Saturday, February 27, 2010

technology, and its discontents

"Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say. As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."

-- Henry David Thoreau, "Economy," Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854)

Think he was talking about Facebook, or blogging?

Friday, February 26, 2010

a day in the life

All times are EST and are approximate, not correlated with NIST or the atomic clock.

0633  daughter yells, "no school again, Dad!"

0633.005  semiconscious, I mumble: "So cool, iPad, hunh?!"

0839  dog barking furiously; "it's just Mom coming home from work," I mumble; it's not, I realize after hearing the doorbell ring

0840  kid with shovel asking if I want any shoveling done; "no, thanks" I say as a sleepwalker; if I were more alert I'd have made the investment; we often made money doing that as kids, up in the wealthier parts of Stamford, nto Old Greenwich

0852  breakfast; two Thomas' Toast-R-Cakes, tea with milk

0907  begin clearing porch stairs and our sidewalk and Brenda's; realize I must clear a spot for Beth

0907.01  realize this wet snow is as heavy as just-poured Quikrete

0907.02 to 0945  dig snow in street clearing space for a Honda civic; we are a one-way street; driveways are a luxury on Tipp hill

0947  Beth pulls in to the quasi-cleared spot, not far, but legal, from hydrant

0948 to 1119  with daughter's help we free or moored car and straighten it out; help Jack From Across the Street clear his white Chevy; look down the hill and see cadres of people shoveling all over or snowblowing (I don't like snowblowers); clear area around red hydrant; Ukrainian-Americans across the street yell at each other about snow removal

1129  call mom back home; suns comes out; snowing in CT; sun comes out there; during call my vision gets blurry, like the ocular migraine i had around 1998

1141 toast and tea; still fuzzy vision

1147  hard to read words while typing some emails; feel perfectly fine otherwise; still, a tad scary

1149 to 1229  lie down; can't sleep; disturb Beth as she tries to sleep

1230  wake up; vision seems fine; relieved

1249  eat leftovers from last night's supper: delicious galupki, roasted potatoes, grilled, sauteed beans and peppers

1257  drive ABK to reservoir up by Geddes Street; sun blazing; melting; from Bellevue Heights Church driveway, she climbs over snowbank, takes along trek uphill; meets friends; tussles with boy(s); watching, I am joyed and grateful

1313  actually I think I ate lunch around now

1314 to 1420  prepare invoices

1500 to 1531  call to DC, discuss June quality conference with EPA person; very good call

1547  prepare invoices to be mailed

1609  drive to Wegmans; envelopes

1710 to 1750  nap

1853  to 1924  dinner at The Black Olive

1944 to 1959  walk dog

2018  browse the Flapper blog

2118 to 2131  blog

No paychecks, no pierogi, no porn. That's my day so far.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

maybe the eyes don't have it

"Excuse me," he said . . . "but are you blind?"

"Yes, I am," she replied.

"That's an affliction I wouldn't mind," he said.


"We believe too much in what our eyes tell us," he said. "They draw us into enormous disappointments."

-- Robert Wilson, The Vanished Hands (2004)

Hmmm. I have to think about this one a bit. It reminds me of something the late Ray Charles once said. He claimed he would not want to regain his sight, lost as a child. Too many bad things to see. At first blush, that sounded like an awfully bleak take on life. But who am I to say? Seeing Ray Charles say this, on a late-night talk show many years ago, if I recall correctly, I did not think he was unhappy with his state. I don't know where I'm going with this. I was reading Wilson's novel, saw the quotation, and dog-eared the page because I thought the passage might be something to blog about. So here I am. What do I think? I can admit that I am easily one who "believe[s] too much in what our eyes tell us." Well, what is "too much" anyway? Sure, I'm an easy mark for the puppy-dog plea in the eyes (human or canine) or the smoldering come-on of lust's beckoning. ("Dad, don't make eye contact" my younger daughter would advise me regarding my being an easy target for panhandlers along the boulevards of Berlin or in the U-bahn). I can admit to readily taking up arms when I see the flint of battle in one's eyes. So be it. But don't any "disappointments" in those instances arise from the "too much" factor? If one really reads the eyes properly (i.e., accurately, without distraction, without static or interference), can eyes ever lie? Or am I foolishly naive to be asking such a question at the age of 61?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

snow what

Walking yesterday on partially melted snow, I wondered: does it cover or expose? Sure, you'd think it covers. It does. Snow blankets. It covers sounds, dogshit, cigarette wrappers, broken bottles, last year's leaves, yesterday's sins. Snow covers the sleeping buds of spring under the sleeping ground, glosses over the fluvian layers of preceding snow, pushes down the crocuses a few more weeks (maybe) or rudely freezes them if they pop up for a look. But snow also presents its vulnerability blatantly, exposing itself for all to see, its granules and icy detritus spattered by myriad brands of cat and dog and whatnot urine. Snow, the dichotomy -- coming to a landscape near you. Or staying. Hello, I must be going. Bye.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

kierkegaard for fun and profit?


I just noticed I sold a Kierkegaard T-shirt ("I Leap for Kierkegaard") over at

I think the buyer was in the United Kingdom.

Or not.

Two days ago.

Of course, my goal is for to make me money as I sleep. In this case, that might've been true technically -- at least with respect to the "sleep" part.

The "making money" component remains unfulfilled.

At this rate, I'll be profitable by 2043.

Or sooner.

Give or take a few years.

Maybe my inheritors can cash in on so-called profits from

Kids: this is where you might consider prayer.

Or irrational hope.

reading matter

I've asked before, I'll ask now:

What are you reading?

Last night I started The Vanished Hands, by Robert Wilson.

I've read The Hidden Assassins, The Company of Strangers, The Blind Man of Seville, and A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson.

I recommend his work: intelligent, readable, captivating, imaginative, literary. Worth a try. Although he might be classified as a crime writer, I'd say he goes beyond the genre.

Plus, I've always got an issue of The New Yorker magazine, new or old, by the bed.

the eyes have it

you can feel the metallic cold boring in on you

or the sportive romping with Amaryllis in the shade

molten rage

dull resolve

sadness unto death

it's all in the eyes isn't

it dancing or drowning

flying or flat

the eyes have it

Monday, February 15, 2010

coffee and . . .

When I was a child, I heard my mother refer to some friends getting together for "coffee and...."

I think this is a New York City-area expression.

I hated it when I first heard it. My young child's very direct mind demanded resolution and completeness. I wanted the phrase to complete itself, subject and predicate, or at least noun and noun to complete a noun phrase.

"Coffee and what, Mom?"

"Coffee and whatever. Cheese danish. Bagel. Anything."

"So why don't they just say that?"

"I don't know."

As one who spends many of his working hours at local coffeehouses, such as Freedom of Espresso, on Solar Street in Syracuse (and sometimes on Pearl Street or less frequently in Fayetteville), I now understand a little bit about "coffee and...."

For me, the "and" isn't just pastries, though Freedom of Espresso's rugula with cinnamon are my favorites. The "and" involves community, wi-fi connection, networking, atmosphere, ambiance, human connection, aroma, chatter, townsquareneity, solitude, neighborhood, potential, mood, context.

A New York Times article about Bread Stuy, a coffeehouse in Brooklyn, offers two relevant comments.

"A coffee shop like Bread-Stuy offers a space where that [a sense of community] can quote-unquote brew," says Jonathan Landau.

And Mark Pendergrast, author of "Uncommon Grounds," a history of coffee, speaks of "solitude in company" to describe a coffeehouse's public space that allows sharing and community in ways similar to the tavern of old or the soda fountain of the 1950s.

"Human beings are social creatures, and we've become less and less social," said Pendergrast. "We spend more and more time in front of our computers or our televisions, and we go to our work and we come home."

I for one sometimes work, typically with my laptop, at a coffeehouse. At least for part of the day, to leave my home office, "to blow the stink off," to use another of my mother's expressions. At a coffeehouse, I can enjoy both solitude as well as company.

And if I were in Quincy, Massachusetts, or Braintree, Massachusetts, I'd surely be a regular at the Coffee Break Cafe. I say that even though I've yet to taste their fine coffee. I can declare this loyalty because I've already received their fine hospitality, on behalf of my brother. They get it.

The coffee at a coffeehouse (more often tea for me) and the pastries are just part of it.

Works for me.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

snow what?

...and what would The Darwin Finches chirp about Snowmageddon?

What would Kierkegaard say?


Now that we've seen the term "Snowmageddon" for the snowstorm hitting the likes of Maryland, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey (am I missing anyone?), what next?

Snowcalypse Now?

snowcalypso? [the steady rhythm of apocalyptic snows]




And why or how is it that the term "Snowmageddon" has not been applied to a snowstorm heretofore?

Or has it?

aural borealis non erat

Much of blogging is verbal. Or visual. Little of it is aural, though I can't back this up by any data. But neither do I care to back this up with data. I merely care to share some of my urban aural experience, with words, not with recordings of the sounds themselves. Why? I'm a wordsmith, and I paint with words. What's it to you?

Walking on Thursday under Route 690, known as 690, in Syracuse, I walked in the cold but glinting light, backpack heavy on my shoulder, under a highway bridge. The whooshing sound of vehicular tires was almost ominous. A planetary zip, echoing under the bridge. A cosmic skid. (Is that what this life is? A cosmic skid lasting less than a second?) I wondered to myself what sound effect in a movie these tire-on-pavement-above slices of life would evoke. Intergalactic ray gun bullets? Internal thought pulses? Erotic temptations? (In all honesty, that did cross my mnd one iota, for once.) Traffic would not be the listener's first thought. I don't think so.

Then I thought of a sparklingly exuberant blind woman I know. H. smiles frequently. This is the world she encounters. She displays a visage of delight. Not that she walks under this particular bridge. Of course not. But this is her world, isn't it? Wasn't I blessed with a tiny insight into her aural borealis, her light show of sounds, her spectral wonder encountered radically from her perspective, not ours of the sighted world?

Plus, deciding to get off my high horse of pedestrian profundity, I realized that walkers like my former colleague M. walk all the time. This is their world too.

Blessings on our quotidian, pedestrian world, its mundane marvels.

Including its Latin phrases, its sentence fragments.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Darwin Finches

Congratulations to The Darwin Finches on their first anniversary. At least I think so. Congratulations. Do the Darwin Finches' "prime movers" (or secondary prime tertiary movers) celebrate such things as anniversaries? Are such immovable feasts too anti-secular?

Carry on, ol' boy. I mean, boys.

Um, men.



Garrulous Galapagos Guys.



february haiku

eye-squinting sunblaze
locavore in Syracuse
melting lake effect