor, an obituary, part of a legal transcript, an
interview, an incident report, a police blotter, an infomercial script
… the possibilities are endless.

So, my very first Fraudulent Artifact.

The Bugtussle UFO Incident Report

On the evening of July 12, 1984, a UFO sighting was reported to the office of the Bugtussle Picayune, the local paper of the unincorporated township of Bugtussle Iowa, population 432.  The Picayune included the report in its July 18 issue.  The Bugtussle Picayune is a single-sheet newsletter with a circulation that does not extend beyond the immediate vicinity of the township, but the story was picked up by the Des Moines Register and subsequently came to the attention of the Midwestern UFO Research Institute.  The Institute immediately dispatched an investigator to the scene in order to interview the witnesses of the event.  The witness statements and investigator’s conclusions are attached.

Witness Statement of Eustace LaFong – recorded by Lead UFO Investigator Ralph Edwards, Bugtussle, Iowa, July 24, 1984.

Well sir, on the night in question I was driving along in my old Ford, minding my own business,  coming home from the monthly covered dish supper in the basement of the Last Shall Be First Lutheran Church over on Wooster Street where I’d gotten on the outside of a (expletive deleted), oops, pardon my French, bunch of casseroles and I could feel them fighting amongst each other down there if you get my drift, so I was moving down the road at a pretty good clip because I’m just not comfortable using any bathroom except my own in those situations if you get my drift, and I knew then I shouldn’t have had two helpings of Doreen Pittman’s Sweet Potato and Cabbage Surprise since that always gives me wind something fierce and I didn’t want to relieve the pressure by passing gas as I was afraid I’d pass more than gas if you get my drift, when all of a sudden I see this big shiny thing just drop out of the sky and land right smack-dab in the middle of the road.

Well sir, I just slammed on those brakes as hard as I could and stopped the old Ford right before I hit that big shiny thing.

That’s all I remember until I woke up a few minutes later with old Henry Larsen giving me what-for because I’d stopped my car smack-dab in his rose bushes.  That big shiny thing was gone and the seat cushions on the old Ford were pretty much ruined if you get my drift.

Witness Statement of Margene Eichelberger – recorded by Lead UFO Investigator Ralph Edwards,  Bugtussle, Iowa,  July 27, 1984.

The night of the event I was sitting on my porch, drinking an iced tea and talking with my friend Marcella about the sorry state of affairs in the public school system.  Honestly, those long-haired radical teachers teach things I can’t even mention in polite company.  Anyway, just as Marcella was about to agree with me, we started to hear a kind of a deep humming sound coming from over the house.  Then all of a sudden this huge thing, I’m not sure what it was, is in the middle of the street right in front of Eustace LaFong’s car which was driving much faster than he should have been driving.  Eustace stopped his car right before he hit the thing, whatever it was, and wound up in the middle of Henry Larsen’s rose garden.  It was a real shame because Henry works so hard on that garden.

Then I must have blacked out for a while because the next thing I remember was seeing Henry berating Eustace for ruining his garden.  The huge thing on the road was gone.

Witness Statement of Marcella Kelly – recorded by Lead UFO Investigator Ralph Edwards, Bugtussle, Iowa, July 27, 1984.

I’m a bit fuzzy on the details myself, but I thought one of those big silver tank trucks just pulled out onto the road in front of Eustace and Eustace was going so fast he lost control of his car.  But I’m sure whatever Margene told you is what happened.

Witness Statement of Henry Larsen – recorded by Lead UFO Investigator Ralph Edwards, Bugtussle, Iowa, July 27, 1984.

I was at home in my living room on the night of the so-called “event.”  I was sitting in my chair reading a book about the Civil War when I heard brakes screeching in front of the house.  I went out into the yard and there was that dang Eustace LaFong’s car parked right in the middle of my roses.  As soon as I figure out the damage I’m going to send Eustace the bill.  I never saw any UFOs or whatever they’re called, myself I think Eustace just had a snootful and lost control of his car.  Mind you, I couldn’t smell any liquor on Eustace’s breath because he smelled too bad to get very close to.  Worst thing I’ve smelled since I moved into town off the farm.

Conclusions of Lead UFO Investigator Ralph Edwards dated July 30, 1984.

The Bugtussle Incident of 1984 appears to be a classic UFO encounter; there was a visual sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object combined with several reports of possible human paralysis (catalepsy) and missing time (a gap in conscious memory).  I recommend this incident be classified as a Close Encounter of the Second Kind (Confirmed).

Respectfully submitted by Ralph Edwards, Lead UFO Investigator for the Midwestern UFO Research Institute, Midwestern Regional Office, Mobile Unit One.

The Felid Purr: A bio-mechanical healing mechanism

So I’m sitting in my chair, minding my own business and reading Oryx and Crake when I come across a reference in the book to the healing properties of purring.  This was a timely reminder. I’d been having problems with shooting pains in my right elbow for several weeks.  It had gotten so bad I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee with my right hand unless I helped it with my left.  A longer than usual session on my laptop convinced me the pain was aggravated (and presumably caused) by years of laptop touch pad overuse.

I’ve been here before.  About 20 years ago my right wrist started to hurt when I used the mouse on my PC.  Drugs and wrist supports didn’t help, so I just started using the mouse with my left hand.  I got really good at left handed mousing and after a few years the condition went away.  I’d already come to the conclusion that if I stopped aggravating the situation my elbow would eventually heal on its own.  My doctor diagnosed it as tennis elbow, a tendon overuse injury, confirming my suspicions.

I remembered reading about therapeutic purring elsewhere.  Google shows about 762,000 hits when you search on healing properties of purring.

For example, from an article titled The Felid Purr: A bio-mechanical healing mechanism found at the Fauna Communications Research Institute site:

The dominant and fundamental frequency for three species of cats’ purrs is exactly 25 Hz, or 50 Hz the best frequencies for bone growth and fracture healing. All of the cats purrs all fall well within the 20 – 50 Hz anabolic range, and extend up to 140 Hz..

All the cats, except the cheetah have a dominant or strong harmonic at 50 Hz.The harmonics of three cat species fall exactly on or within 2 points of 120 Hz which has been found to repair tendons.

One species within 3 Hz and one within 7 Hz.Eighteen to thirty-five Hz is used in therapeutic bio-mechanical stimulation for joint mobility. Considering the small size of many of these cats, especially the domestic cats, it is interesting to note that that all of the individual cats, have dominant frequencies within this range. In fact, some of the cats, have 2-3 harmonics in this range.

The frequencies for therapeutic pain relief are from 50-150 Hz. All of the individual cats have at least 5 sets of strong harmonics in this range.

It occurred to me, I live with a bio-mechanical healing mechanism.

Rufus has some annoying habits, but he has some good qualities, too.  He likes to cuddle and is a purring machine.  He sleeps with me every night, starting at my side and migrating down to my ankles after I fall asleep.  It was a simple proposition to maneuver my right elbow under him for a little while each night so the buzzing was applied directly to the desired area.

The improvement in my elbow was quite dramatic.  Within a week or so my arm regained its full range of motion and the pain was almost completely gone.  It would be cool to attribute this all to Rufus, but I had also stopped performing the actions that I believed led to the condition in the first place and I had a pretty mild case.  Then too, I’m a firm believer in the placebo effect (or purrcebo effect?) and Rufus purring at the site of the discomfort was quite soothing.

Whether or not there is actually something to this, I have a lot of fun watching people edge away from me when I start talking about the healing properties of my cat.  My next experiment will determine the efficacy of a properly applied bio-mechanical healing mechanism on gout.

– Poppa

The Cage

As the remaining days to retirement melt away, my anticipation is building.  There are 8 work days between myself and the day I walk out Boeing’s doors to the next stage in my life.  I’m not counting weekends since I’m effectively already retired on Saturdays and Sundays.

I’m short.  I’m a “single digit midget.”  I suspect that my co-workers are finding me insufferable.  I’m pretty sure I’d find myself insufferable if I were someone else. I can’t keep myself from talking about retirement at every opportunity.

I’m at the “I love you, man!” level on the Electro Euphoria Reckoner.  Experience tells me this won’t last, not at this level anyway.  That’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want to feel like this all the time, I’m pretty sure I’d fry my brain.

I’m wondering, will I still enjoy the weekends when it’s the weekend all week?  I’m wondering, do I need to spend time in a cage to appreciate freedom?  I’ll know soon.

– Poppa

“. . .being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity. . .”

27 calendar days, 19 working days until January 31, 2012, 59.5 years old, retirement, “. . .being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity. . .” — Rip Van Winkle.

This is both exciting and terrifying.  It may be the best thing I’ve ever done, or the stupidest move I’ve ever made.  Most likely it’s somewhere on the continuum between those extremes.  I hope it’s closer to the “best” extreme, not the “stupid” extreme.  I expect it will drift back and forth at times.

Most of my life I’ve organized my days around what parents, teachers, or employers wanted me to do.  There was a short time in the early ’70s when I just let go, when I did whatever I wanted.  What I wanted then consisted of sleeping until noon, eating meals someone else prepared for me, watching TV, reading books I wanted to read, engaging in the sexual revolution, partying until I collapsed, then doing it all over again the next day.  That pretty much sums up my last two semesters of college.  I stopped going to classes after the first week and lived like I was at some cut-rate Midwestern Club Med (Club Ed?) where the meals consisted of cheap hamburgers and spaghetti, the unairconditioned rooms had uncomfortable single beds, and the beaches were abandoned gravel pits.

After I nose-dived out of the educational system I had intermittent periods of joyful idleness between jobs when I was living in Ames and Des Moines.  I was sharing houses with friends, playing Risk until 7 AM, sleeping ’til 3 PM, getting up and going to get pancakes at Sambo’s (a restaurant chain destroyed by its politically incorrect name), engaging in the sexual revolution, partying until I collapsed, then doing it all over again the next day.  I’d work at a crappy job until I got bored or couldn’t stand the conditions anymore, quit, and take a month or so off.  When the money ran out or I got tired of doing nothing, which fortunately always seemed to happen about the same time, I’d get another crappy job in a fast food joint, a slaughterhouse, or someplace equally smelly, dirty, and unpleasant.

A common factor in these experiences was the knowledge that what I was doing was not only incredibly irresponsible but completely unsustainable.  Two things brought me out of this spiral: the Good Job and the Good Woman.  The Good Job was at Rockwell.  It didn’t smell bad, it didn’t get me dirty, and it was interesting work.  The Good Woman was Nan, someone I didn’t (and still don’t) want to disappoint.  The end result was 37 years of work I could be proud of with Rockwell/Boeing, a benefit package that no longer exists for people starting with the company today, and savings fed by both of us but nurtured by Nan.  In theory, idleness should now be fiscally sustainable.  But is it still irresponsible?  And what of emotional sustainability?

The knee-jerk reaction of some people who hear me say I’m about to retire is, “Boring!”  Some of this is no doubt due to my flip response when asked what I’m going to do afterwards, “Sleep ’til I’m hungry and eat ’til I’m tired.”  But even without that, plenty of people think life without employment or work is meaningless.  To some extent, I agree.  As always, it depends on how the terms are defined, in this case “employment” and “work.”

This may come as a shock to those who know me, but all my life I’ve loved hard work and learning.  My personal tragedy is that the things I’ve been interested in learning and working at have rarely coincided with the things my parents, teachers, and employers have wanted me to learn and work at.  I view retirement not as a chance to do nothing, but as a chance to do what I want to do when I want to do it.  Some days that may involve sleeping ’til I’m hungry and eating ’til I’m tired.  But I expect those days will be the exception, not the rule.  We’ll see.  At any rate, I can’t sleep much past 9 AM any more, the sexual revolution has been won (and we’re living with the consequences, good and bad), and partying every night has gotten boring.

I have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to be employed.  It won’t involve a paycheck, however.

I have several writing projects under way.  I’m going to look for yoga and/or tai chi classes.  I’m going to sit zazen again for a while and see where that goes.  I’m going to walk (there will be a carrot, not a stick).  I’m going to learn to cook gumbo and braciole and I will master the frying of potatoes.

It’s going to be interesting.

I think.

– Poppa

All Eyes

We had another brief fling with celebrity a while back; Justin Cronin, author of The Passage was speaking and signing books at Maryville University.

We both liked The Passage a lot, which is unusual since we very rarely appreciate the same books.  In fact, we liked it so much that, even though we’d both read the library’s copy, Nan went out and bought a copy for the inevitable re-read.


Justin is an immensely likable guy, full of mirth and passionate about writing.  He signed our copy with a quote from the book, “All eyes,” the motto/watchword of the First Colony Watch.

One of the articles about his visit to Maryville mentioned that the 1949 novel Earth Abides had an influence on him.  I read it in the 70s and it was one of the most memorable of the many post-apocalyptic novels I read as a lad (and I read all I could find).  I pulled my old copy from the shelves; I thought it would be a kick if I could get him to sign it, not as the author obviously, but as someone else who’d read it. I don’t remember ever meeting anybody else who was aware of it, but apparently it’s well thought of in literary circles.

There was a Q&A session after his talk.  He finished his prepared statements with a reading from The Passage.  He read  a pretty intense excerpt and it was hard to get the crowd to come out of their spell and ask some questions.  I grabbed the old book and joined the line, thinking I’d ask him if he would be willing to inscribe “I, Justin Cronin, have also read this book” on the title page.  When I got to the microphone and held it up, he recognized the cover as the same one he had on his bookshelf.  His eyes lit up and he waxed enthusiastic about the book, describing it as the precursor to the Life After Humans mini-wave of books and documentaries that have popped up in the last few years.

The talk was being recorded by HEC-TV, but the video is no longer available on their website.

– Poppa

“SCREW the Middle Classes!”

Nan and I went to see the New Line Theatre’s production of Evita last night.  I’ve heard the music, I’ve seen the movie, but I’ve never seen Evita performed live.  New Line knocked it out of the park.

We sat front row center.  New Line does small, intimate productions, so we were up close and personal with the performers; during And the Money Kept Rolling In, Eva handed 1,000 Peso notes to us (I kept mine).  The live music was great and the cast was splendid.

Photo credit: Jill Ritter LindbergTodd Schaefer (Juan Perón), Taylor Pietz (Eva Perón), and John Sparger (Ché)
from the New Line Theatre production of Evita
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg

The main focus was on the three principles, but the two smaller named roles were memorable, Terrie Carolan, credited as Perón’s mistress, had a heart-melting solo in Another Suitcase in Another Hall and Zachary Allen Farmer, whom we’ve enjoyed before as Barry in High Fidelity and Prospero in Return to the Forbidden Planet, was a lot of fun as Magaldi, a macho tango singer who’s surprised to find himself being used and tossed aside by his one night stand (Eva) when his usefulness is over; he’s supposed to be the user, not the usee.

John Sparger as Ché is a world-class sneer-er and provides the narration, giving the audience a critical view of Eva, questioning her commitment to her people and her stated ideals.  Every now and then, though, some tenderness for Eva seems to leak through.  He also waltzes pretty well in combat boots.  Todd Schaefer as Juan Perón has a powerful stage presence and convinced me he felt both romantic and paternal love for Eva, a woman young enough to be his daughter.

Eva, of course, is the central figure and Taylor Pietz carries the part well, she has a powerful voice and was able to portray Eva as the complicated person she was, willing to do what ever it took to get to the top, and once she got there, do great good and (possibly) great evil all while indulging herself in the name of the people (“I came from the people. they need to adore me. So Christian Dior me”) while at the same time expressing her disdain for the affluent of Argentinian society (“SCREW the middle classes”).

The rest of the company moved effortlessly back and forth between soldiers, spurned lovers, upper-crust snobs, and the Argentinian hoi polloi.  I didn’t spot a false note among them no matter what they were called upon to play.  Some of the faces were familiar from other New Line productions.

Scott Miller has provided background for several of the plays he’s directed and his analysis on Evita was insightful and informative.  In fact, it was so good I forgive him for using “Brechtian” four times without bothering to explain it to the non-theater majors in his reading audience.

I’ve always appreciated Evita for presenting us with a complex character and not falling into the trap of telling the audience whether she’s good or bad.  The demagogues from either side of our political camps never tire of trying to convince us that their opponents are Evil with a capital E.  They present us with TV versions of good and evil and expect us to believe people are one or the other.  This is not consistent with my reality.  People are usually both.

Tomorrow, July 26th, is my birthday.  Eva Perón died on July 26, 1952.  I was born on July 26, 1952.  She passed from this plane just as I was entering it.

Farewell, Evita.

– Poppa