Fearless

I have to say that I am continually astounded with the fearless manner in which Cecil, the Assistant Assistive Feline™, approaches life.

Abigail at his age (and even now) was much more cautious and amenable to correction. One squirt from a water pistol and she knew not to get on the couch again — and if she does, then just the sound of my priming the water pistol is enough to get her down.  Cecil? He flinches at being squirted, but then looks up with a curious look on his face… WHAT WAS THAT? OH YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT AGAIN?  HM.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘GET DOWN’? OH WAIT YOU DID IT AGAIN. THIS IS MAKING ME DAMP. OH WOW YOU DID IT AGAIN.

Last night I built our first fire of the season.  It was over a year before Abigail would get any nearer to a fire than the other side of the living room, and even so she has to reintegrate the concept every year.

Cecil?

Yep.  He’s an idiot, absolutely fearless.

Meanwhile, Abigail sits cautiously on the other side of the living room.

Changes in the herd

A couple of weeks ago Abigail, my Assistive Feline™, went missing.  I was working in the back yard, and the basement door — which has a habit of not latching — had been blown open by the wind.  Abigail saw her opportunity and strolled out.

She has done this before, but I’m generally around and spot her.  She will go all OH NO YOU WILL NEVER CATCH ME HOOMAN I WILL WALK THREE FEET THIS WAY AND SIT DOWN WHERE YOU WILL NEVER WAIT WHY YOU ARE PICKING ME UP AND TAKING ME BACK INSIDE WHERE I’M SAFE CURSE YOU PURRR. In other words, she is not a wild beast yearning to be free.

This time, however, I was not around, and she had escaped.  I checked all around the house and the adjoining shrubberies, but she was not there.  It was worrisome.

Night came and she was still nowhere to be found.  I (and my Lovely First Wife) were frantic.  Abby has no survival skills that we know of, and it was easy to imagine some horrific fate befalling her.  The next morning I plastered the immediate area with posters, and the next evening she showed up at the front door, utterly unconcerned.

Somewhere she had gotten snagged on a bush or something, because she was missing her purple halter, which I use to hook her up to a lead in the back yard so she can lounge in the sun and pretend to hunt chipmunks.  Fine, I thought, you’re grounded anyway.

Then two nights ago she did it again, this time hopping down from the back porch, where she is allowed to go mean-mug the birds of a morning.  This time I was not too worried; clearly she was able to hunker down somewhere and find her way home.  And there she was the next morning at the back door, acting as if she were a big girl now and why was I all torqued even?

I decided to go buy her and Cecil, the Assistant Assistive Feline™, collars with nametags.  That way if they were ever lost they’d be identifiable and returnable, and even more, as Cecil reaches his adult size, we could tell which tuxedo we were yelling at as they scampered away from the scene of the crime.

All of the preceding was background info.

Cecil the Pest, temporarily nonplussed

Cecil has earned himself the nickname The Pest for his annoying behavior: pouncing on Abigail and gnawing on her; careening across the dining room table — while we are dining; the usual. Good thing he’s adorable. Abigail, in response, has become withdrawn, hiding from Cecil and often begging to be let onto the back porch to escape him.

So it was extremely interesting what happened when I put their new collars on them.

Cecil of course freaked out because there was this new sensation.  He did the normal flippy thing trying to see it or get to it. Also there was now this tinkling noise that was always there right at his ear!  Aieeeee!!!!

Abigail, being older and wiser, just nodded calmly at her new adornment.

That’s when it got interesting.  Abigail was suddenly lounging out in the hall, or strolling around rooms where people were, being sociable.  Cecil was in hiding up here in the study. When he emerged, he mostly tore around rooms, still jingling and completely unnerved.   When he encountered Abby, he meekly walked up to her and stood and allowed her to groom him.  When it was supper time, he didn’t do his usual adorable meowing as if he were starving.  He was a completely changed cat.

We figure Abby is feeling secure again with the feeling of her collar, since she’s worn a halter all of her adult life. Cecil, on the other hand, is simply weirded out, and we’re assuming that’s only temporary until he gets use to hearing a jingle bell every move he makes. Then he’ll return to his regular goofball Pest persona.

And that’s a report on the state of the herd.

I can’t even.

Isn’t this lovely?

This is the open stairwell to our basement playroom, featuring a really spectacular photo of my Lovely First Wife kayaking in the marshes on the coast.  One day when I was not paying particular attention, she had the photo enlarged onto canvas and hired an electrician to install the very attractive lighting fixture you see here.  What’s not to like?

Of course, being the hyper-rational, analytical green that I am (Greens: 98% Right!), my first question was, how do we replace the bulbs?  There was a vague answer about a ladder and boards, but since these were halogen bulbs it would be years before we needed to worry about it.

Two weeks ago I noticed we were down to only one of the bulbs.  It was time to worry about it.  About the same time we had electricians in to reconfigure the outlets in our two guest rooms — different long story —and I asked one what the solution might be.  He opined that I might need one of them foldy-bendy ladders one sees on the TV.

Well then.  An excuse to buy an expensive foldy-bendy ladder?  I’m in.

This of course necessitates a drive to Home Depot, which is not convenient.  Remember that fact.  I buy a likely-looking Gorilla Ladder™ and stuff it in the car and bring it home and set it up in the living room. It is immediately apparent that none of its configurations will work in our stairwell; trust me on the geometry and physics of this.

It is clear that I will have to go buy boards to lay across the stairwell to the little ledge that for some reason our contractor built in there, possibly because he foresaw a day when my LFW would have such a fixture installed.

It dawns on me at about the same time that I do not know what bulbs I need to buy, which means that after I drive out to Home Depot — inconvenient, remember? — and buy two 2x8s and lug them home, I will have to set up the whole thing in order to climb up and remove a bulb, then MAKE A THIRD TRIP OUT TO HOME DEPOT TO BUY THE BULBS.  It is at this point I decide to congratulate myself on what a superior husband I am.

So today, I have errands to run and I cleverly figure out that I don’t have to drive all the way out to Home Depot because there is an establishment right next to the grocery store that sells bulbs.  And batteries.  I will refrain from naming this establishment, because the previous two times I went there, they did not have the bulb or battery that I needed.

This time, however, they did have the exact bulb I needed.  They had four of them.

I needed five.

And here we are.

And from below:

I don’t believe I’ve mentioned that the bulbs are tricky to remove and install, have I?  Or that for the fifth and final one I will have to edge my way to the other side of the ladder to climb up to reach it?

Or that I am a really, really superior husband?

About those Lichtenbergian goals for 2017

Well, this is embarrassing.

At the risk of exposing myself to [even more] Censure at the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting in a couple of weeks, I would like to review my goals for this past year and evaluate how well I did.  If you want a full explication of each one, see here.

Lichtenbergianism

A carryover from 2016: finish the book, keep the website going.  Check.

Backstreet Arts writing project

Another carryover, which had to be carried over because Backstreet didn’t open until Jan of this year. Check.

SUN TRUE FIRE

Cras melior est.  Didn’t do a lick of work on it.

Peter & the Starcatcher

I didn’t name this last year because it hadn’t been announced.  On track, though not as much as I’d like.

3 Old Men

Continue as Placement Lead, design another new burn. Check.  Wanted to plan to go to Burning Man itself, given the theme of Radical Ritual, but no one else seemed interested.

Unsilent Night

Check.

Establish a routine

Check.

See how embarrassing this is? I basically accomplished all my goals.  Crap.  The Annual Meeting is going to be a bloodbath.

Book review: Symphony for the City of the Dead

If you’re a longtime reader, as in last month, you know that I’m a huge fan of author M. T. Anderson. Whether he’s being serious (Feed) or silly (Pals in Peril series), his writing is solid.  In some kind of synesthesia, I feel as if he provides you with a smooth, hard surface that you can walk across with confidence: there are no soft spots or distracting undergrowth to impede your progress.

When I was writing the review last month for Landscape with Invisible Hand, I popped over to Amazon to snag the URL for the book, and that’s when I noticed he had written another book I had missed: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad.

Well.

I am a huge Shostakovich fan and here was a book about him by one of my favorite authors.  It implied that Anderson is also a fan, which made my heart go pitter-pat.  (Are you, Mr. A.?  If so, text me, bro.) I ordered it immediately.

This book is amazing. I knew the basis of the story: when the Nazi army laid siege to Leningrad in 1941, Shostakovich stayed in his hometown to be part of the war effort and decided to write a symphony that glorified the bravery of the Soviet citizenry. Word got out, and the entire world (at war) waited to hear the results.  When it was finished, the score was microfilmed and rushed to the West in a pretty bizarre sequence of events, where it was performed to general acclaim as part of the war effort.

I didn’t know the half of it.  Anderson has given us a thoroughly researched book that is simultaneously a biography of Shostakovich, a history of the Soviet Union, a political examination of Stalin and Hitler, a telling of the horrific story of the siege, and a musicological look at the Symphony No. 7 while it is being composed.  Like a skilled cinematographer, Anderson leads us from scene to scene, directing our focus in a way that gives us the context to understand both the larger frame of the war and the intimate setting of Shostakovich’s personal life.

Even as I was reading it, my meta-reader’s mind became fascinated with what it must have taken for Anderson to write this book — the staggering amount of research; the pulling-together of all the facts, quotes, context; the balancing of definite facts and the “what-ifs,” of which there are more than a few in the Stalin era.  And what possessed him to write the book in the first place?  These are the things that I will ask him once he texts me and we become BFF.

In the meantime, I have these resources:

Oh dear.

Here go read this.  Don’t want to click on it?  What if I were to tell you that the headline is

This Man Is Launching Himself in a Homemade Rocket to Prove Earth Is Flat

?

It’s easy to laugh at this guy, but every day we see the same thing all around us.  I was guided to the article from a friend’s post on Facebook, and just a few posts before that some guy was ranting about “Benghazie” and how come we hadn’t investigated that, henngh??

When someone pointed out the seven or so endless, fruitless congressional investigations and linked to a Wikipedia article, his response was, “I don’t get my facts from Wikipedia.” (The linker pointed out the 30+ references at the end of the article and noted acerbically that perhaps Mr. Whacko didn’t get his facts at all.)

This is where we are, folks. It’s an appalling repeat of the 1840s when the Flat Earth theory first popped up: shyster pitch-men who may or may not believe what they’re selling to the rubes; the appeal to Scripture as an absolute truth; the scalding vituperation towards science and fact; and the refusal to countenance any evidence that contradicts the Holy Word of whoever it is that’s telling you that the Earth is Flat.

You see it in the Alabama senatorial race, where all news is fake. You see it in the Sandy Hook truthers. You see it in all the commenters on the Current Embarrassment’s Twitter feed. (No link — you’re on your own there.)

And this from a crowd who used to scorn liberals for holding “relative values” and for wanted to teach skills and process instead of “facts” in schools.

Here’s your amygdala on drugs…

…or at least that’s the only reasonable explanation for this:

This is the chart Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Derp) plopped out the other day during the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.  They were interviewing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some of the lesser-brained were asking/demanding that Sessions launch a special prosecutor to investigate ALL THE CLINTON URANIUM, KENNETH!

Okay. Let’s remind ourselves that a) Hillary Clinton didn’t approve anything, much less the sale of “all our uranium” to Russia; b) eight different federal agencies had to sign off on the deal, which c) involved allowing a Russian company to invest in a Canadian company that mines uranium in the U.S., and d) no American uranium was allowed to leave the country…

… so what the hell is this chart supposed to be telling us?

Actually, this is an easy question to answer.  This chart is telling us LOOK, A CLINTON! so that the amygdala-based lifeforms can get their life-sustaining shot of fear and anger.  There is no logical pattern to the chart.  It does not present any kind of evidentiary trail or connections. It’s just a conglomeration of buzzwords that make the wingnuts buzz.

Gohmert, who is not the sharpest spork in the knife drawer, was probably quite serious in presenting this chart.  If it were someone else, one might suspect him of being cynically manipulative, but Gohmert’s brain  — and the brains of everyone like him — actually works like this: lots and lots of ill-defined code words that swarm around his amygdala, giving him the energy to continue living.

If I were an elected representative in that meeting, I would be tempted to ask my esteemed colleague from Texas to walk us through the chart. On national television. I would probably interrupt to ask him to clarify the connections between items.  I would definitely ask him to state his conclusions in simple, declarative sentences.

Because I’m a mean, mean man.

This is who is voting on tax reform, people.

Top Elf: a review

Yes, I know that every day before Thanksgiving that you decorate for Christmas an elf dies, and honestly I wasn’t going to read my friend Caleb‘s new book Top Elf until December, but one night I picked it up and then couldn’t stop.

Caleb was an RA at GHP back when I was director, and now he works at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA, which is owned and operated by another former RA, Janet Geddis.  Both are extremely wonderful people, and so when I read that Caleb had written a book — not only written but published — I was excited for both of them.

So I ordered it and got my autographed copy (thank you for the kind words, Caleb) and tried not to read it until December. Which I failed to do.

Top Elf is a whiz-bang adventure, narrated by Ollie Elf, a youngster who loves loves LOVES Christmas.  He’s also a nervous child, often doubting himself and bursting into emotional tears.  When Santa announces his retirement and a competition to replace him — unnerving his oldest son Klaus — Ollie and his best friend Celia decide they’ll go for it.  We follow them through the familiar tropes of reality-TV competitions as one competitor after another is eliminated.

The book is thick with pop culture references, stupid jokes, and sly allusions.  Most of it would go over a younger reader’s head, but I’m sure there were some references in there that went right under mine as well.  There is a fun twist ending that I’m pleased to say I didn’t see coming, and a satisfying (if After School Special) ending. (Well, how else could you end it? Fight Club?)

I asked Caleb if it had been optioned yet for a movie — if nothing else, it would make a spectacular TV movie or even series — and he just laughed.  But if you’re listening, Hollywood (or Atlanta, at this point)…

Recommended as a Christmas gift for older elementary readers, especially those who like gaming.

In other news…

I’m double-posting here, because that’s what us self-marketers do.

From Lichtenbergianism.com:

It’s almost here! On Friday, November 17, you will be able to give me money via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other venues!

In return, of course, you will be receive your very own copy of Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, first edition!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

As a special promotional deal, anyone who buys the book from Amazon on launch day will receive a couple of bonus gifts. From me, you will receive an autographed Official Lichtenbergianism Precepts Bookmark and an invitation to join the Lichtenbergianism: Doing the Work group on Facebook, where you will have access to my advice and guidance on any of your ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS.

Also, several of my friends are offering freebies of their own: things like chapters from one of their books and other goodies.  You’ll have the opportunity to request one of these.  (A page listing these goodies is forthcoming.)

How do you avail yourself of this treasure trove?

  1. Buy the book on Friday, November 17, on Amazon.
  2. Email your purchase receipt or a screenshot of same to dale@Lichtenbergianism.com.
  3. I’ll send you a link to the form to claim your bonus items. Easy!

This is so exciting! Start spreading the news.

Shame! (a warning)

I have a complaint.

Yesterday I was minding my own business when I got a text from a phone number with which I was unfamiliar.  That’s not unheard of, of course, but this was the text:

I mean, what the heck, right?  Who among my friends was doing this to me?  After some consideration I clicked on the link, which took me to a legitimate Apple App Store webpage for an app called Gather—In Real Life.

Gather—In Real Life purports to be an EASY FUN FUN WAY to arrange get-togethers with your friends.

But Gather—In Real Life is a vile piece of crap.  I went to the App Store itself, where, as I suspected, the app was rated around a 1, and the top review said bluntly that if giving a 0 were possible, the reviewer would do so.  They went on to describe in detail the app’s spammy practices: merely downloading the app allows it to take all your contacts and send the above spam text to them.  Imagine: your family, your business associates, your random contacts—all of them get a text saying they’ve been “invited.”

It’s actually worse than that: the app will seize all your info from your phone.  Horrific details here, here, and here.

Needless to say, I did not download the app.  I texted STOP, then sent an excoriating message, then texted STOP again in case they thought I was saying it was okay to talk to me ever again.

I have more complaint: at some point in the upgrade process, Apple has done away with the Report button in the App Store.  If you’ve downloaded an app and need a refund or something, there’s a webpage for that, but after a day of searching I can find no way to let Apple know that this app is offensive, intrusive, and needs to go.

So here’s my blogpost on Gather—In Real Life.  Any response from the company will be posted and ridiculed here.