My Diary

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December 1, 2000     (Friday)

This entry was almost never made. Or, possibly, it could have been made as my obituary. This morning, after having eaten my brunch, I had bagged up the trash and was preparing to take it out back, across the alley for the trash truck to pick up. Normally our trash in this part of the city gets picked up on Tuesday, but the trucks make another sweep through on Fridays, usually in the early afternoon. I stopped to gather up the cans to put in the recycle. I considered doing that on the return trip. It's a good thing I didn't. In the 15 seconds it took me to set down the bag of trash and pick up the cans, the same 15 seconds it would have taken me to walk to the back gate, a 4-wheel drive pickup truck from the car dealership up the alley came crashing through the fence at the gate, stopping a scant six inches from the house.

I made phone calls. Within 2-1/2 hours, there was a crew putting up 10 MPH speed limit signs in the alley. I also talked to the owner of the car dealership and told him about the cowboys he employs and how they use the alley as their own test track/drag strip.

This all came about as a result of being pissed off because someone driving had to wait a few seconds to get where he wanted to go. The truck driver had pulled up in the alley, but was blocked from going back to the dealership because someone else was coming the opposite direction. There is absolutely no place to pull off and let someone pass. The only alternative is for one of the two to back up to the end of the block, said block being two normal blocks in length. Well, the other person either couldn't back up that far, felt like they shouldn't have to, or didn't do it quick enough for "another person in too big a hurry." He slammed the truck into reverse, laid rubber for a good 100 feet backward, and, judging from the tire marks, going around 50 MPH, backwards! he lost control, wiped out the corner of the chain link fence across the way, careened across the alley, through my fence, stopping just before hitting the house.

Pictures at Eleven.

Oh yeah, remember my grape plant? You know, the one that lawnmower man hacked to bits, only to heroically come back and be hacked up by a city crew? That one? Ground zero for the collision!

December 2, 2000     (Saturday)

There have been a lot of things running through my mind over the past day or so, most of them bitter and negative. It's amazing the amount of crap you have to put up with so you don't have to put up with crap anymore. I'm so tired of greedy, inconsiderate, rude, oblivious, mean, and stupid people I could scream! Actually I did scream. Yesterday. Several times, mostly at rude and stupid.

I keep an eye out for odd laws, especially city ordinances. This habit started several years ago when I was going through the West Virginia State Code, and the Ordinances of the City of Charleston, researching ways to address some civic problems. I found some old laws that have never been repealed, that in modern times are downright silly.

Today I ran across one of those laws that makes you take a step backwards and ask yourself, "What the hell were they thinking?" -- In Devon, Connecticut, walking backwards after sunset is not allowed. You have to wonder what set of conditions caused such an ordinance to be passed into law in the first place!!!

December 3, 2000     (Sunday)

The sun was out today, so I went out driving, looking for things to shoot (at f/5.6). I took some pretty good shots of dead, decaying, and old things. I stopped by Rite Aid to drop the film off, but they close early on Sunday. I could go to one of the larger grocery stores, but there's never any guarantee that they have anyone manning the station, and even if there is, they probably had one day's training operating the machine and don't know the difference between an f-stop and a stop sign. There's always Ritz Camera in the Mall, but I don't feel like going there, fighting the battle of the Lee Street Parking Building and hanging around for an hour until they have my prints ready. Wal-Mart? Too far, and I'm morally opposed to giving Wal-Mart any business that I could possibly do elsewhere.

Bitch, bitch, bitch!

December 4, 2000     (Monday)

No Entry Today

December 5, 2000     (Tuesday)

I took my film (see Sunday's entry) to a one-hour place in a grocery store. Mistake! I may have gotten three or four photos out of the roll worth keeping. The whole thing was over-exposed, and I'm moderately sure that I didn't overexpose the shot, so it has to be either in the film itself, which isn't likely since some of the shots came out okay, or the processing machine changed solutions in the middle of the roll, or maybe the Konica machines do some sort of automated exposure settings based on an AI routine in the computer, and it really doesn't work too well. I'll take the negatives that didn't print well to another processor or two and have reprints made. That way I'll know if it's the negatives or the processing. If it's the negatives, I'll have to make another trip.

From now on, I think I'm going to stick with Fuji film. I like the results I get with it better.

I went bowling last night. Good news is, on the third ball I rolled, I got a strike. Bad news is, I fell down getting it. At least I didn't fault. I'm sore today, needless to say. That was the first game I'd bowled in 18 or 19 years. I got a 117. I don't feel too awful about that. I should stick to pool.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

-- William Carlos Williams
"So Much Depends"

December 6, 2000     (Wednesday)

It's soup season. Since going vegetarian, I've been working hard to come up with palatable recipes. This is one of the successes.

Hearty Black Bean Soup

1    pound      Dried Black Beans - sorted, rinsed, and 
		soaked according to package directions
1    can	(14-1/2 oz.) Stewed tomatoes, sliced 
		(I prefer Del Monte Mexican style)
1    medium	onion - chopped
1    cup	fresh spinach - finely chopped
3/4  cup	fresh celery - finely chopped  
1/2  cup        fresh carrots - finely chopped
1    small      fresh beet - finely chopped and rinsed
1/2  tsp.	crushed or minced garlic
1/2  tsp.       salt - may be reduced or omitted
1/4  tsp.       ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4  tsp.       ground cumin seed
1    tsp.       dried basil (double if using fresh)
1/2  tsp.       paprika
1/2  tsp.       Reese smoke flavoring (or other brand)
1/4  cup        fresh parsley - finely minced.
     sprigs     fresh parsley, for garnish

Drain, rinse, and cover beans with cold water.  Add tomatoes, onion, 
carrots, celery, spinach, beet, garlic, salt and pepper.  Bring to 
a boil.  Reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for two hours or until beans are
tender.  Add water as needed.  Add cumin, basil, paprika, parsley, 
smoke flavoring and minced parsley.  Cook 30 minutes more, stirring 
frequently.  Serve piping hot with a parsley sprig garnish and 
a dollop of fat free sour cream.  

This is really best prepared a day in advance and heated back up.  

Since I don't really use recipes as such when I cook, this is only an approximation. You may need to make adjustments to your own taste.

December 7, 2000     (Thursday)

Let's all celebrate Pearl Harbor Day by getting bombed!

My great-grandmother wore an enameled pin until the day she died. She was buried with it pinned to her dress. It said, "Remember Pearl Harbor!" I'm not sure how much her feelings on the matter had to do with it, but I don't recall having seen my cousin Don's family at reunions until after she died. His wife was named Kayota. He married her in Guam sometime after the war. I guess great-granny Elizabeth couldn't accept her into the family. Remember Pearl Harbor!

I remember her. I remember sitting beside her on my grandmother's porch swing, listening to her tell tales of the frontier days after the civil war, how she met Frank and Jesse James when she was a toddler. I wish someone had had the foresight to have written these stories down. This was before tape recorders came into common use. It was said that great-granny Elizabeth had never had her hair cut in her long (some said well over 100 years) life. I know that when it was unfurled, it reached the floor and lay a couple feet across it. I remember the faraway look in her eyes when she brushed it, like each color change was a golden memory, keeping her heart warm until the end.

She probably had a series of strokes in late life. I remember her lying in a coma in the bedroom that later was to become mine. I remember the sickly smell and the dank, dark feeling of the room. I never felt right as long as I slept there. I did a lot of my growing up in that room, but it still was great-granny Elizabeth's and I didn't feel like I belonged there.

"I don't want to live here no more. I don't want to stay. Don't want to spend the rest of my life, quietly fading away." -- Alan Parsons Project ("Where Do We Go From Here?")

Rocks exposed on the cut where the road goes by the old city incinerator.
"South Face"

December 8, 2000     (Friday)

Here's my Christmas Card for everyone this year:
Click here to open the card.
(card opens in a new window)

Here's another in my series of scanned objects that I call "scantography."

Just some audio cable scanned with the lid of the scanner open and the lights off.
"High Fidelity"

Twenty years ago today, Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon. I still miss you, John.

December 9, 2000     (Saturday)

Why bother?

December 10, 2000     (Sunday)

Travelling mirror. . .
"I-79 North, Lewis County"

December 11, 2000     (Monday)

No Entry Today

December 12, 2000     (Tuesday)

The past recedes, getting further away as in the distance, "through the past, darkly," as through smoked or amber glass, sometimes with flaws that distort or obscure. Some things are brought into sharper focus, as though the intervening time were shaped and ground into a lens that allows me to see more clearly what I could not see up close.

As Nietzsche said, "This mountain makes the landscape it dominates charming and significant in every way. Having said this to ourselves a hundred times, we become so unreasonable and grateful that we suppose that whatever bestows so much charm must also be the most charming thing around-- and we climb the mountain and are disappointed. Suddenly the mountain itself and the whole landscape below us have lost their magic. We had forgotten that some greatness, like some goodness, wants to be beheld only from a distance, and by all means only from below, not from above, otherwise it makes no impression."*

It's like the past is now the mountain from afar, where I can see it in its glory and in the total context of the surroundings, and my present/future are close and not impressive at all.

My dreams were once in the distance and looked mighty, good, and attainable. Now that time is slipping from my hands, my dreams are chalk, dark with age, crumbling to be swept away by an uncaring sea, dissolved in the salty soup, layered on the floor of the deep dark, home to bacteria and strange vent creatures to whom dreams can only be seen as bits of nutrient that sustain them, much like they once sustained me, but in a different way, an alternate sustenance, a rebirth into a lower strata of the dream world, sludge for slimy creatures, silt for the world of blind and unpigmented fish, cuttlefish and octopi. My dreams are chalk, decomposing into the stuff that bones, not lives are made of.

* from The Gay Science, translated by Walter Kaufmann (Vintage Books, New York, 1974) pp 89-90

December 13, 2000     (Wednesday)

If you don't believe that the United States is being taken over (illegally, as in a bloodless coup) by a group of right-wing zealots, then read this:

57 Red Flags.

Yesterday I had lunch at one of my favorite places in Charleston, The Bus Station Grill. They serve continental cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Two of their four dining areas are the interiors of old London Omnibuses.

The restaurant did a great business when they opened, most likely because of publicity and because people were curious about the big red buses sitting in downtown Charleston. Now, things have slacked off considerably (purely a personal observation). I think there are several reasons for this. One is the competition for the food service business from the strip sprawl malls at Southridge Center several miles out of town. Another reason, I think, is the specific intent of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, the Charleston Renaissance Corporation, and certain yuppie developers, who have an unrealistic "vision" for the downtown area. They want it sans signs, marquee- and canopy-less, rustic, and gentrified. For a restaurant with very few retail stores around it to draw business to its doors, the inability to put up signs and draw attention to itself seriously impedes its ability to succeed.

This is a real shame, since the Bus Station Grill, in my not-so-humble opinion, is one of the two or three best places in Charleston to eat. They serve a first class fare at a price similar to the marinated, mass-produced garbage you'd get at Friday's, Outback, or the Olive Garden. Maybe people are put off by what they think are high prices or a 'too classy for my taste' place. In truth, there's nothing on the dinner menu over $24.95 and the lunch menu items (MORE than filling) are all under ten dollars. As far as being too classy, where else can you eat five-star meals in your sweat pants and tee shirt? It's a wonderful place, and I fear for it's existence. The reasons it may die are all the wrong ones. People shopping out of the city eat there, too instead of coming back in, fighting traffic, finding parking (which really isn't a problem, since the restaurant offers free valet parking in the evening). If it goes out of business, it will be the victim of 'sprawl.'

There is another bus on the opposite side, with a third dining area connecting the two.  The kitchen is in this center area, too, along with a basement dining room for larger groups.
"One of the buses at the Bus Station Grill"

Charleston is suffering from the fate of many other communities: Wal-Martitis. The big chain stores move in just outside the city, draw business away from locally-owned businesses until they have to shut down. Then more chains from out of the area move in, doing the same thing to the specialty stores. Wal-Mart chokes businesses that sell general merchandise, groceries, and several specialty markets.

Then, in comes Home Depot (spit!), Staples, Circuit City, T.G.I. Friday's, Applebee's, Michael's, and Target. After a few months local home supply and hardware stores, office supply houses, electronics stores, restaurants, art and crafts stores and department stores are struggling to stay afloat. Jobs at these stores get eliminated, and the people who depend on public transportation to get to work suddenly don't have the employment possibilities they once had

Bill Clinton and the congressional Republicans worked to eliminate welfare 'as we know it' but they did nothing to help people gain the ability to succeed in this 'globalization of everything' economy. Without local businesses having local interests, this country is doomed to a widening gap between the haves and the have nots, and no safety net for those who can't meet their own basic needs.

It's rather ironic that it was the Republican Party, founded in large part to eliminate slavery in this country, that may well be the party in power that ushers in the new slavery of the 21st Century.

December 14, 2000     (Thursday)

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." -- R.E.M.

I've noticed a lot of dot-coms going belly up recently. One of the ISPs I had a complimentary account with sent me and e-mail saying they were going out of the ISP business., where I checked out new music floated to the surface, blue and bloated four days ago. It's a jungle out there.

There's someone in my head, and it's not me.

December 15, 2000     (Friday)

There was an excellent editorial in today's Charleston Gazette: Ethics -- Scalia, Thomas Scalia questions. (link no longer active)

I'm so apprehensive about what the next four years will hold. It's like deja vu. I remember all the nastiness that ensued during the Reagan-Bush years. People have short memories.

Doesn't this guy work at Wal-Mart?
"And you wondered how reindeer fly?"

December 16, 2000     (Saturday)

Oh well. . .

December 17, 2000     (Sunday)

There's snow on the ground. The temperature dropped overnight from a high yesterday in the mid fifties to an anticipated windchill of around 40 below this afternoon. Brrrrr. Last night at 10:30 it was raining pretty hard. You could tell the water was cold from the way it splashed on the windshield, especially since my windshield wipers only worked about 1/4 of the time, and only when they felt like it!

"It's always somethin'." -- Roseanne Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner)

Polyurethane foam slices arranged in a scanner construction.  Digitally is the only place this exists now.
"It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood"

December 18, 2000     (Monday)

Cold and snow.

Snow and wind.

Wind and cold.

Three days to winter. The light is scarce and I feel its absence keenly. It's hard to get myself moving. Motivation is lacking. Christmas is coming fast. Maybe I can hide.

December 19, 2000     (Tuesday)

Snowy again today. The roads seem to be clear for the time being. It's supposed to get really cold tonight, so I expect the melted snow will turn to ice. I hope they cancel my son's night class. I really don't want to be out driving in this weather with no snow tires.

I spent some time today cleaning up broken links on my web site. The Internet is in a constant state of flux, so I have to periodically check to see if all my links are still functioning. I added a couple links too, to fill in the space where broken ones used to be. I've kept pretty much the same basic set of links since I first organized my links into a table. I think I might split the Information part of the page off, and rearrange the links and add a whole lot more to it. It's not like anyone uses my pages for anything. Maybe I'll just leave well enough alone.

December 20, 2000     (Wednesday)

When I woke up this morning I had a couple of well-formulated topics, replete with historical references and arguments for all sides of the issues, to write about here. Now, I can't even remember what the topics themselves were.

Just shoot me.

December 21, 2000     (Thursday)

The election is over, the results are known,
The will of the people has nearly been shown.
Let's forget all the quarrels and show by our deeds
that we'll give our President the support that he needs.
Let's all come together. Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant. You kiss my ass.

December 22, 2000     (Friday)

"No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else." -- Charles Dickens

December 23, 2000     (Saturday)

Got up this morning and the water pipes were frozen. Usually when it's supposed to get below 10 degrees I let the water drizzle. It was supposed to get down to, depending on the forcast, 11 to 14 degrees. I figured I was safe. The temperature got down to around zero. It was after noon when the water in the bathroom and the cold water in the kitchen started flowing again. It was after two when the kitchen's cold water thawed.

Ironically, the outside water pipe didn't freeze. The spigot has a slow drip, so we have this ice stalagmite underneath it, but the water flows freely.

I'm starting to get nostalgic for La Niña and El Niño.

December 24, 2000     (Sunday)

Peace on Earth.

December 25, 2000     (Monday)

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

December 26, 2000     (Tuesday)

Even with drizzling the water last night, the cold water in the kitchen froze again. It only took about 45 minutes to thaw out. It was down to around zero last night. The high today is only supposed to be about 27 -- no! that's not Celsius.

Hopefully the temperature will get up above freezing later this week. I need to see if I can get the fingerprints off the car hood where the power steering got worked on. Only trouble with do-it-yourself/shade-tree-mechanics is the same pains aren't taken as they are when a professional does the job. Looks like a job for WD-40!

December 27, 2000     (Wednesday)

Mario is back!!! Mario Lemieux played his first game with the Pittsburgh Penguins since April 1997 tonight. He has a three point game, 1 goal and 2 assists. Jaromir Jagr, on Lemieux's line, had two goals and two assists. Jan Hrdina, the other winger on the first line had a goal and an assist. The Pens wholloped the Maple Leafs 5-0, breaking their longest home losing streak since before the Lemieux era (prior to 1984). The lowering of his number from the rafters with his son watching awestruck on the edge of the ice was wonderful. I love hockey!!

December 28, 2000     (Thursday)

My alma mater won their bowl game today. West Virginia beat Ol' Miss 49-38. They lead 49-9 at the half and played like the St. Louis Rams in the first two quarters. In the second half they seriously scared me. Coach Don Nehlen won his last game as the WVU coach and broke the 8-game bowl losing streak.

Fire and ice, makes steam. . . let's cook some basmati rice and find some red beans.  Ummm.  Dinner!
"Flaming Fractal"

December 29, 2000     (Friday)

NEWS ITEM: When he was 47 years old, Rolling Stones bassist, Bill Wyman, began a relationship with 13-year old, Mandy Smith, with her mother's blessing. When she turned 19, they were married, but the marriage only lasted a year. Not long after the divorce, Bill's 30-year-old son Stephen married Mandy's mother, age 46. That made Stephen a stepfather to his former stepmother. If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father's father-in-law and his own grandpa.

And you thought the family trees in Eastern Kentucky were complex! Didn't someone write a song about a relationship like that? "I'm My Own Grandpa"?

Capital One Visa is running television commercials characterizing other credit cards as pirates because their new "preferred" Visa has no interest rate for x number of months. This seems like total hypocrisy to me, since the card they offer to people with less than sterling credit ratings carries an interest rate of nearly 25%, plus an annual fee and a $25 late fee (and they make it nearly impossible for you to pay the charges on time).

It could be worse, I suppose. It could be Cross-Country Bank. Their "po-folks" Visa has a very low limit. Between 100 and 300 dollars. It also has an annual fee of $129 AND a monthly "account maintenance" fee of $10. If you have one of their cards with a 100 dollar limit, and don't even charge anything on it, you pay almost $250 a year to them. Talk about pirates!

There has been a raft of letters to the editor lately, all pretty much saying the same thing, "Democrats, get over it! Stop Whining." This is in reference to editorials expressing dismay about the selection by the US Supreme Court of W as the new president. Do they mean that in the sense that they got over Clinton being elected? In the sense that they stopped whining about him to the extent that they tried to impeach him over a blow job since they couldn't find anything else to stick it to him with.

Perhaps we should "get over it" by having a special prosecutor appointed to investigate every little detail of W's life up to this point. Maybe we should stop whining by having a slovenly, illogical hack like Rush Limbaugh impugn W on a daily basis on national radio. Yeah, that's how we should do it. I don't think President Cheney or Sock Puppet W could stand up to the scrutiny.

December 30, 2000     (Saturday)

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. It's arguably the last day of the third millennium. The Jews would disagree, not only on the millennium, but on the year and when the new year occurs. So would the Chinese. I have no idea what the second largest population block, the Indians, celebrate as New Year's. It's quite possibly the same as the Western world, in light of the British domination of the sub-continent for so many years. The Indians may not put as much stock in New Year's as the rest of us. Their concept of time is much vaster than ours. They think in terms of eons of eons. One measure of time in Hindu lore (I don't recall its name right now) is the amount of time it would take for a bird flying back and forth over the highest mountain in the world, brushing the peak each pass with a silk scarf to wear the mountain down to nothing.

That would be one tired bird, and one helluva silk scarf!

December 31, 2000     (Sunday)

Happy New Year to one and all.

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