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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Copy

Good artists copy.  Great artists steal.
~ Pablo Picasso
- - - - -

Last year on New Year's Eve I posted something on Facebook about my year.  I ended it saying "There are years that give and years that take."  I looked and looked and looked to see where I had heard that quote.  I couldn't find it.  I didn't think I made it up.  I kind of hoped I had since it seemed rather deep and reflective.  

As I was working on a post for the blog, I came across this quotation: 

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

It was written by Zora Neale Hurston.

So I was close.  I was close to getting the quote right.  I was close in thinking I had heard it before.

And if I have to draw from some source of inspiration...  I don't mind drawing from Zora.  I really like her.

It wasn't plagiarism, though.  What I wrote was different.  Close, but different.

It was more like playgiarism.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Handma


To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour
~ William Blake
- - - - -

Me: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Leslie: That's why I'm always saying Aurora is so beautiful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Radio

I wrote a song, but I can't read music.  Every time I hear a new song on the radio I think, "Hey, maybe I wrote that."
~ Steven Wright
- - - - -

I picked this up when Leslie and I went to Toccoa Falls at Toccoa Falls College.

I like to think that their tagline is something like "We are the WRAF of God!"

I like to think that, but I imagine it is not the case.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kipp


Just build your brand from day one, man. Your brand is your name, basically. A lot of people don't know that they need to build their brand, your brand is what keeps you moving.
~ Meek Mill
- - - - -

"Kip" has lots of definitions, but a "Kipp" is beyond definition.

My friend Kipp has some kids.  I wish I had thought to refer to them as "Kipplings" when I lived where they all live.  But I failed to do that.  Now I can do it from a distance, but it's not quite the same. 

I could tell him he needs to get out and mow his rudyard with the Kipplings. 
I could give him a mongoose for a present.  Or a pair of mating cobras.
Or a book about jungles.

I guess I could still do that stuff.

I don't want to annoy him too much, though.  He has access to strange things.  And strange people.  I think he'd be good at revenge.

But why all the revenge for just a few jokes?!  Sheesh, Kipp!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Surprises

Engage people with what they expect; it is what they
are able to discern and confirms their projections.  It settles
them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their
minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment --
that which they cannot anticipate.
~  Sun Tzu
- - - - -

I like surprises.  Well, I don't know if I like to be surprised, but I like to surprise other people.  And I believe that the key to buying someone a good gift - something that will surprise and please them - is simply to pay attention.  I'm a pretty good attention-payer when it comes to gift-giving.  I'm not always a pretty good attention-payer when it comes to administrative details.  But that should surprise no one.

Anyway, last year for Kirk's birthday we ordered something and had it shipped to his house.  I think it was penguin glasses.  I don't remember.  That's not important.  What's important is that this is the exchange I had with Jared about it...

Me:  Hey.  Am having Kirk's birthday gift from Leslie and me shipped to you.  Don't let him open it.  If he begs too much, put a Snoopy show on TV to distract him.  Deal?

Jared:  Deal.

Me:  You're the best.

Jared:  I know.  And I'm taking a screenshot of this to prove it, in case you deny it later.

Me: Okay.  I'm drunk and this is Leslie.

Me:  Just kidding.

Me:  Leslie's not drunk.

Me:  She's mad.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boots

When the itch is inside the boot, scratching the outside provides little consolation.
~ Chinese Proverb
- - - - -

One of the last years I believed in Santa Claus (it has to be at least four or five years ago now), I remember being in my room and waiting for  him to come and bring presents.  My parents told me earlier that evening that if I didn't go to sleep - if I was still awake when Santa got here - he wouldn't leave any presents.

I was in my room trying to sleep and then I heard heavy boots walking around the house.  I was sure it was Santa.  I was also sure I was completely busted.  I mean, if "he knows if you you've been bad or good, he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake" all of that stuff...  Well, I figured he must know that I was faking being asleep.  He was Santa for goodness sake.

Well, either he didn't know I was faking OR he let me off the hook. I'm not sure which. Or maybe there wasn't any such thing as Santa after all.

We will never know.  

Ultimately, what I learned is that I was probably the most wonderful child during the most wonderful time of the year.  I got presents.  Santa didn't leave me coal.  Even if I was awake and wasn't supposed to be, he knew how special I was. I am.

Me too, Santa.  I know how special I am, too.  Ultimately we both learned a valuable lesson.  That I am wonderful.

(pause)

I guess that should be we both RE-learned a lesson.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Photography

Photographing cake can be art.
~ Irving Penn
- - - - -

For everyone taking photos this holiday season, I suggest not worrying about getting the "perfect shot." That isn't reality.  that isn't what your life is like with shirts tucked in and hair combed and clean faces and shoes tied. 

The food isn't always perfect.  Sometimes the cupcake has a fingerprint in it.  And sometimes siblings are pinching each other when the photo gets taken.

No one remembers the kid smiling on Santa's lap.  But the ones who are crying their heads off...  Those are the great shots.

I'm not saying make your kids or family cry just to get a good photo.  I'm saying let that happen naturally.  It will.

Those perfect family photos on holiday cards or in portraits on the wall, they hide the real stories.  The interesting stories.  The tragedies and the comedies.  They are like photos of paper.  One dimensional.

So let your kid wear his Halloween costume in the Christmas family photo.  Or let Grandma wear a plaid that does not go with what Aunt Lois is wearing.  Or let Grandpa wear his favorite shirt, tie and jacket - none of which go together.

They'll make for better stories later on.  

Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bubbler

 If possible, avoid being a bubble; for a bubble, even the gentlest touch is fatal.
~ Mehmet Murat Ildan
- - - - -

This is a bubble light thing.  My Grandma Boettcher always had them on her tree at Christmas.  A few years ago my mom found some and now she puts them on her tree each year.  I like them.

My Grandma Boettcher - for most of my childhood - would give me some kind of clothing for Christmas. It usually was not my style.  Which is saying quite a bit since I don't have a style.  I was recently looking at one of our elementary school photo book things.  I saw that I was wearing the red and white turtleneck thing my Grandma Boettcher got me one year for Christmas.  As I recall, it was the only time I wore it.  As I recall, I did not like it.

So my advice to grandparents out there - don't buy your grandchildren presents.  Don't buy them ANYTHING. Instead, give them a list of chores in a nicely wrapped package.  Make sure there are at least 10 chores on the list.  Tell them their gift is that they can cross off any two of those chores and not have to do them.

That will teach them to complain about the clothes you were going to get them.

Also, I'm glad no one thought of this when I was a kid.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Songs

 When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.
~ Rob Sheffield
- - - - -

I love this idea. It probably is true that there are some songs that remind me of people who have passed. I know there are songs that remind me of the past. It might be an interesting exercise to go through people who have died and come up with songs for each of them. Well, it might be interesting to me - maybe not to anyone else.

I don't know what song would remind people of me. Maybe I don't want to know for sure. 

I know what song would remind me of Leslie. It probably isn't one you would expect. It is "Cat Scratch Fever" by Ted Nugent. I don't know why, but she randomly blurts it out occasionally.

Recently, she has taken to making a "mash-up" of it. The other day she started with "cat scratch" and then it morphed into "Fever" by Peggy Lee. I misunderstood her and thought she was singing, "Cat Scratch Viva" so she started with "cat scratch" and went into "Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis.

"Cat Scratch Fever."  Hm.  

I hope nothing happens to Leslie for long, long time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Days

The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
- - - - -

Today is the winter solstice. It is the start of winter and the shortest day of the year. That really isn't true. It has the same number of hours as any other day. I guess we think of days as "less than" when they have less sunlight. I'm not sure I agree. I think my darker days are sometimes more productive. Reflective. Instructive. 

As we move into winter, we move into more light. Cold and light. That is not a bad combination. You know what is a bad combination? Strawberry Crush and chocolate ice cream.  But that didn't stop Erik from eating it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Bice

Truth is the ultimate power.  When truth comes around,
all the lies have to run and hide.
~ Ice Cube
- - - - -

I know I shouldn't have laughed at the kid who wiped out on his bike in the snow.  I just didn't understand why he was trying to ride it when it was so slippery out.  It's spelled "bicycle" with an emphasis on the cycle, not "bICEcle" with an emphasis on the ice.
 
Though if they made bicecles, I bet a lot of people would buy them.  At least up north. 
 
Unless it was a giant bike shaped popsicle.  Those might be popular in the south, too.  Sometimes it's about marketing and sometimes it's actually about the product.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Doubt

Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that two times two equals four.
~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
- - - - -

Leslie and I go to movies sometimes. I think many people do. It's this thing where you sit in a dark room with strangers and watch other peoples' stories on a huge screen.

That's odd  now that I think about it.

Anyway, my point is that one time we were in a theater and a preview came on. The narrator of the scene said, "Everyone gets a miracle. Mine was Margo Roth Spiegelman."

Leslie leaned over and whispered, "Ooooh!  I won't sleep until I see it."

I doubt that she was being authentic in that moment.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Questions

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.
~ Naguib Mahfouz
- - - - -

Wouldn't it be ironic if a wind farmer was in the doldrums?

Do you get "in" the doldrums? 

Yes.  You do.

And it wouldn't it be even more ironic if he was an aquatic wind farmer?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Family

Blood can help make a family, but family often transcends blood.
~ DaShanne Stokes
- - - - -

I was talking to someone about adoption a while ago.  I am not an expert on that process, but I didn't let that stop me from offering some thoughts.

Me:  Try not to get one of those scary babies.  Wait.  I'm thinking of dolls.  Don't get a scary doll.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reality

Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real and you're just a reflection of him?
~ Bill Watterson
- - - - -

I don't know where to draw the line between reality and not reality.  Between truth and fiction.  Between those kinds of things.  Not that I necessarily think it is my (or anyone else's) job to draw those lines. I just think that there are lots of different real moments. The same moment can be real in different ways at different times.  Or to different people.  

Leslie often challenges me on accuracy - which I find to be highly overrated.

Leslie: Um...  I don't think I said that.

Me:  You are a writer! You cant even PRETEND to be annoyed with my --

Leslie: Liberal interpretation of history?

Me: (long pause) Yes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Truth

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.  Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
- - - - -

I believe that truth is simultaneously overrated and constructed. I think it is subject to change. I think the same moment experienced by two people is at least three moments. If you and I share a moment there is my experience of that moment, your experience of that moment and the "real" moment that exists outside of both of our perspectives.

And I am glad that some people in my world understand that is how I think - and maybe a few even agree with me on it.  For example...

Rachel:  You might be more important to me than Billy Ocean.

(Okay, bear with me.  I know that Billy Ocean is not a clean segue to my point, but there is a point that relates to truth if you stick with it for a moment.)

Me: I may have to use some of our conversations in my blog.  And I have received feedback that it may not be an exact transcript of our interactions.

Rachel: As someone from a long history of storytellers, I have no illusion of the accuracy of your blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Roots

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- - - - -

Our roots keep us grounded.  The keep us attached.  They nourish us. 

They can also limit us.  We can't just go strolling around if we are bound too tightly by our roots. 

I'm glad I'm not a tree.

Those baby birds yapping at all hours would really get on my nerves.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cookbooks

Cookbooks are almost a substitution for a lost sense of culture. People want some other life than the one they're living, so they buy a cookbook with pictures and imagine themselves as a part of that life.
~ Mark Miller
- - - - -

We are in the process of helping Leslie's mom move.  As a result, I have discovered that I have a love for old cookbooks.  Just look at this masterpiece (see image above).  These are not just desserts, they are MAGICAL desserts.  And they are so easy - all you have told is whip and chill them.  Sorry - even easier - just whip 'n chill them.

Whatever happened to the days of a simple yet beautiful fruit mold?  Or a parfait?  Or whatever those yellow things are?

I remember once when I was a kid my grandmother tried something like one of these, but it was a "savory dish."  I know it had jello and either chicken or turkey and celery in it.  I also remember gagging a little when I ate it.  I have never been a picky eater, but it was not my favorite thing I have ever eaten.  (obviously...  I still remember it about 40 years later). I also remember that me gagging on that food was not my dad's favorite thing that I ever did as a child.

I should note that while I feel a strange attraction to these old and...  unorthodox cookbooks, I am not sure I will actually try out too many of the recipes.  And also, I'm not sure how much cooking is involved in a whip 'n chill cookbook recipe.

Ways

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
~ Marcus Aurelius
- - - - -

I'd like to live on a street called "Another Way."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Photos

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson
- - - - -

I love taking photographs.  I haven't done that as much in the past year or so as I had been doing before that.  Part of it is time.  Part of it is priority.  Part of it is change and adaptation.  There are a lot of parts of it.

I look back on some of the photos I have taken.  Some of them look better after the fact.  Some of them I look at and wonder what it was that I saw in them.  Either way, I'd always rather be taking photographs than IN photographs.

I don't photograph well.  I'm not photogenic.  I am more photogeneric.

And I'm okay with that.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Patterns

Humans are pattern-seeking, story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.
~ Michael Shermer
- - - - -

Overheard in a movie theater restroom...

Little kid: They say that the first stall in the restroom is usually the cleanest, the last stall is somewhere in the middle and the rest are the dirtiest.  In this case, this one looks pretty clean!

Not something I loved overhearing as I was in the middle stall.

Also, I found it odd that I was (mildly) disturbed by the kid's observation even without any citation of sources.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Drinks

Writing is a job, a talent, but it's also a place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.
~ Ann Patchett
- - - - -

I don't like or drink coffee or tea.  That said, I don't mind hanging out in coffeeshops.  You can get some work done there.  You can do some good listening.  People seem to be mostly upbeat when they are getting coffee.  It's probably the caffeine.  I don't know.

The other day I was sitting in a Starbucks.  There they call out names and orders.  I don't mean to say that they call people names.  Well, they DO call people names, but they call them the names they asked to be called.

I was journaling and I heard the person say, "Ken, I have your Cask of Amontillado!"

I thought, "Oh no, Ken!  Don't fall for it.  Don't go see / get your Cask of Amontillado.  You'll regret it for the rest of your dark, lonely, scream-filled life!"

Just as he was approaching the counter, I heard the server person say the same thing to another patron.  But this time I understood the words more clearly.  She said, "Liza, I have your caramel macchiato.  Liza!"

Whew.  That was close.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Knowledge

Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
~ Audre Lourde
- - - - - -

Leslie is very smart.  She teaches me things every day.  I think about 90% of what she teaches me is true.  Which is about the opposite of the things I share with her.  Maybe 10% of that is true.  Or maybe 90% is REALLY true, but people only believe 10% of it right now because the world hasn't quite caught up with my knowledge.

Anyway, the other day we were talking about language.  I forget what I asked her - something about a foreign language, I think.  Oh, I remember...  I was watching a German film with subtitles and there were some words the same in English as in German, but they weren't words I would have expected.  I can't think of what they were now.  But that's not my point.

My point is that Leslie then talked about how English is a mix of a lot of other languages and we use words other languages created.  I knew some of that, but then she said and there are some things there is only one word for.  "Like 'helicopter' for example.  There is no other word for 'helicopter' other than 'helicopter'," she said.

She is a really good teacher.  And so now I can speak every language.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shopping

It's not how much we give, 
but how much love we put into the giving.
~ Mother Teresa

- - - - -

I like to share surprises with people.  I like to pay attention and buy them just the right gift or send them just the right thought when they need it.  I don't always succeed, but sometimes I succeed.  I think most people appreciate my effort.

Not always though.  I was trying to be thoughtful with Kirk one time and he wasn't really grateful at all.

Kirk:  Oh!  Btw: are you the reason the Scientology info people contacted me last night?????  You suck.

Me:  Huh?  What?  I dunno what you're talking about.  I think they just want to save you.  Isn't that what they do?

Kirk:  You know I'm good at revenge right?  Hare Krishnas, too?!

Me:  I just emailed Leslie and told her I'm glad I'm not an only child.

Kirk:  That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me!!!

Me:  I know.  I'm sending the idea to Hallmark now.

Kirk:  Okay, okay.  You win at today.  Tiger Beat?????

Me:  I just tried to sign you up for Wiccan in Maine, but they wanted too much information.  I wasn't even sure if Tiger Beat still existed.

Kirk:  Me either.  I thought it went away in like 1973.  OMG - if I end up on the Suppressive People list for Tiger Beat, I'm gonna be pissed!

Me:  I'm sorry if I wrecked that for you.  Let me know if you end up on the list and I'll try to use some of my tremendous Tiger Beat influence to resolve the situation.

The best part of the story was actually later that day when I told Leslie all about this and she said, "Isn't Kirk going to be confused when he starts getting two copies of Tiger Beat?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quiet

                                                      The autumn moon --
                                        I wandered around the pond
                                            all night long.
                                              ~ Basho
- - - - -

Times have changed.  Nowadays if we see people walking around talking to themselves, we assume they're on the phone.  But if we saw someone walking around a pond all night long, we'd be concerned about that.

Of course, if the pond was big enough, we might just see them walk by once.  Then we probably wouldn't call anyone.  But if we saw them walking around a small koi pond in our backyard, we definitely would.

Not like in the olden days.  People wouldn't call about things like that then.

Because they didn't have telephones.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bubbler



Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.
~ Adam Lindsay Gordon
- - - - -

I love these bubbler things.  My grandparents had them.  My mom has some.   I bought one a couple of years ago.  I think maybe I bought two.  I think maybe they don't work anymore.
 
They don't make bubbler things like the used to.
 
Because I think they used to make them out of asbestos.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Meaning

The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.
~ Erich Fromm
- - - - -

Some moments in life are profound. They change the way we see the world or the way we see ourselves in the world. They can be overwhelming at times.

Other moments might not seem profound on the surface, but if you think carefully and reflectively about those moments...  they also can be profound.

Leslie shared with me when she was helping her mom clean out the house, they opened a drawer and there were a bunch of these strange little items there. Leslie asked, "What the hell are those?!" because that's how Leslie is.

Her mom said, "Oh, those are to clean my hearing aids."

Leslie suggested that they should be packed up for the move.  Leslie's mom said, "Oh, no. I just go down to the office and have them cleaned for me."

Later that day Eleanor came over to visit. It was nice. Afterward, Leslie's mom said, "I couldn't hear a lot of what we were talking about."

Some moments are profound. Some are anti-found. Either way, they are moments. I guess the meaning is what we make it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Spider

It's like the spiders are sharing an ancient secret with me, and that's why I'm going to spend the rest of my life studying spider silk.
~ Cheryl Hayashi
- - - - -

Most people I know have heard the song "The Itsy Bitsy Spider."

But I wonder how many of them have heard the song "The Itsy Bitsy Spiderman."

Probably zero.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Play

Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.
~ Albert Einstein
- - - - -

Play is where we learn most everything.  We learn rules.  We learn what rules matter.  We learn who cares about the rules.  We learn whether we care about winning or we care about playing.  We learn what it's like to be a part of a team or apart from a team.  We learn if we are cheaters.  We learn if we are good at cheating.  We learn if we feel guilt when we cheat or just when we get caught cheating.

We also learn what kinds of people we care about and what people we don't care to be around.  Like the other night when Leslie and I overheard a woman say, "Right outside on the playground, when I was in fourth grade, he gave me this little purple pin.  I still have it.  I should have brought it tonight. He's in jail for murder now, though."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Death

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
~ Tecumseh
- - - - - 

Would you want to know when you were going to die if you could know that?  I don't know if I would or not.  I think I'd rather not.  I like surprises. 

I read that a robin can be an omen of death if it sings in church or taps on / flies through a window.  I think a robin sitting on a headstone is also an omen of death.  Well, not so much an omen, just sort of a symbol of what is already obvious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Auditorium

Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.
~ Rod Serling
- - - - -

A week and a half ago Leslie and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox.  I got tickets from Kirk and Jared for my birthday - which was awesome!  Anyway, the concert was at an arts venue that was apparently a repurposed elementary school.  The concert got started about 30 minutes late.  While we were waiting we ended up coming up with words for special kind of public venues.

Here is a partial list of what we came up with:

Odditorium - that was Leslie's and probably the best of the bunch.

A place where you go to hear concerts, but there aren't any chairs so you just have to kind of hunch down on the ground: squatitorium.

A place where they serve fish: coditorium.

A place where you go to pray: Goditorium.

A place just for women:  Broaditorium.

And then there's - a place where you go to see Bea Arthur...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

School

It is not who you attend school with, but who controls the school you attend.
~ Nikki Giovanni
- - - - -

They post these lists all the time online.  For some reason, I feel compelled to read a lot of them.  Usually they aren't anywhere as near as interesting as they suggest they are going to be.  And yet, I still read them just in case they ARE interesting.  

Anyway, they post lots of them about colleges and universities.  I look at those to see if the schools where I have worked or studied are on the lists.  Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren't.

That is not really interesting, nor is it the point of this post.

My point is about online education.  I think that there is room for some good online learning experiences.  Maybe even a truly successful and student-centered online institution.  That said, I don't think we will look at online learning in the same way as brick-and-mortar education for a while.

Part of that is because of history and tradition and storytelling.  We need more stories about online institutions.  I don't have the details of the stories yet, but I have the titles of some lists that could get the stories started (if someone else wanted to do the research on them).  Here are my ideas right now:

The 10 Most Haunted Online Colleges
The 10 Biggest Online Party Schools

I know it's just a start.  Just trying to do my part to diversify the educational experience for everyone.