Thursday, January 31, 2008

Forgotten Works

Beth recently had a post where she wrote:

“…tinker, tailor,
soldier, sailor,
rich man, poor man
beggar-man, thief
doctor, lawyer
indian chief…..
(And tax accountant, investment advisor, etc., etc.)
Dealt with them all last Friday.”

That describes a busy day, but it got me thinking about forgotten professions or professions that have evolved into something else.

Let’s review these forgotten professions or titles:

A Tinker is someone who mends pots and metal objects.
A Haberdasher is someone who deals in clothing for men.
A Cobbler is someone who repairs shoes.
A Cooper is someone who makes or repairs casks and barrels.
A Liveryman is someone who cares for a stable of horses.
A Black Smith did iron work, wagon building, wagon wheel making and horseshoeing. Now a farrier does horse shoeing, and black smiths work mostly in iron and forge work.
A Teamster was someone who drove teams of horses or oxen to transport goods or people. Now they are what we call truck drivers but their union name continues with the historic affiliation.
A Thatcher is someone who roofs structures with bundles of grasses.

Does anyone have any others they’d care to share?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

He's Got A Woody

After reading what someone posted on the Rust Forum the other day, I got to wondering if some names should be banned from future use by parents. I’m talking about the name Woody.

When I was growing up a Woody was an early SUV. It was a cross between a van and a station wagon with actual wooden sides. It was popular with surfers and that is why you’ll hear reference to Woodys in old Beach Boy and Jan and Dean recordings.

The look was so popular that wood-grained sides became the standard of station wagon design by all manufacturers.

Time changes all things. In 1939 it meant something very different when someone said they were gay because they just got a Woody. The definition of “Woody” has changed from a style of car to an erection. So if any of you tell me you are polishing up the Woody, I only hope you are talking about a classic car. I don't want to hear about it if it isn't.

Also, it just doesn’t seem right to hang the name Woody on some poor unsuspecting child. I would also avoid naming a child Peter or Dick for obvious reasons. If your last name happens to be Johnson, caution is also needs to be exercised with the first name. Avoid names like Harry or Slim in that situation. Naming your kid Magic Johnson is a boast.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ego Check

The other day my wife made this comment to me, “The guy who wrote this is a great writer.” What my ego heard was “The Guy Who Writes This is a great writer.” I wondered for a moment if she had forgotten that I am “The Guy Who Writes This”, but then I realized she was referring to the author of a book she was reading.

It made me laugh to myself because I made an assumption that I was being rewarded. How often do we mistake something that is said for a compliment or a criticism, when in fact it was a statement made for an entirely other purpose?

I’ve stated on several occasions that I write just to get this stuff out of my head to make room for new ideas to enter, but I have to admit that I often do write now for the readers who come here on a daily basis. I realize this because I’ve discovered several topics that I will not write about so as not to offend those who invest time in this blog every day.

Writing to me is a discipline and a craft that I feel I must practice daily. I liken it to doing a crossword puzzle. If you do them daily you get better at them, but if you stop for a while they become more difficult.

I feel honored that so many people stop by every day for a quick read, even if they don’t agree with what I say, it’s still kind of cool that they keep returning. I am happy that a bunch of you even leave comments.

Now that I’ve allowed my ego a momentary run of freedom from my wife’s comment, I promise it is back where it needs to be. I am The Guy Who Writes This, not the guy who wrote that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Free Range Fruit

While writing the article on fruit and nut trees, I realized that we don’t live in a particularly good belt for agricultural production. Most good producing trees don’t get the proper chill requirement here and the summers never get warm enough. Yet many are in flower while it is still too cold for most pollinators.

This made me reflect on how as kids we were tuned into the local crops, much the same way that bears seem to know when the salmon come up stream and when the berries should be ripe.

I came from a town that was inhabited for over two hundred years. The house I lived in is now 150 years old. Many of the houses there were even older. These old houses all had old fruit trees. Some of the houses were farm houses and their property had been divided and developed leaving several of the fruit trees in the yards of the new homes.

Word would get out that the cherries were ripe on Catherine Ave. A short time later there would be five bicycles parked under the cherry tree and five kids with sacks walking out on the branches. Then apples would be ripe on Winter’s Hill or pears were ripe on Strisko Road; we would be there. There were walnuts on Franklin Turnpike and on Railroad Ave. Can’t forget the wild strawberries and black berries on Ridge Road.

My favorite time was when the concords were ripe in the woods. The smell of grapes would arrive on the wind. It awakened our senses and our attention. I don’t know if the concord grapes grew naturally wild in the woods of New Jersey or if they had escaped cultivation, like how black berries are spread out here. A bird eats it and poops out the seed and it starts a new life. The grapes were especially tart but they were really good.

It seems that there was always a free meal out there from June to October. We would even hit old abandoned rhubarb patches. Yeah, that’s sick, but remember kids love tart and sour.

I hope there are still packs of kids out there who hunt down their fresh local produce and graze as we were meant to. I would hate to think that my generation was the last to actually leave the house for wild epicurean delights.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fruit Trouble

When I first moved here I planted several vines, fruit and nut trees. Being from a different climate, I only knew what I grew up with. I had no idea how the different climate would challenge my plans for the agriculture I wanted for my property.

The walnut trees grew really well but never produced any nuts. The filberts filled out well, but produces only empty shells. The same excellent growth was seen in the kiwi fruit, but there, too, no fruit. Grapes did really well, but their fruit was only the size of a BB by the time the frost came. Oddly there is a disease that alder trees spread to Granny Smith apples so they don’t produce well. My final failure was with cherries. I couldn’t get a cherry tree to live more than two years.

I did have success with a Gravenstein apple, a Green Gage plum. I have a questionable quint-graphed pear tree. It only produces four pears a year, but I am hopeful it will do better as it matures. Unfortunately the King apple tree that came with the place stopped producing years ago and had to be removed.

I’ve been in this home for 20 years now, and I had hopped that my fruit and nut trees would be producing like mature trees now. Then the December storm hit. The apple tree was uprooted, a large alder fell crushing the kiwi arbor and the green gage plum.

I am left with the prospect of beginning again, and frankly, I’m not sure if I want to. Fruit trees have been very disappointing. I’m not sure I can feel positive again after my 20 year heart break.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Measure Me

There are several advantages to living your entire childhood in one house. The most prominent in my mind is the measuring spot. For those of you who are not familiar with this custom, it is usually a doorway that gets marked with the height of each child. A parent stands the child straight up against the door frame, places a ruler on their head and extends it as level as possible to the door jamb. The door jamb is marked and dated. The child can see how much they have grown over the past few months. Every few months children seem to realize that they are a bit bigger will exclaim, “Measure Me!”

Children only see the advantages of growing up. They know the taller they get the more independence they gain. Looking back I personally wish I could have stopped all my growth and ageing at age 11. Eleven years of age was for me the perfect age. That is when you are old enough to understand most things, yet remain sheltered from things 11 year olds shouldn’t have to be subjected to. It was all fun and little responsibility when I was eleven.

My wife moved in with me when her children were ages 7 and 11. Before they moved in they had lived in three rental homes and one home they owned for about a year. Moving that often isn’t conducive to having measuring spot since you normally can’t take them with you.

A few years ago I put an addition onto the back end of the house. The new structure met the old structure at the measuring board. The measuring board is a record of both children. I carefully removed it and placed it is safe storage in the garage. It will remain there until one of the children gets a house and has children of their own. This piece of wood will be their house warming gift. Their children can then be measured against their parents.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I have abandoned my search for absolute truth. Somehow the meaning of truth has wandered from fact to belief, belief being merely a fervent wish. Political parties throw the word “Truth” around like a dogmatic Frisbee of dynamic altered meaning.

I think that politicians robbed the concept of truth from fundamentalist churches. It worked well for the churches, so why not for politics. It is so odd seeing the word “Truth” used to garner alliances and I’m surprised that so many people fall into the false hope of the truth trap.

I love it when I see people such as Steven Colbert exposing the power of the word as a tool and bring forward words such as “Truthiness” to further demonstrate the abuse that is being bestowed upon the word “Truth.”

In my mind I again realigned the meaning the word “Truth.” I return to what it meant to me many years ago when I read a book called “The Physics of True.” This was a very technical book about how to “True” a bicycle wheel, which basically means how to adjust your spokes. True is the state of perfect balance and is very difficult to achieve with a bicycle wheel. If all things were equal it would be easier, but on every wheel there is a hole for the valve stem. You might not think that a little valve stem would make any difference, and at slow speeds you never notice, but get the wheel spinning at 50 miles per hour and the centrifical force of that added little nubbin starts making the wheels bounce. At 60 miles per hour the tire starts leaving the ground as the stem approaches its apex.

I’m sure we’ve all driven automobiles with a tire that wasn’t balanced. It feels disconcerting at best. Now imagine being on two thin wheels that are not perfectly balanced at 50 miles per hour. It is frightening.

In conclusion, the word “Truth” must be a derivative of the word “True.” ”True” is an expression of perfect balance. Please note that I am not using the word “Harmony” in this definition. That word deserves an entire article of its own. Balance and harmony are so difficult to achieve together that it’s not even worth trying for it. The achievement of the perfection of “True” alone is enough to make the universe smile.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Photo Sociology

I like to accompany every article here with a photo. I cruse when looking for unusual stuff. When I find an interesting image I will save it in this photo bank. Sometimes I go looking for a photo for a specific topic.

Flickr has a thing where you can see groups of the twenty most recently uploaded photos. Each time you refresh you get another twenty. Flickr generally has over 3,000 photos uploaded every minute.

Most photographs are a waste of good electrons. Most being unworthy of a second glance, but occasionally someone uploads absolute art which makes you want to view their portfolio.

There are other trends which future sociologists could find interesting about the cultures of the early 2000s. There are groups of photos where one can see certain patterns that reappear, and here are the few I’ve noticed:

There are a lot of people out there with a boot fetish. Many photos are candid shots of people wearing boots walking around in a city. Oddly there are other boot fetishists who are transvestites. These people photograph themselves wearing women’s clothing and focus especially on the boots. I wonder why boots are so special to them?

Next, there are a lot of photos of yarn. There are skeins of every color and texture. It is unbelievable how much yarn is there, really unbelievable.

Finally there is the strangest of all. These are photographs of teen age girls who photograph themselves at arms length. They usually enhance their cleavage and pucker their lips for the camera. Oddly those in their later teens stop using the arms length camera angle and switch to photographing themselves in a mirror, but the pucker and the cleavage always seems to be present.

Flickr gives a snap shot of human culture as it presently is. I suppose one can spot other trends there and maybe predict where we are going in the future. All I can see is race of people who are knitters with puckered faces, cleavage, either wearing boots or loving boots. It sounds pretty bleak to me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cave Man

Yesterday’s article on tree forts got me thinking about caves which are real attractive to men on a primal level. I made a statement in an article here long ago about how men can not resist looking in a hole. It’s like dogs and hydrants; if a man sees a hole he has to check it out.

My earliest memories of cave dwelling was after snow storms when the snow plow cleared our driveway, pushing all the snow into a big pile at the North side of the U shaped pavement. Before the exhaust fumes of the plow truck had dissipated in the winter air, we kids were out there digging a cave in the embankment.

Jump ahead seven years and I had a drivers license and I was able to drive to and explore abandoned iron mines in Northern New Jersey. Some could only be explored with scuba gear. If you think it’s strange walking into a several hundred foot shaft, try diving in one.

Other under earth experiences followed. Some were as simple as driving through the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. Another one was a little strange and that was walking through a hole drilled in the side of White Face Mountain in New York. The shaft leads to the center of the mountain where you are met by an elevator that takes you to the top.

There is a cave outside of New Paltz, NY where when you drive by even during the warmest day, you come to a dip in the road that is suddenly is in a 60 degree fog. I once pulled off to check out this large cavern. It was interesting especially because of the constant breeze that it emitted.

Moving out here, I’ve explored the Ape Caves of Mt. St. Helens which are lava tubes. I also explored several lava tubes on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve explored sea caves along the Oregon Coast.

Dried Salmon County even has a small mine along the Lewis and Clark River at the 400 Line. It was being mined for gold. The miners gave up after digging only 30 feet into the basalt.

To this day, I still get a sense of exploration even from something as simple as driving through the Arch Cape Tunnel, or the tunnel on the way to Chinook, or the one on Highway 26 or even the one that goes under the West Hills of Portland. Though I admit it isn’t the same sense of adventure when you can see through to the other side, or when the walls are tiled and have good lighting.

Next to tree forts, caves are another primal attractant to a lot of male humans.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tree House

A tree house is a right of passage for many American boys. I don’t believe that girls feel the need to devolve back to the inner ape, but boys seem to have tree forts hard wired into their genetic code.

I feel sorry for boys who grow up in treeless areas, and I’m sure they must dig caves where they live. I grew up in the trees and as a kid you learn early to look at every group of trees and evaluate them for their building potential. A group of trees together was always better than a single tree with a split trunk or crown.

In my old neck of the woods, me and my cadre of friends always scoped trees along the Ramapo River. The river not only provided us with isolation from developed areas, but it also provided us with recreation, be it fishing or swimming.

The river also supplied us with building materials. After any rain we would find ply wood and two by fours that washed down stream and got hung up on the rocks or washed up on shore. Like beavers we would build our lodges, and we would make them adult proof. We knew how much weight could be placed onto the rungs we nailed to the trees. They would support less than 100 lbs. No adult in their right mind would ever attempt entry. It looked unsafe even to us, but we knew the weak links in the climb and avoided them.

I was involved in two tree forts on the river. One was a one level ranch style with a grand pebble beach and river view, and the other was a three story manse built on a cluster of trees that hung over the river. It was climbing to this house where one day I forgot about the trick steps.

Suddenly I heard a snap and just as suddenly I found myself without any weight or any part of me attached to anything connected to the ground. In my mind the fall was slow. I felt like a snow flake though on the way down images of everything were blurred. Eventually I did land, but luckily I found myself cradled in the washed out roots of the tree. My body landed evenly all at once with equal pressure. The only casualty of the fall was my left ankle which protruded past the cradle of roots. My foot snapped downward spraining my ankle. Not bad for a 25 foot fall.

They say that some sprains are worse then breaks. This was one of those sprains. I did have x-rays so I knew it wasn’t broken. I was limping for six weeks, and that ankle still swells up on occasion and I can still tweak it if I come down on that foot in the wrong way.

I did continue tree fort efforts after that, but it wasn’t long before I matured to terra based kid structures.

This all comes back to mind because of a cedar tree that was badly damaged during the December storm. When I was building an addition on my home a few years ago, I was placing a large glue-lam beam on a post about 25 feet in the air above the ground. This healthy cedar tree was near by, and for a moment I fantasized about altering my plans to include the tree in the addition.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Isn’t it interesting all the designations there are for Officers of the Law? I’m not talking about slang like Cops or The Fuzz (that’s an old one isn’t it?). I am talking about degrees and distinctions.

Most are called Police Officers, but oddly in France that is an insulting phrase to law enforcement personnel because it sounds like they work in offices and never have hands on duties. It seems that the term Desk Sergeant could be frowned upon by people who have that title.

Most police departments adhere to military titles such as Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and sometimes Major or Colonel. They never seem to have Privates or Generals, but they do have Chiefs. I wonder why a Chief and not a General?

Other than rank there are all sorts of police, which are known as Officers, Troopers, Sheriffs, Marshals, Agents, Special Agents, Investigators, Special Investigators, Detectives and all sorts of Deputies between. My favorite is Constable. I think it is cool to have a Constabulary.

It just seems odd to me that law enforcement hasn’t gotten together to condense the titles into something less confusing. I’m sure it all has to do with jurisdiction, but the law is the law. If we are expected to obey the laws it would help law breakers to know what powers they are up against.

How about a deck of cards like they had to rate Iraq’s most wanted. That way we’d know that a Sheriff, a Deputy and a Marshal beats a pair of Sergeants.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

No, Not Silver Bullets

These are not silver bullets. Nor are the radioactive things that Homer Simpson removes from his shirt and tosses out the car window.

In my on-going attempt to shine a light for city folks to see and learn about country ways, I present yet another agricultural topic.

The photo above is of cow magnets, and I know that it sounds like I’m pulling your collective legs hers, but this is a device that beef and dairy farmers use. Each cow gets one shoved down its throat where it settles in the rumen or reticulum and remains their throughout the animal’s life because they cannot be passed through a cow's 4th bonivial meta-colon.

When the cow grazes, it often consumes and swallows bits of metal like barbed wire, staples, nails and general trash. These objects are indigestible and often sharp and may lodge somewhere or at least cause inflammation resulting in what is known as hardware disease, which manifests as lower weight gain and poor milk production.

The cow magnet attracts and holds onto metal objects in the cows stomach and prevents them from becoming lodged in the animal's tissue. Also, these can be recovered during rendering and then given to another cow to use through its life time.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Sorry for the late post, but phone service has been out for a while and just got restored.

Many, many years ago I worked as a bouncer in this bar. The bar was attached to a steak house called John Barleycorn’s which tried for that dark wooden look that was so popular in the 70s. This was a hangout for me since they had live music, and after a while they offered me a job. I would card people at the door and settle minor disputes when they arose. (How is that for lipstick on a pig?)

One of the things about this place was that there was a basket of peanuts on every table and you were expected to throw the shells on the floor. By the end of the night you could never find the floor.

I ate a lot of peanuts when I was there. After a couple months I noticed something strange was beginning to happen. When ever I got in the shower and tipped my head back to rinse my hair before and after shampooing I felt dizzy to the point I thought I was going to pass out. This went on for a month or so and then I read that the paper covering around the peanut can be toxic and cause hallucinations. I stopped eating the paper around the nut and the problem fixed itself in a couple days.

I’m not one to enjoy dizziness or any sort of vertigo. I like being in balance. It was good being a balanced bouncer.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WTF Feds?

The recent devastating storm brought something interesting to the surface. We had some major damage to our property, however we have good insurance, but we have been advised by everyone that we should file a claim with FEMA. Even on radio interviews the FEMA representatives pleaded with people to file a claim even if property damage was minimal. Hopefully we can get something that may cover some expenses that aren’t covered by our insurance. So I gathered up all the information I would need to apply and prepared to spend a couple hours in the Josie Peper Building where FEMA set up shop after moving from Seaside.

One warning we got from the representatives was that our claim will be denied, but we must appeal, and each time we are denied we must appeal. We may be denied several times, but eventually we will get something.

FEMA then sent us over to the SBA. There we had to do another application with most of the same information and there, too we were warned that we will be turned down for a SBA loan, but we should be persistent and appeal every denial.

A few years ago my wife suffered a medical trauma which made her totally unable to work in her highly skilled profession any longer. Though she has long term disability insurance, it is arduous because she has to constantly prove that she has not recovered to the point where she can ever work again. Her physicians keep telling the LTD company that this is as good as she is going to get. She applied for Social Security Disability. There, too she is greeted with the phrase, “you will be turned down the first couple of times but be persistent and appeal.” So far she is on her second appeal and we are now waiting for the next step which will be a hearing. We also hear that it takes between three and five years to get it resolved.

I wonder how much the Federal government saves by denying claims and having claimants give up out of frustration. The thing about Social Security is that when they do have to pay up, they have to pay benefits from the time one first applies.

One piece of advice I can give to anyone who finds themselves, or has a spouse suddenly struck down by anything medical that may possibly impinge upon their ability to work in their profession; apply for Social Security immediately. I mean immediately while they are still in the hospital. I mean while they are being wheeled from the ER to being admitted, you need to be applying at that moment. It seems that people who do this get approved in weeks without any fight.

Most people can not fathom how their lives will be impacted if one wage earning member of the family can suddenly no longer work. Most people are so optimistic and think things will return to normal one day. Sometimes they don’t ever return to normal. It is far better to prepare for a disaster and if things happen to work out enabling one to return to their former life, no harm, no foul. But it feels much better knowing you have a safety net if events don’t materialize as you had hoped.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Who We Really Are

Writing the Geek piece got me wondering what sort of cultural bending I’ve done in the past. I’m always amazed by people who get so wrapped up in a culture not of their own and they convince themselves they are someone else entirely. I know several people who have convinced themselves that they are Native Americans, (OK I say Indian because I’ve spoken with several Indians who hate being called Native Americans). I know we’ve all seen the white rappers, OMFG! What’s up with that? That whole thing is worse than faking an Italian accent.

Once I bent what I considered my safety zone. I grew up in an affluent suburb. I had a lot of friends who came from wealthy families. My family was far from wealthy, but I was accepted unconditionally by the families of my wealthy friends.

While associating with the wealthy I learned how to behave and how not to behave. I thought I had developed the tools to be functional within the culture of the wealthy but my confidence was shaken in the field one day.

It was during the time when I was scouting to make a new life for myself in Hawaii. I booked myself for a week on Oahu, a week on Maui, and another week on the Big Island of Hawaii and then back to Oahu to finish my consideration. It was on the Big Island that I had booked myself in a luxury resort. I felt uncomfortable from the moment I started driving down the long palm bordered black drive way across lava field. There was all this artificial looking, too green grass on the golf course. There were ponds and waterfalls and fountains with the architecturally superior hotel in the background.

Just driving up and checking in made me feel like I did not belong there. I may have looked like I belonged there with my shinny new rental car and my linen jacket and very cool sun glasses, but I knew better. I was nearly overcome with anxiety.

Back in New Jersey some of my friends lived in actual mansions, nothing like the McMansions that are trying to be passed off as the homes of the wealthy these days. I cruised with them on their yachts in the Hudson River. I drove their Jaguars and attended their weddings at the Waldorf. I vacationed with them in their summer homes. I thought I had the culture down pat, but when I went at it solo my wings melted. I was not that at all the person I practiced to be. I did have a very good income, but I wasn't and never would be at the sustainable income level where luxuries such as that resort would become common place to me.

I finally found my place in society. I live a simple life with only a few pretenses. As it turns out I wake up early every morning, drink coffee, post an article on my blog and then I put on a pair of Wellingtons and I go out and clean horse stalls. Even when I am out of town and someone else is tending to my duties at home; I still wake up at 5:00am as though I need to partake in my normal morning ritual.

This is who I am and who I really want to be. I can pretend to be someone else on occasion, but every morning my day starts out the same way and thus becomes how I ultimately define myself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Cultural Understanding

I’m confused by a certain evolutionary process and this would the Geeks. I’m talking Computer Geeks by the way, not Circus Geeks. Are people born Geeks and then develop the Geek look, or do they take on the look first and then succumb to a life style of technology?

I just find it odd that a high percentage of Geeks both possess the technological knowledge and that stand alone look.

Now I don’t mean to disparage their looks or their knowledge. I’m just commenting on it. They may look and behave any way they wish. I have no problems with Geeks in the least bit. I find their earnest attempt to function in this world with entirely different social skills to be at times courageous.

Though many engineers are Geeks themselves, they make products with Geeks in mind because it is only the Geeks who actually "get it." The Geeks are the guys who actually read the manuals.

It is usually the goal of most people to either stand out or to blend in. Somehow I don’t thinks Geeks want to do either. For the most part they stick to them selves and you don't really see them all that often. They are their own culture and they have no intention of assimilating.

Imagine yourself living slightly out of step from the norm. Easily I would be a cultural stand-out if I went back to New Jersey and continued dressing as I do here with my Wellingtons and flannel shirts. Sure I could act a part for a while, but a total social change might be out of the question for me at this point since I carry the baggage of my culture every where I go.

Anyway, I like Geeks. I think there should be a day to honor them and their achievements. Oddly, I bet they already have a day and I just don't know about it because I never read the manual.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Beautiful People

I am not one who is obsessed with vanity. Sure, I may have a bit of an ego, but as far as my personal appearance goes I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly good looking or “cosmetically challenged” ( a phrase I coined since ugly is such an ugly term.)

I am always surprised when someone pays me a compliment on my appearance. I mostly get compliments on my blue eyes. That’s cool, I’m gracious about compliments. The funny thing is that sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror while I prepare my morning shaving ritual I somehow see Johnny Cash in his later years looking back at me. My hair looks thin, my face looks exaggerated and lumpy, but somehow I look rejuvenated not long after that.

When ever I am complimented, I wonder what life must be like for people who are truly good looking. I’m talking about human specimens of extreme pulchritude who are so good looking that people constantly stare at them.

I’ve seen beauty worshipers do some real goofy things when a person of beauty enters the room. What are they thinking? Do they think their obsequious behavior isn’t noticed? Worse yet, how is a person of beauty supposed to react to this sort of stupidity?

Yes, I know people who know they look good and they not only expect this sort of behavior, but feel insulted if it isn’t forthcoming. I know people who feel cursed by their beauty.

I recall a character named Vida, in Richard Brautigan’s book, The Abortion. She was so beautiful that she never wanted to leave her house during daylight hours because people would drive off the road from looking at her. She felt very guilty for looking nice.

I suppose one must consider the pitfalls of attractiveness. The best line I’ve ever heard on the subject was I heard someone describing someone else as being attractive, and their partner came back and said, “Yeah, and worms are attractive to fish.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

DeLaura Beach

When the idea of selling the County owned DeLaura Beach to the State Park system first came about, a County Commissioner at the time stated that the County shouldn’t be in the park business. I tend to disagree, since if this sentiment is to be taken at its face value then the County should be divesting in all of its parks to rid itself of the burden of maintaining anything in public recreation. Think of the condos that could be built in the heart of each of our parks and the tax revenue that could come in from it.

It is a stewardship issue. Commissioners in the past found it to be a good idea to procure lands for the County to be used by the public. Presently there are 15 areas in the county that are under control of the County Parks Department. Selling off one of them sets a dangerous president.

De Laura Beach Park is at the end of DeLaura Beach Road off Ridge Road in
Warrenton. It runs along the gated Burma Road, which is a drivable fire break from De Laura to the Peter Iredale. One of the problems is that some spendy homes have been built close to the park and the residents are very resistant to the use of park land any where near their homes. They feel that everything within their line of sight belongs to them and they want it all private.

The park at DeLaura Beach is not maintained by the County. It is maintained by a walking club, an equestrian club, a cycling club and a paint ball club. There are no bathroom facilities, parking areas (side of the road parking only) or utilities that are use to support visitors. This park is absolutely no burden to the county at all. The only burden I can see is potential money that is burning a hole in the pockets of some of the County Commissioners.

There is a link below the Clatsop County Parks Department flier on County owned parks. Please note that in the address of the link there is the word “Assets.” This and all County owned park land are assets to our community. The fact the County Commission is even considering selling any of it, even to the State is unconscionable.

I liken it to children plotting to kill their parents to hasten their inheritance. Any financial gain by the County will be short lived, while holding onto this land for future generations will in fact prevent yet more restriction on its use or worse yet development into another unnecessary golf course.

It saddens us all to see things like family farms that have been in a family for generations suddenly lost because the most recent owner can not manage the business or worse yet because of greed. The County Parks are meant to belong to all of us for generations as well and should not succumb to the greed or lack of future vision of the present County Commissioners.

If you agree with my assessment of this situation, please let your County Commissioner know how you feel about County owned assets.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Obligatory Villagers

I’ve been meaning to write about the new Nellie McKay album, Obligatory Villagers for about a month now. This is a collection that needs to be strongly promoted.

Nellie is a remarkable young woman who first hit the scene a couple years ago at 18 years of age with her album, Get Away From Me, which was a strongly talented effort to blend lounge jazz with rap and flavor it with all sorts of other textures and impressions.

Her next album, Pretty Little head, was unremarkable, but this new effort has totally blown me away. People who are only 25 years old normally can’t produce music like this. This collection touches on and gives impressions of old movie music from the 30s and then moves into the 60s and then suddenly you are thrust into something that sounds like Nelson Riddle, and then suddenly you find yourself on Broadway.

Nellie had some heavyweight help from jazz horns including David Liebman, Phil Woods, and Bob Dorough who all make this album superb. The production values of this collection pars that of Zappa, Steely Dan, and damn it I’ll say it, it even pars the production of many of the Beatles albums.

There is always something changing on this recording. It never gets boring. Changes are frequent enough even for those with the shortest attention spasm.

Nellie’s piano is at its top form and her lyrics are as sharp, funny, snotty and as interesting as those on her first collection. Listening with head phones reveals all sorts of Easter eggs and goodies within that you just never hear no matter how good your speakered system is.

This album consists of only nine tracks, ten if you buy it on iTunes, however there is enough listening here to keep you interested for months. As far as Nellie is concerned, Pluto’s still a planet. As far as I'm concerned I'm going to keep playing this CD over and over at least until June.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Slowing Down

Since turning 50 a few years ago I’ve noticed some physiological changes in my strength and endurance for doing physical work. I’m not really disturbed by this since I get to do fewer unpleasant things or at least I get to spread these tasks out over a longer period.

Most noticeable is how much I’ve slowed down. I drove somewhere this morning and I am one who likes to watch my speed, but every time I looked down at the speedometer I saw that I was driving at 35 miles per hour. This is a comfortable speed for me these days. I also find myself pulling over to let people pass me.

I noticed that for some reason writing a check takes me longer, so in being considerate when shopping I will write out the check ahead of time so I only have to fill out the amounts slowly when it’s time to pay.

I notice how the media is geared for those of different ages. Commercials for a demographic of people ages 18 to 24 have a lot of cuts, lots of images and sounds. Commercials for older folks usually have changes or cuts every seven seconds.

I remember when I was in my 20s I could actually hear and comprehend several discussions going on at once. Now when I speak with someone I have to turn the radio off and focus. Talking on a cell phone and driving at the same time, forget it.

I eat slower these days as well. I never eat fast food. I prefer slow food.

I do not intend for this to be a complaint of aging. I actually am enjoying going slower. I don't accomplish all that much, but I feel safer and I am seeing more and enjoying things much more deeply.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Swear I Didn't Mean it That Way...

I am one who generally minds my manners. I try to never send mixed messages. I avoid being suggestive or using double-entendres when I speak. Sure I’ll let some foul language fly from time to time, but I avoid saying things of a flirtatious nature to any one.

I’m sure we’ve all had things come out of our mouths that we couldn’t believe what we had just said. Phrases where we would have like to say, “No! No! That’s not what I meant at all!” Let’s call them Larry David moments.

Once while grocery shopping I was searching through the cabbages. A woman I knew was looking there as well. We were chatting as we searched. These cabbages were all gigantic, and after rooting like a hog through everything there I said, “All I’d like right now is a little head.”

She looked at me, blink, blink. I realized what I had said…“NO!!! That’s not what I meant at all!”

Another time I stopped in a convenience store for some road food. This, like most convenience stores sold mostly deep fried food where by eating it your pours oozed the smell of grease days afterward. I chose instead to get some juice and a container of mixed nuts. While cashing out I struck up a conversation with the clerk behind the counter. She was a friendly talkative sort, and after about five minutes I was hoping another customer would come in so I could get away. Unfortunately I was there alone. I kept trying to end the conversation but each attempt was thwarted by her friendly demeanor. I was like a coyote ready to chew off one of my arms just to get out of that trap.

Anyway, I finally looked at the clock and said, “Is that the right time?” She said it was correct. So I said, “I’m late, I better grab my nuts and get on the road.”

Within two seconds she started laughing and she was still laughing as I pulled away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How Young They Were

Just because Chantel enjoys my morbid side and I figured it’s been over a week since I’ve had any post on the topic of death…This one’s for you Chantel.

I think it is safe to say that most readers here, except Jaggy are over the age of 35. (Though Chantel claims to be 35 even though she has three adult children and a grand child...hey, I've been to Appalachia and shit like that is possible.) Sometimes we forget just how young many of the people who influenced and entertained us were when they died. Here is a list that I pulled together of people who died much younger than I am now, and who accomplished so much in their short careers.

Freddie Prinze 22
River Phoenix 23
Tupac Shakur 25
Otis Redding 26
Curt Cobain 27
Hendrix 27
Janis Joplin 27
Jim Morrison 27
Big Bopper 28

Sid Vicious 31
Cass Elliot 32
Jesus H Christ 33
John Belushi 33
Mozart 35
Marilyn Monroe 36
Diana, Princess or Wales 36
Sam Kinison 38
Dr. Martin Luther King 39
Harry Chapin 39

John Lennon 40
Robert Kennedy 43
Natalie Wood 43
JohnCandy 43
Freddie Mercury 45
John F. Kennedy 46

In conclusion all I can say is, "Damn! They were young."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

At First Sight

We are all capable of love at first sight. I think we are all capable of dislike at first sight. Sometimes I have to laugh at my personal shallowness when I come across someone who I name in my head before I actually meet them.

Most people can easily be named after one of the Seven Dwarfs; Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy, and Dopey. When you see them they simply look sleepy or dopey, or… There are two people I know who look like Kewpie dolls. I know one woman who looks like Barbie. She reads this blog, so I may have a boot imprint on my ass after the next time I see her.

Other people look like animals. Some people look like cats, horses or even lizards. There is one person who I see at a local shop who I’ve named Chicken Head because she has this look that reminds me of the way a chicken looks when it is hunting insects to eat.

Some other people have the look of famous people. I have a friend that reminds me of Abe Lincoln, but I won’t tell him that.

There are others that when I see them I imagine them in a certain profession. There is one guy I see who looks like he should work in an ice cream truck. There are people who look like librarians or like they should be on a tractor or work in a craft store.

The worst are those who remind me of anatomical parts like folks with really long cheeks on their faces, they look like ass faces, and the photo above, well you guess what that looks like and what his name would be.

Yes, I am this shallow, but I have to wonder if I’m the only one who does this. I recall how cruel children are having been one and remembering many of the children from my childhood. I remember anyone with a distinct look immediately got tagged with a nick name that has probably stuck with them to this day. If not in reality I’m sure it still remains in their psyches. Fortunately I avoided ever being tagged. I guess I was never unusual or outstanding enough, thank goodness.

I’m sure this article has re-opened some scars out there; sorry. Hopefully it brought back some fond memories as well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jumping Over Leap Year

Many people have been vocal about Day Light Savings Time. I agree that we should set the clocks a half hour between and leave that be the time all year round. Another annoyance is Leap Year where every four years we add an extra day to the calendar in February, February 29.

The reason for Leap Year is that the mean time between two successive vernal equinoxes is called a tropical year, and it is about 365.2422 days long. Using a calendar with 365 days would result in an error of 0.2422 days or almost 6 hours per year. After 100 years, this calendar would be more than 24 days ahead of the seasons (tropical year).

My question is why bother? The benefit to eliminating the Leap Day is every 700 years the seasons would be totally flipped. Live in Australia and want a white Christmas? You could have one in a little over half a millennium.
If you live to be 80 years old, within your entire lifetime you will only notice a 20 day seasonal shift.

Have you ever known someone born on February 29? It may be fun, but it is confusing when being confronted with what your birthday is for the three years between leap years.

Such fun was featured in The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic was as a child apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted, orphaned pirates by his nurse who, being hard of hearing, had mistaken her master's instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot. Frederic, upon completing his 21st year, rejoices that he has fulfilled his indentured services and is now free to return to respectable society. But it turns out that he was born on February 29 in leap year, and he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday, which would make him 84.

So what's the big deal? Another idea I proposed a long time ago on this blog is to have 13 months where each consisted of 28 days. That would give each year 364 days, and the dates would fall on the same days every month. Why do we need to complicate everything by having everything so jumbled up?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Name That News

One of the first things I do when ever I visit a new town is purchase a local news paper. Most of my travel is for speaking engagements and it is nice to look at the snapshot the local paper offers me on the local issues and things that I just don’t see living in Astoria.

I also find it interesting what local papers are named. I am somewhat put off by names like The Astorian or The Oregonian because their name comes with the implication that they are the voice of their residents, when in fact their editorial and corporate philosophy have little to do with what the residents actually believe and desire. Though all news papers are pulpits for their publishers and editors, sometimes you can tell their direction from their names. Here’s a list of some I’ve come across:

The Record, The Call, The Times, The Daily News, The Statesman Journal, The Journal, The Tribune, The Star, The Ledger, The Post, The Herald, The Observer, The Telegraph, The Republican, The Democrat, The Independent, The Signal, The Gazette, The Banner, The Beacon The Messenger, The Planet, The Eagle The Review, The Sentinel, The Union, The Sentry, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Bugle, or any combination of two or three names above.

There are some that have a different sort of charm to their name like: The Home and Store News, The Sacramento Bee, The Picayune (Which means a coin of little value.), The Intelligencer, the Argus (In Mythology, Argus was giant with 100 eyes, set to guard the heifer Io: his eyes were transferred after his death to the peacock's tail.)

Writing this I am reminded that the names of our Blogs often speak volumes about their authors as well making me feel even better about being Astoria Rust.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Reverance for Barns

After seeing many of my favorite barns in the county destroyed by the December storm, I went through my book collection to look for a book I once had, but must have given away when I moved out here. The book was called, A Reverence for Barns. I believe it was partially the work of Fredrick Franck. I can’t find it on Amazon or even a mention of it on Alibris. It must have been a limited local pressing.

Though I’ll probably never see that book again, my search did bring me to the memory of Fredrick Franck. Franck was by trade a dental surgeon who worked with Albert Schweitzer in Africa, though he was best known for his writing and art work. He wrote several books on Zen and spirituality. His art mostly consisted of his drawings and his folksy sculptures.

I first met Fredrick when I was taken to his compound, which he named "Pacem in Terris." I was taken there by a girlfriend at the time, who is now married to a friend who frequents this blog (Geeze, I was 23 years old back then). Franck lived in Warwick, New York in an old house on the banks of the Warwick River. Next to his house was his studio and library.

Across the river from his house was an old stone grist mill that he turned into a theater with a roof that resembled a dove in flight. It had a large heavy wooden door that pivoted to open. The water way was still partially there inside the building. It was cool being inside a building that had a river entering it.
Up near the ceiling on one end was, as I recall a round colored glass window that looked like an eye with the GK Chesterton quote, “The eye with which God I see is the same eye with which God sees me.”

Fredrick hosted classical music concerts every Sunday afternoon. After the concert he would invite the audience over to his sculpture garden across the road for glass of wine.

Looking at him you could tell he was a spiritual man. He was a ghostly pale man with white hair and beard and he dressed in black. He was kind and open and quiet. He looked like a million other older men, but somehow he stood out. Oddly, for someone who wrote so many books on spirituality, he wasn't very preachy. He would speak with passion about his compound, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) and his art.

Fredrick Franck died of heart failure at the age of 97 on June 5, 2006.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No, You Call

Though my wife and I are dissimilar in many ways one common thing we share is our dislike of telephones. When ever our phone rings we look at one another and try to figure out who should answer it. I feel it should always be her because I rarely get phone calls. She has parents, siblings, friends and her children who call her and when I answer the phone I usually have to do some friendly bantering before I hand the phone over.

Worse yet is when we need to make a call it becomes a contentious battle; “You call!” “No, you call!”

Though I really dislike cell phones, I hope that one day we have cell service where we live so we can drop the land line all together. This way her calls will come to her and my calls can go to my voice mail because I rarely turn my cell on unless I’m in transit. There are only three people who know my cell number so that rarely rings.

There will still be the “No, you call!” argument, but I do have to look forward to hearing loss as I age. This will change the phone equation drastically.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Sacrifice

As I was driving to town yesterday to get some hay I passed a familiar scene. There was a steer in a pen with a generous heap of hay to eat while his field companion looked on from the near distance.

I’ve watched these two steers since they were weanlings. They contently wandered the field eating at their pasture. They had no idea was to happen next as the mobile slaughter truck backed up to the pen. One of them was going away forever.

I’ve seen slaughter before and I’ve done it myself. There is a certain attitude of reverence that anyone who does this must have. We want it to go down without trauma.

Mobile slaughter is probably the best way to go since your animal isn’t jostled and hauled away long distances and have to line up in a death march with hundreds of other animals. Instead it is given its last meal and handled respectfully. It is all over in an instant.

Cows are herd animals, so I’m sure his field mate will be upset tonight. We had to put a horse down two years ago. Horses are also herd animals. My horse who was her companion was upset for several days. It was more of a worry than a grieving. My horse was present when we put her down, but seemed to keep wondering why her friend wasn’t returning and calling out for her every once in a while.

Even the slaughter of chickens can be non traumatic. Rather than the old way of using an axe and a chopping block and having the chicken run around without its head, we now use killing cones. These are cone shaped metal containers that is either suspended by legs or bolted to a building or fence. You place the chicken in the cone head first. Its body is cradled by the wide part of the cone and its head and neck protrude through the opening on the small end pointing downward. This position seems to calm the chicken down. Then one takes a very sharp knife and in one fast cut the chicken in beheaded and left in the cone to bleed out.

Back to the steer mentioned above, as I returned home nearly a half hour later with my load of hay the slaughter truck was already leaving the farm. Within that half hour that steer was killed and on the rack in the truck. The job was finished and the steer was off to be butchered.

I have a lot of respect for people who can do that sort of work. Though it may become routine for someone after a while in that profession; I always see them act professionally, gently and most of all compassionately.

The next time you eat meat, please consider where it came from. There was once a living creature who gave its all just so you may be nourished.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Missing Colors

My wife’s father and both of her children are red-green color deficient. Color blind is what it used to be called. She first discovered it in her children when they would come home from school with their crayon drawings and all the trees in their pictures were always colored brown. When they look at things that are red or green they see them in tones of brown.

One color they see really well is yellow. My father-in-law has two yellow cars. He says it’s easy to find his ride in a parking lot where all the cars look the same.

My post from the other day about colored contact lenses reminded me of those blue blocker sunglasses that make everything look yellow. They are kind of cool because they make everything look brighter when it’s getting dark, but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live life missing a good portion of the light spectrum.

Another possible problem is that maybe people who are red-green color deficient can’t watch the Red Green Show from Canada.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I Am A Total Douche

I am a total douche when it comes to sports. I’ve never had any interest in sports other than the kid-ly thing of joining a town baseball team when I was really young. This was the version of little league for people too young to be a Little Leaguer. I was quickly poisoned against baseball because our coach was a real bastard and refused to participate in the last few games of the season.

I have never watched an entire basketball game, nor have I ever watched an entire football game. To me, golf is a way to ruin a good walk in a park. Auto racing? A real athletic foot needed there. Soccer? Is that still trying to become an event here?

Recently I realized that I have no idea who anyone is in sports. Their names and faces mean nothing to me. I suspect there are a lot of people like me because when you see a sports guy doing a commercial, they usually have to dress them in a uniform so people will get who they are.

I find it hard to believe that people are so wrapped up in these games and events which will be totally forgotten in a matter of months, unless you are a sports trivia nut. I find it hard to believe there is so much money dumped not only in the sports, but salaried to the players. I mean you should probably make 8 million dollars a year if you can make and guarantee world peace, but not when the only thing you generate are meaningless points.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Death Pool 2008

Welcome to the Astoria Rust Annual Death Pool. It wasn’t a good year for gaming from this list. The only ones on the list who passed were Do Ho and Kurt Vonnegut. Who knows about Tony Soprano. That list had such potential, too. Here were the names for last year, though they should roll over onto this years list I think it is only fair to give them the year off.

Death Pool 2007:
Lauren Bacall
Yogi Berra
Jack Black
Fidel Castro
Walter Cronkite
Billy Graham
Andy Griffith
Stephen Hawkings
Don Ho
Alan King
Larry King
Tommy LaSorta
Jerry Lewis
Rupert Murdock
Iggy Pop
Andy Rooney
Micky Rooney
JD Salinger
Pete Seeger
Tony Soprano
Charlie Watts
Kurt Vonnegut

Death Pool 2008:
Woody Allen
Bea Athur
Willford Brimley
Betty Ford
Merel Haggard
Angel Harvey
Paul Harvey
BB King
Jerry Lee Lewis
Ed McMahon
Marian McPartland
The Pope (what ever this ones name is)
Don Rickles
Britney Spears
Margaret Thatcher

Good luck to all who wager on this pool, and for those of you on the list, sorry, but you know you have to go sometime. Why not make it count for Astoria Rust?