Tag Archives: ruminations

Old dogs and new tricks

In a dog’s life
A year is really more like seven
And all too soon a canine
Will be chasing cars in doggie heaven

It seems to me
As we make our own few circles ’round the sun
We get it backwards
And our seven years go by like one

Shadow is settling in very nicely. She acts like she’s always been here. It makes me wonder what’s actually going on between those floppy ears of hers. She seems perfectly content laying here next to me on my couch in my room, even though for the last 8 years she wasn’t allowed on the couch, or in anyone’s bedroom. Although maybe that’s just something she’s secretly always wanted to do, and this is heaven for her. Who knows?

After she had been here for less than a week, she went back to her former home for a week because I had to go up to New Jersey. She seemed ok with that, too.

But I know that she’s not completely empty headed. Every day that I come home without Sarah, she obviously is looking for Sarah, and is quite irritated with me that I didn’t bring her with me. 🙂


A month ago, Sarah and I went up to New Jersey with my parents to see grandma, as well as a bunch of cousins and aunts and uncles who I hadn’t seen in more than ten years. Or is it whom? I dunno. Grandma would have known.

This week, I went up with my parents to say goodbye to Grandma for the last time. Twelve of the thirteen grandkids were there, and several of the great-grandkids. And all of Grandma’s daughters, and also her sister, who I had never met before. It was a truly beautiful service, and Grandma was laid to rest next to her husband, Cooper (after whom I’m named) who preceeded her by 33 years.

We were able to spend a few days with the family, and I was able to get reaquainted with a few of them, and spend an afternoon geocaching with two of my cousins. My brother came up from Paraguay for a few days, but my sister couldn’t make it, because Haiti is a rather difficult place to live.

I really hope that we get a chance to get back up there before another ten years. My cousins are all great people, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. But it’s not always very easy to find an excuse to make a 12 hour drive.

The last 4 nights were in 4 different states – Wednesday in PA, Thursday in NJ, Friday in MD, and Saturday back in KY – and it really is very nice to be home again.

The lasting effect of a life, and death

Three years ago, my grandfather died. Some of you may remember that I wrote about this a short time ago.

Yesterday, there was a memorial service for Grandpere, and several other men and women who had participated in the University of Kentucky Body Bequeathal program. Students in the various UK medical programs use these bodies for their Anatomy classes, and for specific training in dental, surgical, and physical therapy techniques. In this way, even though our loved ones have passed away, they continue to do good. Through their final gift, they assist in the training of doctors who will heal the next generation. They are, as one of the speakers said, these doctors’ first patient.

The service was inter-faith, and was very well done. I was also very impressed with how many of the medical students were in attendance, and that they seemed to be genuinely listening, rather than giving the impression that they were there because it was a course requirement.

The class presidents of the various medical colleges read the litany of the names, and there were readings from the Psalms, from Jesus, and from The Buddha.

I’m sure that many of you have considered being an organ donor, and that’s a wonderful gift, in that it extends the life, of improves the quality of life, of someone still living. The gift of one’s entire body, upon death, is also a great gift, and has a life-long impact on a doctor who will extend many lives, and improve the quality of many lives.

It would have been more appropriate if the service had been today – All Saints’ Day – rather than yesterday. But it was very much like Grandpere that, even years after his passing, he would be helping someone out. And, as I said before, Grandpere, your memory is truly eternal, even more than I understood then.

Full weekend

The last few days of last week, I toyed with the idea of going camping Friday night. When it rained all day Friday, I decided not to go. But, around 16:00, I decided, what the heck, I’ll go anyway. It’ll guarantee that I have the campsite to myself, right?

Cyklopz3 recommended Turkey Foot, and, armed with several maps and a GPS, I started out for Mckee, Kentucky. It was 6 by the time I pulled out, and nearly 7 when I got to Richmond, due to traffic, so it was getting somewhat dark. I went through such delightful places as Sand Gap, Clover Bottom, Waneta and other places along 421 that are rather too small to be on the map that I have. While I’m sure that there is a faster way to go, I’m not sure there could be a more interesting one.

I’m always fascinated by small towns, wondering what the people do in those towns to, as Dickens puts it, “keep soul and body together.” There don’t appear to be any businesses that employ anyone, but there are plenty of nice houses, and evidence that the people there do well for themselves.

I arrived in McKee when it was completely dark. One of the things that I enjoy about camping in the Daniel Boone is that it does indeed get dark. There are some places in this country that never get dark. When the power went out in New York City a few years back, some of those people saw darkness for the first time in their entire lives. Fascinating.

Anyways, I missed the turn for Turkey Foot, somehow, and arrived at the S-Tree campground, which seems to be nearby. I’m not entirely sure where I missed a turn, or if I didn’t go far enough, or what. But the S-Tree campground was totally full. Lots of 4-wheelers, who are, according to the signs there, the main denizens of the campground.

By that time it was maybe 8, and very very dark. I drove for a little bit further, and found an elderly picnic area that appears to have had campers there in the recent past.

Once I turned off the Jeep headlights, all I had for light was a little hiking/caving light that I wear on my head. This illuminates a very small area, and so I had to try to figure out in small pieces what sort of terrain I was dealing with. And, it had started raining lightly.

I picked a spot and got the tent up just as it started to rain a little harder. I put the tent under trees. I vaguely remember from Boy Scouts that you’re not supposed to do that. Something about falling branches. Well, there were falling nuts most of the night, but no falling branches.

It was very quiet – another fascinating thing about being far away from civilization. For a long time, I listened to the rain. I could hear it coming, in the leaves of the trees, getting nearer, and then it would start hitting the tent, then move on. The steady on-off rain continued througout the night, and occasionally it would “rain” under the trees by virtue of the wind picking up and shaking down the water from the leaves.

Having an evening away from electricity and internet is good for the soul. Really. I feel much more relaxed than I have been in a long time. And I have been extremely motivated today to get useful things done. I’ve replaced the spray hose thingy on the kitchen sink, installed some new light switches, done some laundry, and cut down nasty trees and bushes that are threatening to push down my back fence. Now, I’m off to cut the grass, and maybe I’ll actually get some of that laundry put away. Perhaps I’ll finally get my hair cut, too.

Snowflakes in a matchbox

One of the great things about re-reading a well-loved book is that you discover things each time, depending on your frame of mind. I’m reading Dandelion Wine again, as I do almost every summer. This time, I discovered this little gem.

“Got a snowflake in a matchbox,” said Tom …

“Last February,” said Tom, and chuckled. “Held a matchbox up in a snowstorm, let one old snowflake fall in, ran inside the house, stashed it in the icebox!”

“Yes, sir,” mused Tom, picking grapes, “I’m the only guy in Illinois who’s got a snowflake in summer. Precious as diamonds by gosh. Tomorrow I’ll open it. Doug, you can look too.”

It’s perhaps the best metaphor for memories that I’ve ever encountered. My memories are snowflakes in matchboxes. When I go back for them, so often they’re not there, or they have melted a little.

Some folks, like Mrs. Bentley, hang on to those memories, and when they melt, they have nothing left. Others, like Colonel Freeleigh, share their snowflakes with everyone, and make the world a better place by doing so.

My snowflakes seem to surprise me in the middle of the summer. I don’t remember putting them in the ice box, and, some day, when I’m looking for something else, I come across them.

Memorial Day

Warning: I’m about to say unpatriotic things. (Or so the Ashcroft brigade would have you believe.)

Today we honor those who have died to secure our freedoms. This is an important thing, but not without danger. The danger is that it becomes a celebration of the glory of going to foreign countries and killing people who are different from us. The danger too is that it become a celebration of war.

Memorial day is not (should not be) a celebration of war. It is a remembrance of the human cost of war. A memorial of the dads and sons and brothers, as well as moms and daughters and sisters, who died, often horrible, painful, terrible, lonely deaths, so that you can enjoy the freedoms that you have. Freedoms, I feel compelled to note, Mr. Ashcroft and his croneys are snatching away just as quickly as he can force bills through Congress.

Remember today that thousands upon thousands of men died horrible wretched deaths in the Revolutionary war, so that you would have the right to travel freely, to have representation in government, to not be forced to billet soldiers in your home, to carry a gun, to worship freely, to be free from unwarranted search of your person or property, and numerous other things which we, the people of the United States of America, considered to be worth dying for.

Remember also the young men and women who are dying today in Iraq, so that the people of Iraq may have those same freedoms in the future. Completely aside from your personal convictions as to the rightness of that war, remember those young people. Pray for them. And pray for your representative in government, who is sending those young people to die for reasons which are not really clear to most of their constituents.

Remember that peace takes considerably more courage than war, and talking takes more courage than killing. I sincerely hope that some day we’ll have that kind of courage, as well as the courage to honestly consider whether our “enemies” might have valid points about our behavior in the world.

And, on the risk of being “anti-american,” think back a couple hundred years and remember the folks who were labelled terrorists over the decades. Paul Revere. George Washington. Jomo Kenyatta. Robert Mugabe. Lech Walesa. Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Robert E. Lee. And consider for a moment whether any of their causes were in fact just.

Alas, I suspect that most of my readers are in fact capable of independent thought, and, thus, I’m speaking to the wrong audience. My dad told me yesterday that someone at the airport on their recent trip roundly denounced the misguided people who think that the invasion of privacy at the “security” checks at the airport is actually a bad thing, and accomplishes nothing. Yes, she said, she had read the report saying that the billions of dollars spent on security enhancements had accomplished precisely zilch, but she didn’t believe it. She felt safer. I’m guessing that her kind is rather too busy watching Fox News to read blogs. Which is a pity.


Yesterday we went to the Lexington Childrens Museum and several things struck me about the experience.

Of course, as always, it was a *ton* of fun. They’ve got some very cool new things, including a bubble wall – a horizontal pole that you lift out of a tank of bubble solution to create a vertical wall of bubble. When you blow gently on it, you can set up standing waves. It is *very* cool. I could spend all day in the bubble room, I think. To be honest we were in there for at least an hour.

Oh, and the new wind exhibit is amazing.

So here’s what struck me.

First, no dads. Why is that? This is the sort of place that the dads I know would *love*. Yet it’s all moms. And moms are, for the most part, *not* the folks you want at a place like this, as noted in some of my other observations below. This is the place for dads to come with their kids and teach them all the amazing stuff that there is to learn there. (Yes, I know, this is stereotypical and politically incorrect. Tough. I don’t buy the “men are exactly the same as women” nonsense. So sue me.)

Oh, and the few dads that were there seemed to be hanging back, playing “too cool to get in there and play”. What’s up with that? Sheesh, guys, your kids think you’re cool when you play with them, not when you act all stand-offish. My daughter thinks I’m cool, and I completely realize that this state of affairs won’t last for very long, and I intend to make the most of every moment of it. So what if I look like an idiot crawling around on the floor? Whose opinion matters more than my daughter’s?

Next, the most often uttered phrase was “be careful.” (Followed closely by “don’t.”) Um. Yeah. This is a hands-0n museum for kids. That’s the entire point – for the kids to get in there, get dirty, try everything out, touch it, knock on it, shove it around, sit on it, climb on it. “Be careful” is not a helpful phrase here. But all these over-protective moms didn’t want their kids to actually experience any of this.

Then, I was alarmed at how concerned these moms were that their kids do the experiments *right.* This seems to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the the scientific method, as well as a desire for their kids to learn only approved knowledge. I was very proud that Sarah found creative ways to do the various experiments. Her attitude seemed to be, sure, I can see what happens if I do it the way that you tell me I’m supposed to do it, but what happens if I do *this* instead? That rocks. And it means that she discovered things that maybe some of the other kids missed.

So, anyways, you gotta go. Visiting hours here. $5 for kids over 1 year old. If you’re not a kid any more, then send your kids with someone who is.

Michael Gorman, sage.

Michael Gorman is the president-elect of the ALA – The American Library Association.

I read with great amusement his denunciation of bloggers. Clearly, he is a sage of great stature.

My personal favorite was this sentence:

At least two of the blog excerpts sent to me (each written under pseudonyms) come from self-proclaimed “conservatives,” which I find odd because many of the others come from people who call me a Luddite and are, presumably, technology-obsessed progressives.

What I find so amusing about it is this notion that Mr. Gorman believes that bloggers represent a particular type of person, or perhaps a particular viewpoint. I might just as well say:

I was astonished to read a book by Karl Marx, and one by Paulo Freire, also a Marxist, because another book that I read was by Ayn Rand, who is a radical capitalist!

I mean, come on, Mr. Gorman, how can you so completely miss the entire point of blogging. Blogging is not intended to be a replacement for books, for the media, or for libraries. And, of course, blogging does *NOT* represent a particular viewpoint, perspective, age, ethnicity, political persuasion, or anything else. In fact, what makes blogging so compelling is *specifically* that it comes from a diverse set of perspectives. I’m sick of the press, because they represent a particular spin on reality, which gets fed to them by AP. Bloggers, on the other hand, present just as biased and incomplete a picture of events, but, because there are thousands of them, there’s a better chance that I can get a rounded idea of what is acutally going on.

I’m also not quite sure why you bother to mention that they were written under pseudonyms, as though that was relevant. Have you heard of Mark Twain? Lewis Carroll? Boz? The list goes on.

Your article, Mr. Gorman, makes it abundantly clear that you are trying to dismiss something of which you are almost completely ignorant. By reading a few excerpts from a few carefully-selected blogs, you’re missing the entire point of blogging, yet you claim to speak about it as an expert.

Revenge of the Blog People? There’s no such thing as “blog people,” and they don’t want revenge. There are just ordinary people who wish to have a voice. You, of all people, should understand the value of giving a voice to people. Surely the purpose of a library is to allow people to be exposed to ideas.

So a few people called you a luddite. So what? The reality is that the vast majority of bloggers either haven’t heard of you, or don’t care if you’re a luddite. Libraries have become irrelevant to them because of the Internet. You may not like that, but it’s a truth that we all have to deal with. The question is not how to get them back into the library, but how we’re going to get these folks reading scholarly works, within this new reality. If you’re not part of the solution, then the ALA becomes part of the problem.

Hotel Rwanda

I just saw Hotel Rwanda.

I simply don’t have words to express how it affected me. If you care about justice, or about peace, or about Africa, or, indeed, about your fellow human behing, you need to see this movie.

I remember so clearly the day that the airplane was shot down, killing the president of Rwanda, and the days of horror that followed during which the information was hard to come by, and the US government was spouting content-free nonsense about “acts of genocide”, but it was clear that we, the people of the United States of America, didn’t care any more about the people of Rwanda than we care about the dogs being destroyed down at the humane society.

And yet, after that atrocity, we then allowed the same thing to happen again in the Sudan, while more than one of my friends said to me, why do we have any responsibility to those people? They’re not Americans, after all.

And, what’s perhaps worse is that while history will look back and say that the Nazi holocaust was a monstrous thing, it will look back to 1994 and remember OJ Simpson. Rwanda? What’s that?