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Missing a part of me

Here is part of what I wrote for my son’s wedding in October:

It is usually said at weddings

that the ring is a circular symbol

of the unbroken, never-ending nature of love.

That is certainly true,

but I would like to take a different tack today.

When you selected these rings for each other—

and I imagine that this is true

for all those here today who are married—

you took care to select something

that would be pleasing to its wearer—

because you will be wearing these rings for a very long time,

and no one wants their spouse to look down

and be reminded of how inappropriate their wedding ring is.

More than that—

it is a physical reminder of your vows today.

At first you will find its presence an odd thing

as you constantly play with it,

testing its right to be there

and marveling at what fortune or fate

brought you to this most excellent pass.

Eventually, its presence will no longer surprise you,

but your awareness of it on your finger

never goes away,

and I hope that every time

you rather absentmindedly fiddle with it,

you will feel—even if subconsciously—

the blessing of being married to the one you love.

Finally, your ring is an outward show

of your commitment to each other.

In a few moments, its presence on your finger

will tell everyone you meet

that you have come to be with the person

you are meant to be with,

and that you have vowed to be

with him or her for the rest of your life.

Thus others know of your blessing.

I post this today because two nights ago, as I sat by the fire with my lovely first wife, I looked down at my hand and realized that my wedding ring was gone.  Completely not there. At some point that day, it had slipped from my hand and vanished into the universe.

How? is the question that keeps hammering in my head.  How did I not feel it come off?  How did I not hear it hit whatever it bounced off of before vanishing?  I never take it off (except for the occasional MRI or stage role), so it had to work its way off.

I do remember washing my hands that afternoon as I prepared soup for supper and noticing then that it was loose.  Over the years, as I’ve gained weight, I’ve had it expanded a couple of times—it was originally a very small ring for a man.  It might even have been a woman’s ring; I forget.  But now as I age and my weight fluctuates, it has gotten looser.

It has stuck in my head that it might have vanished when I pulled off gloves, either my work gloves when I trundled firewood up to the front porch or the rubber gloves after I washed dishes.  But it’s not in the kitchen or in the yard.

I didn’t leave the house after I started cooking, so even though I called Home Depot and Kroger to ask them to be on the lookout, I know it’s in neither of those places.

Needless to say, we have scoured the entire house and yard multiple times.  We’ve gone through the trash.  I’ve disassembled the bathroom sink.  (The kitchen sink has a garbage disposal—I would have known if it had gone down that drain.)  We’ve swept under furniture, pulled sheets off the bed, and emptied coats, pants, and gloves every ten minutes.

It’s gone.

my wedding ring

It was square, gold, engraved, and it is still a part of me.  Everything I said in my wedding homily was based on my ring, and everything I said is true.  I am deeply wounded by its loss; it cannot be gone.

It is gone.

Oh, FFS.

So this came in—or tried to come in—through the transom today:

===============================================.

IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR: dale@dalelyles.com.
===============================================.
URGENT – BANNED.
===============================================.

Dear Subscriber,
Prepared yourself: there is a new scandal that is poised to break.
This scandal is regarding what we now know to be a GIANT conspiracy
between our government many of the biggest producers of food in the
country.
This alarming-story is so controversial that Fox-News not only banned it
from being aired, they then fired the two-reporters who were trying to
air it.
If you are happy with our president, you shouldn’t even bother watching
this presentation.
This is so shocking that many people are going to want to IMPEACH Obama
for what he’s been doing…This may be the thing that finally takes him
down.

VISIT HERE TODAY and get more information on this story:

http://see5.yournewurgent-alerts.rocks

I must warn you though, what you are going to find out may seriously
turn your stomach.

Best-Regards,
Doug Hill
Director, LaissezFaire Club

Every day I get a report from my email server’s spam filter.  Since it’s not always 100% smart, I have taken to logging in and scanning all 100+ messages to make sure that the Chicago Symphony is not trying to reach me about William Blake’s Inn.  (Did you know that they in fact have been given the score by someone in Chicago’s arts scene?  But let that pass.)

This was clearly spam, but sometimes I just feel like mucking out the stables, you know?  So I peeked at the content, which is what you want to do when you don’t want to admit these vampires into your inbox.

I was dazed at the audacity with which the sender hit the jackpot with Nutjob Bingo:

  • scandal
  • GIANT conspiracy
  • government
  • alarming-story
  • Fox-News banned it AND fired the reporters
  • happy with our president (OF COURSE NOT THAT KENYAN USURPER ARGLE BARGLE HRNNGGH!)
  • shocking
  • IMPEACH
  • finally takes him down (my favorite)
  • turn your stomach
  • LaissezFaire

Don’t you just want to click on that link now?

Pro Tip: don’t ever click on the link.

Here’s the thing about that link: I’ve seen a lot of these floating around the spam, these URLs that end with some bizarre top-level domain. .rock?  Really?  How does that even work even?  (But it does: .rock is a generic top-level domain for “general” use, whatever the hell that means.)

Be that as it may, don’t click on the link.  Copy the text of the link, see5.yournewurgent-alerts.rocks, paste it into your browserand see where it takes you.  (Conversely, you can right-click on the link and see the actual link buried behind the text.  Dollars to donuts it’s not the same thing.)

Out of extra caution, I left off the see5 and went straight to the front page, yournewurgent-alerts.rocks, and guess what?  It doesn’t exist.

I put the see5 back in there.  Still doesn’t exist.

Went back to the spam filter and saw that the email was from wen.yournewurgent-alerts.rocks, so I tried that.  Nope.

So now here’s the quandary: how was this supposed to work, spam-speaking-wise?  There wasn’t anything to click on, neither to trigger a malware installation nor to take me to a terrible website.  The URL they gave me that I URGENTLY needed to read because NUTJOB BINGO WORDS, doesn’t exist.  So I mean to say, wot?

update, 1/24/15:  Another one today, identical message, this time from ConstitutionalProtectionAgency@yournewurgent-alerts.rocks

This could be bad…

In a fit of procrastination yesterday, I cleaned off my drafting table.

the art desk

Now I have a space to which I can turn—literally, since it’s right behind me as I’m facing the computer—in order to waste art supplies.  Again, procrastination is key.

I decided to waste no time procrastinating, so I whacked out a small set of Artist Trading Cards, which we’ve explored previously around here.

They are of course rubbish, since I was forcing myself to waste art supplies.  But I began to conceive of them as a series, in which I vomit out something vomitous onto the little cards, and then I “destroy” it by concealing it or trashing it or adding something destructively random to it.

They work better after I’ve destroyed them.  Still rubbish, mind you, but it’s a start, procrastination-speaking-wise.

artist trading cards


I don’t know, gang, everybody may need to get off my lawn

So the books for Into the Woods came in and I signed for my copy.  As I took it over to my pile of stuff, this slipped out:

A blessing for community theatres everywhere, I suppose.  One buys them in batches of six and everyone gets to show off/advertise their production of whatever and add to their ever-burgeoning collection of t-shirts.

Music Theatre International was my go-to source for musicals back in the day, since they had shows that were at the time not the huge, overblown, everyone-knows-this-one shows like the Rodgers & Hammerstein Library’s offerings.  We did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Fantasticks, Into the Woods, Lucky Stiff, and She Loves Me while I was in charge, and since then NTC has done a lot more from the collection.

Two things struck me about this flyer, though.  One is the relentless march of commodification of theatre. Yes, I know the purpose of theatre is to separate the customer from his money, but Broadway musicals in particular are now more product than production.  Not only can you buy these t-shirts, but if you go to the touring productions you can buy hats and cups and wine glasses and CDs and posters and trinkets and all kinds of be-logo’d crap, just so you can identify with this product.  You’re not there to enjoy the creative work of a team of artists, you’re there to sign on to Team Phantom or Team Poppins.

The other thing that struck me was the listing of shows on the back of the flyer.  In a little side box, we are offered t-shirts for the School Editions of the following shows:

  • Aida
  • Avenue Q
  • Les Miserables
  • Miss Saigon
  • Ragtime
  • Rent
  • Sweeney Todd

School editions.  For schools.  For students to perform.

I will be the first to admit that I have done shows with teens that pushed their sensibilities and their understanding of the world around them.

However.  Whenever I selected a show it was the thing itself, not some bastardized version of it—nor did I bastardize it.  That is the problem I have with the “school editions”; I don’t care if the kids do shows with sex, violence, and cannibalistic critiques of capitalism in them, but I do care that those things are watered down. Because: MTI is not doing this watering down (with full permission and often cooperation of the artists) so that more children can explore the beauties of first-rate musical theatre, but because they want to make the sale.  Cha-ching!  More t-shirts!

And of course, they’re making the sale to schools/communities who cannot handle their little darlings saying damn or fuck or explaining how the internet is for porn.  To those communities, I’d say stick to Rodgers & Hammerstein.  Although naturally they probably will want to avoid South Pacific with all its miscegenation and stuff.

(I’m still trying to wrap my head around how you make any of those shows tame enough for sad little communities.  Miserables, Saigon, and Rent still are about prostitututes; Ragtime is still about black people and blowing stuff up; Sweeney Todd still involves meat pies.  All of them are condemnations of the power structure and of rigid, self-righteous moral codes, which alone would get them cancelled by many communities.  Eh.  Who cares? Get off my lawn.)

Seven Dreams of Falling

Just so you know, I wrote seven chords today.  So it’s not as if I’m not working or anything shut up!

3 Old Men: Tentage

Camping with the Hippies™ is great fun, but there are challenges.  At Alchemy last October, I had borrowed my son’s tent, a perfectly cromulent “3-person” dome tent.  (N.B.: the number of persons a tent can hold is calculated by wrapping campers in sleeping bags and stacking them like cordwood.)

Since I had covered it with a huge tarp, first for rain protection and then for added insulation against the cold, getting in and out of it involved crawling through the entrance like Eskimos into an igloo.

And then inside, all our stuff was just strewn on the floor between the air mattress and the walls, and all the other stuff was stuffed into the plastic tubs outside, also covered with the tarp.

Worst of all, you crawled in, you flopped around, you crawled out.  There was no standing.

I had borrowed the tent because I (meaning one of us in the relationship) wanted to make sure that Camping with the Hippies™ was something we were going to want to do more than the one time.  As we all know, it is definitely something we (meaning me) want to do on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve been researching and browsing and shopping for a permanent tent solution, and this weekend I made my move.  If you do your due diligence, you know that January is a great time to buy tents, because who in their right mind is going to go camping in the dead of winter (Frostburn notwithstanding)?  And lo! Academy Sports+Outdoors had some of their tents on clearance.

Here were my criteria: it had to be a cabin-style tent, i.e., tall enough for humans to walk through the entrance and stand up in.  It had to be large enough to sleep the two of us plus store all the tubs of stuff plus give us room to organize the stuff, change clothes, etc.

And so, behold the Coleman Instant Tent 10!

Instant Tent 10

Yes, I bought a tent big enough to sleep ten people for the two of us.  Notice the trimly rectangular carrying case.  Hold that thought.

Out of its trimly rectangular carrying case:

Instant Tent 10

The deal with Coleman’s Instant Tent series is that the tentpoles are permanently attached and hinged, reminiscent of an umbrella in their construction.  The trimly rectangular carrying case promises a 60-second setup, although it cautions that the “first time” may take longer.  Indeed, I can imagine some kind of Tent Olympics where a smoothly rehearsed team could get this thing erect in 60 seconds, but even if you accomplish that feat you still have to adjust the legs and the floor, and stake the thing out.

Fortunately, Camping with the Hippies™ is not a race, so who cares how long the thing takes to set up if a) it’s easy; and b) the results are good.

Instant Tent 10

We begin the setup process.

Instant Tent 10

Lots of pulling and tugging and figuring out the realities of the minimal instructions.  Trying to figure out which side is the long side so that we can fit it onto the far side of the labyrinth.

Eventually…

Instant Tent 10

A little lopsided, but it’s up, it’s staked, and all parts are accounted for.  Notice the dangling flap thing inside.  This is an actual room divider, for which some of our party had devoutly wished because of privacy who even knows.  It’s not mentioned on the trimly rectangular carrying case, and so it was a pleasant surprise.

Of course, “privacy” has little meaning in a setting where the showers are neither private nor segregated, and half the hippies you see are unclothed to some extent.  But hey, we can put up a wall if we want to.

Another view.

Instant Tent 10

And here we have the happy tent owner, standing in his new domicile.

Instant Tent 10

What goes up must come down, and this is where we need to return to our trimly rectangular carrying case.  Of course nothing ever folds up as neatly as it was originally packaged—how those third-world workers do it, I’ll never know—and the Instant Tent 10 is no exception.

We collapsed it, rolled it up, rolled it over the ground as suggested in the instructions to smoosh air out of it and get it back down to a reasonably sized bundle.  But it would not go back into the trimly rectangular carrying case.  We took it out and tried again, but it was impossible.

We tried standing the carrying case up and pushing the tent down into it, thinking that might give us a good start on stuffing it in there.  And that’s when I noticed that the label on the bottom of the case had a large arrow on it.

Aha, I thought, instructions on which end should be up!  I leaned closer to read: “Tear the label off between the seams to expand.”

Well.

I ripped the label off, the bottom of the trimly rectangular carrying case breathed a sigh of relief, and it accordioned out into a nice middle-aged carrying case into which the Instant Tent 10 slid with no problem whatsoever.

So now we’re ready to go Camping with the Hippies™ in style.  We’re already looking at oriental carpets to lay down on the floor for that extra fillip of éclat and comfort.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

A scathingly brilliant idea

So today we were making up the bed in the guest room (the west one) and were bemoaning the fact once again that one has no clue which side of the sheet is the bottom and which the side.  The tag is on a corner, which is not helpful at all of course, and many the day we’ve had to take a sheet off and rotate it 90°.   This curse is especially strong on fitted sheets, as is widely acknowledged.

If only, we mused, the tag were in the middle of the bottom, then think how much easier it would be to put sheets on the bed.

Normally, after the idea of getting rich off such a scathingly brilliant idea passes, we sigh and go on about our dreary quotidian lives.

But not today.

No, today my lovely first wife said, “We could use a magic marker to mark the center of the bottom of the sheet.”

I will pause and let you bathe in the reflected effulgence of that idea.

And so, dear reader, we enter the glorious new world of sheet-marking.  Now we will be able to make a bed with no fear of getting the sheets wrong.  We will no longer dread having to remake the bed before we even get the comforter on.  We will march confidently from the linen closet to the bedroom with no misgivings, sure that we will get it right the first time.

The universe showers us with its love.

You are welcome.

A small project

For some time now I have been wanted to get organized about my cocktail recipes.  I have several go-to books (Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails and The Ultimate Bar Book), but then I’m always inventing cocktails and downloading recipes from places like liquor.com, et al., and those especially were beginning to clutter up the kitchen in my “lab” space.

I have a notebook, of course:

It was given to me almost as a joke, but I immediately put it to use:

Now the joke was that the only recipes in it were in the Drinks section.

But I needed something better.  What I wanted was a Moleskine-type notebook with tabs in it so I could organize the drinks by name or by liquor, along with some indices in the back.

Of course, no such thing exists in any way.  Much web-searching plus visits to Barnes & Noble turned up nothing.

Finally I was struck with a brilliant idea: design stickers that would cover the tabs in my Patio Daddy-O book!  I did that thing, making about thirteen tabs for different liquors, plus two sections for “Dale’s favorites” and “Ginny’s favorites.”  But I was stopped dead in my tracks: the book didn’t have that many tabs.

Back to square one, i.e., nothing.

Finally, I went back to Barnes & Noble to see what was available and how I might make it work.  I ended up with this little beauty:

It’s about the size of a Moleskine notebook, leather-bound, nice paper, and a lot more pages than a Moleskine.  (That was a factor—who wants to run out of space and therefore cocktails?)  So it fits handily on the bar and in the hand.

I settled on numbering the pages, then reserving pages in the back for an alphabetical index by name, and an ingredient index by liquor plus the two “favorites” sections.  That way, I can add drinks willy-nilly as I go along, but always be able to find a specific drink when I need it:

The asterisks by the title indicate a cocktail that I invented.

One thing remained: a cover title.  Back in the day, I stamped students’ initials onto the back of their aluminum Accelerated Reader Point Club tags.  It made them more personal as well as sometimes coming in handy when a child lost one.  I still had the punch set; in fact, I had used it to stamp BOOK OF THE LABYRINTH on the cover of said book back in 2012.

One of the issues involved in doing this is keeping the letters in a straight line, a problem I solved—brilliantly, I thought—by using a rubber band:

Not only did it provide me with a straightedge, but it kept the book from slipping around as well.  (Notice the little black dot on the rubber band: I also could measure and mark the center of the cover.)

Clever little device, with the punch heads magnetically insertable/removable into the holder.  Each one has an engraved dot indicating the bottom of the letter, which is supposed to help you keep the letters aligned vertically.  I guess that’s the theory, because in practice I’ve never been able to keep them upright.

Still, wabi sabi and all that: it’s done, and it’s mine.

A rant: AP US History

The conservative mind is a curious thing, divided against itself in so many ways.  On the one hand, you have the “business interests” portion of the mind insisting that the schools must—absolutely must—graduate students who are incredible critical thinkers and problem solvers.  On the other hand, you have the “god, guns, and gays” mindset that recoils at any suggestion that the ground on which they stand might not be as solid as they’d like to believe.

This conservative schizophrenia is now playing out in the Gwinnett County School System as the usual suspects pick up the screeching about the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum, which was revised in part to challenge our top students to think critically about historical data.  But Noooooooooo! scream the howler monkeys, It’s all radical liberal communist propaganda my country tis of thee american exceptionalism no exceptions! 

::sigh::

Here’s the problem.  There are two ways to frame education.  One is that it’s a process of learning how to learn, of making sure the student is prepared to face the modern world with the proper skills and attitudes to be a productive member of our democratic society.

The other, alas, regards education as a set of facts and figures to be learned. And tested on.

I will now pause while you decide which framework is the one to which the GGG conservative mindset clings.

The problem is that the proponents of each framework will never agree on curriculum.  They can’t; they don’t even see the goals as the same.  One side envisions the best students as regurgitators of facts, essential facts, while the other sees them as problem-solvers who are able to evaluate data and propose solutions based on them.

Here’s why the GGG conservatives are wrong—and they are wrong—about the APUSH curriculum.  Their cry that important stuff has been left out of the curricullum is misguided, mainly because it’s not so much the factoids as the mythic filter of those factoids that concerns them.  “We’re teaching them that the U.S. has been wrong.”

Well, yes, we are because we were.  These students, the top of the top, have already gotten the mythos in the previous years of their education, assuming their school system hasn’t shortchanged history in order to slam the students with MATH AND SCIENCE WHY WOULD THEY EVEN DO THAT EVEN?

These students already know that the U.S. is the bestest ever.  By the time they enter APUSH, headed to college, they need to start examining more nuanced views of our history.  What have we done right?  What have we done wrong?  Where have we learned, and where have we not learned?  It’s questions like these that keep the policy makers in Washington up at night, and it’s a good thing, too.  As H.L. Mencken (PBUH) said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”  We don’t want people in our government who are so sure of the facts that they can’t see significant alternatives.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Republicans.   Dickheads.

Here’s why the GGG mindset about facts—just the facts, ma’am—is not only wrong, but stupid.  Once you’ve decided that the curriculum is just going to be a Gradgrindian slog through all the essential facts, then you have to fight it out over which facts are essential enough to be slogged through.  In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article which prompted this post, the reporter slyly ended the article with a quote from a former Gwinnett teacher who is a lead howler monkey:

…Urbach, the former Gwinnett teacher, stuck to his claims about what not’s taught in the district.

“Over 200 years worth of European history is not taught,” he said.  “I taught the course for six years, and we never made it to the 1970s.  Only one, maybe two days teaching on the Holocaust.”

Such is the totality of the GGG’s un-self-awareness that Mr. Urbach cannot see what he’s just said: if all you teach is the facts, you cannot possibly teach all of them.  I used to tell teachers all the time, if you make my son love history so much that he will continue to learn about it the rest of his life, I don’t give a crap whether you cover Jacksonian democracy or not.  (Indeed, his APUSH history teacher was a Gradgrind of the worst kind, and not incoincidentally I think, was a conservative who brooked no discussion or opposition to the literally thousands of “facts” she required them to memorize.)

There is no solution.   The howler monkeys will never shut the hell up, while their own corporate masters bemoan the fact that there’s no one they can hire because schools are not giving them the problem-solvers they need.  No solution.

At least not until those FEMA camps get built.

O Christmas Tree

I was unDecoratoring™ on Friday, and my main task was to take down and store the back tree.  (Yes, we have multiple trees—it’s the Decoratoring™ Way!)  I had successfully removed the top tier when I was struck with the image before me:

tree stump

(Pro tip: leave the tree plugged in and turned on as you disassemble it; as you unplug each section, the extinguished lights tell you exactly where the joint is between sections.)

There was something about this that was kind of creepy, even surreal: a Christmas tree, fully lit, that just stops two-thirds of the way up.  So I took a photo, and then I played with it in Pixelmator, which everyone says you should own instead of PhotoShop if you’re just a dilettante, and I agree.

tree stump


tree stump


tree stump