Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

hero or fool?

January 5, 2017

We experienced 1 to 3 inches of fluffy snow in the overnight, and I found myself bundled and on my driveway at 4:30 this morning, wielding a snow shovel to make a path. Note that it was 11 bone-chilling degrees outside, and even the dogs had chosen to stay snug in (my) bed rather than come out and frolic with me.

I thought myself virtuous, abetted by the fact that the scrape of my shovel was the only one I heard in the whole neighborhood at that unholy hour. Sure, home ownership in vanilla suburbia is often a series of conventional behaviors disguised as virtues, but I still thought I had chosen heroically.

But then I saw some movement down the street, coming my way through the snow-dappled light of the street lamps. Some neighbor, more sleekly bundled than I, was out for his morning run! Only his nose and eyes were exposed, so if I knew him, I didn’t recognize him. Nor did he take notice of me as he darted past at what would be my I-can-see-the-finish-line-let’s-get-this-done! pace.

And then I wondered which of us was the true fool.


December 29, 2016

So I’m reading this book Santa left under the tree for me: Sherlock Holmes FAQ by Dave Thompson. It’s full of interesting tidbits. (Did you know that Conan Doyle supposedly read Moby-Dick avidly? This would have been at the time when the novel was obscure and even dismissed.) Even so, it often seems like the author wants to show off his erudition, with pages-long tangents into some facts he’s uncovered that are only tenuously connected to Sherlock Holmes.

A recent chapter I finished began with a short paragraph that contained the word “whatsoever” twice. This didn’t seem like an ironic repetition or a flourish of his style. (The word appeared once more in the chapter.) I think it was just the result of quick work and poor editing. That’s unfortunate, and I did pause when I came across it, but I managed to keep reading the chapter.

This is a writerly failing of mine. I tend to repeat words, and I don’t realize it when I’m doing so. I only catch them (when I catch them) in my editing reviews of my stuff. And then I sometimes only catch them when I’m reading my writing aloud. As far as I can recall, I’ve never used the word “whatsoever” in any of my writing; my repeats tend to be a more commonplace words, and usually verbs. Just this morning I found the word “know” twice in one sentence, for example.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but it usually is. It’s certainly weak writing or at least an opportunity/need for stronger writing. And I’d like to be the one to find these instances rather than some editor down the road. Or worse, that neither of us would find it.


My work on “Fire Sermon” is coming along nicely. I’ve more than doubled the word count at this writing — I’m taking a break from the story to write this post — and I’m up to 1400+ words. Pretty good words too. The story has taken a little turn I wasn’t expecting, but it’s completely in keeping with the theme, so that’s fine. I have no complaints about it whatsoever.

nothing but win

December 22, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure enjoying these longer days we’re having!

back from Kentucky

December 21, 2016

My wife and I made a dash down to Paducah, Kentucky over the long weekend (beginning on Thursday — gotta use up the vacation days or lose them!) to see my mother, who is not well. We had gotten dire reports from my aunt about my mother’s condition, but when we got there, my mother was doing much better, and the prognosis from various doctors had improved significantly. She even went out to dinner with us, which was in high contrast to what we’d heard about her in the weeks before our visit.

The trek from Kansas City to Paducah is seven  hours of hard driving. Add to that nearly an hour more because we had to take the dogs (Flike and Queequeg) to their kennel in rural suburban Kansas City before leaving. The drive to Paducah is tedious, leavened only by living within my mind as the miles passed. (I pretended I was running a marathon. I reviewed my stories. I made small talk. We had two collections of short stories as audio books to listen to, but we never used them.)

Our visit involved mostly sitting around, which is about the best my mother could manage, but I did get in a nice nap on Friday afternoon. (After sleeping 11 hours on Thursday night, which is completely unlike me.) Our plan was to stay until Sunday morning, but the weather in St. Louis (though which we would pass) and Kansas City was getting uglier, with reports of thousands of traffic accidents. On Friday evening, we decided to leave a day early with the hope of beating the weather or, at the worst, spending the night in some town betwixt there and here as we collected our courage to finish the miles on Sunday.

Saturday dawned in Paducah at 63 degrees. (I had considered a pre-dawn run but hadn’t brought reflective gear or my head lamp.) It was overcast, and rain threatened, but this was perfect driving weather. Because of the reports of the conditions in St. Louis, we chose to take the southern route home, crossing Missouri through the Ozark Mountains and then scooting up the western side of the state to Kansas City. The temperature fell throughout the day, and by the time we got to Springfield, Missouri (about 5 hours in), we were driving in freezing temperatures, with some precipitation spitting at us. I kept expecting the highway to be closed since the reports we could get on our phones said parts of the interstate were shut down. Yet on we drove. I expected each next burg sizeable enuf to have a motel to be the end of our journey for the day, but the highway continued to be clear, dry, and open, so we pushed on. The closer we got to Kansas City, the more certain I was that we would be sleeping in our own bed that night, and that our dogs would be sleeping in it with us.

Within about 30 miles of home, my wife told her phone to find us a route to the kennel where the dogs were languishing. This route took us down many two-lane country roads, but all of them were open and passable. We paid the ransom on the dogs and then made our way home without incident.

I understand there were 1,500+ traffic accidents in Kansas City over the weekend of our return. We didn’t find any conditions that would have suggested that, but I suspect we’d arrived after the (socialist) road crews had done their work.

So the long weekend adventure was done. I did my dutiful son obligations (and my mother has been doing well since the visit) and I covered 500+ miles twice in the trusty Honda. Now I am home, desperately trying to get the house in order and more or less clean enuf for the arrival of all of my children, their spouses/girlfriends, and their offspring for the holidays. The forecast for Christmas Day is 63 degrees. I wish I was going to be at my cabin.

Throwback Thursday ~ once was cute

December 15, 2016


For a brief time, I guess I was cute.

memento mori

December 7, 2016

Some of you know that I’ve kept a paper journal for the last 35+ years. With a mechanical pencil I hand write entries into spiral notebooks with some college name/logo on the cover. In the early years, before I could have ever imagined the scope of my endeavor, I didn’t date the entries. But soon enuf I did. Then I began putting the time of day beside each entry since I was often hustling to my journal to get down whatever brilliant thought I’d had when untethered to it. Some entries might be a sentence or two. Others could go on for pages. And while I might make three and even four entries in a day, I could also go weeks without one. Still the words accumulated, and I am now on journal number 28 (from Syracuse University, where my clever nephew attended).

I will likely never go back and read my journals. A lot of it is probably embarrassingly immature or focused on some event/issue of the time that is no longer pertinent. Any given brilliant idea is lost within a hundred quotidian thoughts. There isn’t a search function in paper journals. My middle son has stated that when I am gone (not too soon, I hope) he intends to read my journals from start to finish. (Consider what a dampening effect this has on my entries once I realize someone I know will be reading them.) He was never much of a reader growing up, and now his job (and daughter) demands most of his time, and any reading he does should be in his field (oncology). I also suspect he’ll get bored quickly with my entries and skip a lot of it.

My point is that I have all of these journals that will likely never amount to anything other than ash after some cleansing campfire. I don’t suppose I would mind that too much as long as it was a campfire at my cabin.

Similarly, a couple of decades ago, I was busy as a freelancer writing feature articles for magazines and newspapers — back in the days of print. I wrote more than sixty of these things before I gave up the ambition. (I gave up in part because I could never break into the slicks and in part because I realized that in my ten years of effort I had produced the equivalent of what one cub reporter would produce in a single year. Plus there’s no money in it.) Nonetheless, I have kept a copy of every publication that ran one of my articles. The stack sits on a shelf within arm’s reach of me as I write this. And yet, I will never go back and read these things. Nor will anyone else. It’s possible that the stack I have holds one of the few existing copies of the publications — and thus my articles — available in the physical world. Yet I can’t part with them.

And it continues. There was a time in my life when I wanted to become an authority in the literature of the Midwest. (There is actual scholarship devoted to this!) I read widely (but not widely enuf), and I even began collecting books. But I saw that my subject was too vast, so I tightened my focus to the literature of Missouri. But even that was too vast. So I tightened it further to the literature of the Ozarks (a vast and satisfying literature of its own). In the glass-fronted bookcase across the room from me I have books I have collected for this ambition. Some I have were published in the 19th Century and are likely among the few existing copies in the physical world. As with my journals and my feature articles, I am unlikely to read them again (since creating my own literature is now my interest). Yet I can’t part with them. The thrill of the chase — finding a long-sought novel — means I can never dispose of them. My children will get that job. (I just hope they have the sense to find out if there is some collector or a library that would want them.)

And it still continues. I’m looking at a rack of medals I’ve earned from the half and full marathons I’ve run. (The NYC Marathon medal is my all-time favorite, natch!) I have another rack of medals from “lesser” races. Dozens of these things that will mean nothing to anyone other than me. What’s to become of them? Since no one ran the race inside my head, the medals won’t have any specific meaning to them. I don’t suppose the metal of the medals is even high grade enuf to be good for melting down. (And I currently have two drawers packed with shirts I’ve earned from races. This does not even count the tech shirts from races that I have hanging in a closet.) This will all mean nothing to anyone after me.


(Gratuitous photo insertion.)

And consider my dead blog: Roundrock Journal. I kept that thing going for more than ten years, the first five years with a post every single day. Now it is lost (though I think you can find it through the Wayback Machine — I should try it myself). It existed and consumed a great deal of my creative self, and yet it is gone.

And so what is the point of this ramble? I’m not sure myself. I guess the ephemeral nature of existence or some such lofty thoughts. The traces we leave without even noticing? The accumulation of stuff?

early voting

October 25, 2016

I voted yesterday, the first day advance voting was open this year in Kansas. The worker I spoke with said that they’d had a brisk morning and expected a packed evening. While there I did not see a single dead person voting, nor did I see any self-appointed poll watchers. A crew from a local news station did try to interview me before I went in, but I shrugged them off. I’m shy in that way.