Friday, September 29, 2023

Bad Poetry: Things That Feel Like Home

Nothing is just for show here, nor for fashion.
Things are just as they are, and people, too.
Things last their time; aren't wasted to conform.
Whatever says "Conform, do as I say"
is likely to be laughed right off the mountain.
Some days I wear things my grandparents wore.
I like long skirts, flat shoes, and knitted shawls.
I like a road that favors mules or horses
above those unsustainable, faddy motors.
The horses are gone now; they could come back.
A lot of things are gone, but could come back:
the places where the children used to play,
the friendly horses, cows, the little goats,
the chickens. The molasses making. Bees
still buzz around the old beekeeper's hives.
Water still spurts from the artesian well.
The fields could be reclaimed, not ploughed but terraced
with straw and woods earth and perennial crops.
I like the flybush, red in late September,
pink lady's-thumb that tastes like raw green corn,
the purple dogwood leaves, the yellow poplars, 
the mints that grow wild all around the springa.
I like the terrapins and salamanders
and crawfish that hang out around the creek,
the cardinals that tend the privet hedge, 
the way I see, each time I step outdoors,
a nature story begging to be written.
There used to be more people, nicer people,
but home is what you have when people die.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Web Log for 9.27.23

At least one of these links could be Really Valuable.

COVID Crisis II: The Scandal 

I think Elon Musk's comments are pretty representative. I don't think people can be blamed for wanting to make, or take, a new vaccine in good faith. I think people can be blamed for imagining that a virus wasn't going to mutate, that slowing the spread of COVID-19 would mean anything but that, by the time a vaccine could potentially have helped people in Texas, that vaccine would be useless in New York. People who had the jab in May and then had Delta COVID in September...had a learning experience, which they might have avoided by precautions as simple as reading this web site.

I think those who mandated that anyone participate in the trials of a whole new form of vaccine deserve more than that little learning experience, although I hope they all had it. All personal health care decisions need to be left to the individual conscience. The idea of trying to mandate anything to keep anyone healthier than person may want to be needs to be recognized as a symptom of a serious mental health problem.

Even children? My life experience contains a teaching story that seems relevant.

During the Carter Administration, my siblings and I had scarlet fever. My brother and I were told we had a rash, but we had good resistance to bacterial infections and the main symptom we noticed was crazy teenage energy. Oh, what fun the first two days of quarantine were--hiking, games, picnics...and then my natural sister had a rash too, and for her scarlet fever was a Real Disease. We spent the next six weeks trying to distract her. This was the child who'd been able to sing on key before she was two years old, the one whose ear for music, and whose cuteness, had been the big attraction of our little family band. When she finally seemed to have recovered from scarlet fever, she whined that music hurt her ears, said she couldn't even hear most sounds in the treble range but felt pain on hearing really high notes, lurched when she walked, and seemed peevish and depressive all the time. Her physical coordination improved as she grew up; her "pitch deafness" and depressive tendencies remained. I wondered why neither our parents nor the doctor had even discussed giving the poor child antibiotics.

A few years passed, and then everyone was talking about this sister's striking resemblance to one of the girls in the Miss America pageant--the winner, Heather Whitestone. Those girls have to do something besides standing around looking pretty, but in most cases the "talent" part of the pageant is a charitable way of saying "At least they'll have something wholesome and chaperoned to do on weekends, if they win the scholarship and go to college." Whitestone danced while deaf, feeling the beat through the floor, and won the contest just for having the fortitude to try that stunt. She went to college, she travelled around inspiring deaf people, she came to Washington and got married and wrote a book. After marriage she was able to recover enough hearing, through expensive and dangerous surgery, to hear her baby cry. And her book mentioned that her hearing loss was blamed, not so much on her having had scarlet fever, but on her reaction to the antibiotics.

You pay your money and you take your choice. Sister heard more of what was going on than Heather Whitestone did. Sister was able to go to regular classes, as a teenager, and play sports. Not everyone who has scarlet fever has any hearing loss at all, nor does everyone who takes antibiotics. Sometimes nobody knows how a "health care" decision will work until it's tried...and sometimes the patient has a preference, which everyone else ought to respect.. 


What I don't like about this article is that I can't afford to run right out and do it. Maybe you can. If so, please share your results. Natural composting is great for wholesome things like grass cuttings and melon rinds, but we could all be generating electricity from what modern toilets consume electricity to clean and dowdy water-flush toilets dump into the water supply. Sewers are sooo burning sludge we can make power plants obsolete, too, at least for household energy.

Time to throw out the toilets? I don't think so. But no need to dump a tray back into the toilet for another cycle, as I have been known to do when running on solar power alone, because it came out just slightly sludgy. You could dump raw toilet contents into a biogas digester if you didn't mind handling them, but I'd guess that 99% of humankind do.


Free verse with Monarch butterflies:

This one might be the best poem of all our first fumbling attempts at flamenca.

Book Review: The Violent Bear It Away

Title: The Violent Bear It Away

Author: Flannery O’Connor

Date: 1960, 1983

Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (1960), Signet (1983)

ISBN: none

Length: 148 pages (compressed paperback)

Quote: “Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave.”

By 1960 events like the plot of The Violent Bear It Away would have become local legends: Once, long ago, before we had a school or a cemetery, there was a family who suffered from episodes of violent rage, and this was what became of the last of that line...

The title of this novel is taken from a Bible verse. “It” here refers to what belongs to “the kingdom of heaven” in this lifetime. Tarwater and his sick, cruel relatives live in a quiet, beautiful country, and try to understand a religion of quietness, gentleness, and beauty...but they can understand it only through the twisted minds they have in common, which means that their violence destroys it.

The uncle dies, straightforwardly enough, from a stroke caused by the cardiovascular disease his choices have been hastening on for years. He is eighty-four, fat, a big meat eater and heavy drinker, and when fourteen-year-old Tarwater gets drunk on his uncle’s liquor, it’s not as if being drunk is unfamiliar to the boy. Nevertheless Tarwater gets frustrated by the work of digging the grave and lifting the uncle’s 200-pound body, and ends up burning down the house with his dead uncle in it before fleeing to his other surviving relative, his uncle Rayber.

The dead uncle, Old Tarwater, was a devout Protestant of some sort—not, apparently, a Baptist—but his religion only colored his outbursts of violent insanity. His salvation, perhaps, has been his ability to protect and nurture young Tarwater; the quality of his nurturance has left a great deal to be desired but the boy is physically healthy and, apparently, as sane as any of his family can be.

Rayber has convinced himself that, by being a devout atheist, he’s suppressed his own violent insanity...except that now and then he knows he’s not completely suppressed it. He, too, has been saved from his psychosis by his ability to protect and nurture his son, whose brain damage is more visible than Rayber’s and the two Tarwaters’ violent episodes.

Old Tarwater has told young Tarwater that the boy will inherit his “gift of prophecy” and must baptize his feeble-minded cousin. Rayber tells young Tarwater that the boy must reject religious faith in order to stay sane. Of course, Rayber says, handing Tarwater a glass of water, he can pour a little water over his cousin’s head, if it will make him feel better. It won’t hurt the smaller boy much. Tarwater rejects this idea of mock baptism in front of his mocking uncle. Rayber applauds this choice of sanity, and starts leaving the children alone together.

Nevertheless, when the inevitable happens, Rayber knows what’s happened to his son as well as if he’d been watching, and understands that he’s merely used Tarwater to carry out his own violent impulse...this time. By the end of the story two of these four lunatics are still breathing, but we know they won’t be for long.

The great mistake people have made in interpreting this novel, I believe, is reading it as a statement about “The South” or about something typically Southern. It is of course typical of the small-town South that legends about what became of a family of bad men, long ago, continued to be retold for years after all the characters were dead, but B.A. Botkin collected similar legends in the North. Flannery O’Connor set her story in the place where she chose to live. People do not choose to live in places where stories like this one would be considered typical.

I read it as more of a religious statement. O’Connor was a Catholic; for her Old Tarwater’s Protestant religion was all wrong and had no power to save, but Rayber’s dogmatic atheism was evil and had power to destroy.

Alternatively the story can be read as embroidery on the feminist cliché that “When men are left alone together they’re always in bad company”; the psychotic family has no living women, and possibly that’s what’s wrong with the men.

Or it can be read as what I suspect it may have been written to be—pure horror, the story of an adolescent whose struggles against his genetic fate only set him more firmly in the trap of insanity and violent death. O’Connor’s father had died young from lupus; in 1950 O’Connor had nearly died from the same disease. It’s possible that she was motivated to write about a young man doomed to hereditary insanity as a way to think about being a young woman doomed to hereditary pain, disability, disfigurement, and premature death. It was probably her religious faith, although she wrote little about it for most of her life, that allowed O’Connor to live out her days with her sanity intact, as her body self-destructed. Imagining what her life would have been like without that faith might have been all the inspiration she needed to create the Raybers and the Tarwaters.

O’Connor, according to those who knew her, laughed hysterically when she read parts of this and her other stories aloud. Despite the close and not unempathetic attention she gave them, for her her fictional characters were “freaks, not folks,” distinguished mainly by their lack of resemblance to anybody she actually knew. I didn’t catch myself even smiling as I read The Violent Bear It Away. In some of O’Connor’s short stories, and in parts of the tragic novel Wise Blood, I do find chortles. For me the tone of The Violent Bear It Away alternates among the three reactions Stephen King described as terror, horror, and gross-out.

Are there people who need to be reminded that dogmatic atheism is as inherently demented as any other form of psychotic religiosity? I don’t know. Would The Violent Bear It Away work, for them, as a warning? I don’t know. Is its redeeming value, in the end, its insight into the psyche of a talented writer facing painful premature death? Possibly. Anyway, if any Stephen King fans out there have been advised to write a term paper on something considered “better literature,” this book is for you.

Do We Need a Scam Watch Newsletter? had some ethical problems in the United States a few years ago. Its problems actually had some educational value. Americans certainly don't think our business world is a model of honesty, but we have succeeded in eradicating some practices that are still common in some countries. The trouble with us is that when Americans hear that it's even possible for agents to collect bribes for recommended workers to clients, while trying to suggest to the clients that their recommendations are based on skill or experience, only some of us think "We must keep these scam artists out of our country. Some of us think "Oh, I want to do that too!" and we have no real system for keeping these people out of responsible jobs that call for a healthy ethical sense.

Freelancer is undeniably a big site, with lots of gigs for writers to pick and choose. When I heard that they'd been radically reorganized, I signed up there again. Not because I've been able to forgive them for failing to pay me $35 in 2017. I have not. No representative of the company has sent me $35, plus a peace offering of approximately (the amount owed) multiplied by (the number of days it took the offender to pay up), plus a letter of abject apology. Forgiveness begins with repentance. But had Freelancer even seen the error of its ways?

It took a while to find out. New Freelancer seemed to have lots of gigs but 95% of the gigs advertised seemed to be part of the Telegram Scam, where (violating all the site rules) the alleged client wanted to pay via Telegram if the freelancer would just put all their bank information on that site. Oh sure.

Just to keep the tradition of legitimate online business alive, I recommend never telling anyone anything beyond your business name and mail drop address before you've converted $500 in payments to cash. 

And it'd be nice if our government cracked down on online money handling services, allowing them to operate as a nonprofit service only on condition that they have ONLY mail drop information about users, that they make NO attempt to trace who's receiving payment for what (leave law enforcement to those authorized to do it, in the event that a warrant is issued)m and that they process all payments within 24 hours or pay the amount owed over again for every day of delay. The debacle of Paypal's threatening to dip into people's accounts needs to be a wake-up call. No online business has any credibility with real people until Paypal (and Venmo, which is effectively the same business) have been brought to heel. 

When I signed on with New Freelancer, I specifically told them that I was in the Paypal walkout and Freelancer would need to establish credibility by PROMPTLY mailing checks. They said they that. (Famous Last Words.)

It took more than six months to find a legitimate client who was in the United States, so Freelancer couldn't use fluctuations in the exchange rate as an excuse for not paying, and who agreed to pay exactly $100. The client had originally wanted to pay by the hour. If I'd held him to a per-hour arrangement he would have paid a good deal more than $100. That's not a problem but it does explain why the client was willing to cover the first unanticipated gouge on the part of Freelancer, when the site announced that, oh, wait, they now collected fees from both the client and the freelancer so they couldn't send the $100 yet. The client paid the extra fee, willingly, but Freelancer took several weeks to register that fact. 

I had other things to do while Freelancer dawdled on processing the client's payment. When I checked the site again, it rolled out a notice that the site was now required to withhold 25% tax from everybody, so now that they'd finally got around to recording the $100 payment, they were only willing to send $75. There was some idiocy about how they'd refund the tax withheld if they had complete tax information.

Oh, sure. And if I believed that, I'm sure their next offer would have been to apply my tax refund to the Brooklyn Bridge. 

This was a test project, and the work was worth doing in any case...but no agency should be allowed to get away with this kind of gouging and cheating. 

Meanwhile, New Freelancer is now aggressively pushing a scheme whereby the site recommends workers to clients as if those workers were known to be the most experienced, best reviewed by clients, top scorers on tests, etc., but actually their "preferred" workers are the ones who have paid them bribes, or promised to do so. I'm not sure how that system works because all I, personally, want to know about any "recommendations" that begin with paying a bribe to the recommender is that I don't want them. My brand is built on actual clients' reviews. Like most Americans, I'm proud to say that I've never bribed anyone to recommend me and I never will.

It occurred to me that people whose online business is legitimate and ethical might need a scam watch site, like the Better Business Bureau in a real town, to monitor sites that don't pay promptly. We need to make it easy for clients to see which agencies recommend workers based on their record of actual work, and which accept a global free market, there is no reason why any job site should expect to survive a report that it considers payment from workers as a basis for recommending them. Agencies can legitimately rank new, unproven workers' scores on objective tests of things like math or grammar, but those tests must be free of charge--I'm not sure that the agencies shouldn't be required to pay workers for the time they spend taking tests. 

We should pay particular attention to ensuring that no person working for the kind of wages online gigs usually pay has to pay any kind of third-party money-handling fees. If the client can't deliver cash, the client should cover check cashing services' fees, automatically, even if the worker does choose to use a bank. 

Individual "freelancers" can and should keep clients, especially bulky corporate clients, living in fear of having a "slow pay" or "no pay" label attached to their brands. In an ideal world, government would freeze incoming payments to the offending companies until the workers were paid for work done, but for many people the whole point of working online is not having to document the hours that can easily be spent waiting on other people to do their part of one job when online workers could quite happily be doing another job. But we could freeze the offending companies' credibility. 

Then again, maybe Al Gore's horrible Future was the only one the corporations that built the Internet want to allow the Internet to have. Maybe we can't maintain the ideal of everyone being able to transact legitimate business online. Maybe we should just get out of the whole Net and let it collapse, leaving the greedheads who want to use the Internet for censorship, gossip, spying, cheating, and fraud to wallow in their losses. Maybe that's the only way to do a market correction on the Internet.

What do you think, Gentle Readers? 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Book Review: Southern Living Vegetable Cookbook

I'm reading new books for you as fast as I can...I can read only so many pages on a screen at a time, and when new books turn out to be 800 pages long, that does slow down the queue. Here's an old book some people may want.

Title: Southern Living Vegetables Cookbook

Author: Lena Sturges

Date: 1975

Publisher: Oxmoor House

ISBN: none

Length: 80 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Ralph Mark

Quote: “If the vegetable begins to lose color, it is beginning to overcook.”

Southern Living was a spin-off from Progressive Farmer. These recipes show where progress was being made. When did Grandma ever worry about vegetables being overcooked? Did she ever eat them any other way? Crispness was undesirable in a world where most adults had bad teeth.

Still, it was only 1975, and several recipes call for four tablespoons of butter where one would do, or half a cup of oil and half a cup of vinegar where the juice and rind of one lemon would add as much oiliness and sourness as the salad could need.

What vegetarians and dieters will love about the Southern Living Vegetables Cookbook is that vegetables are promoted from side dishes to entrées. If you’re not a total vegan, but are trying to consume more vegetables and less meat, this is a cookbook for you. Vegetable omelets, or vegetables cooked with milk, contain enough animal fat and protein to make cruelty-free meals. Several recipes leave room for meat as flavoring or garnish for a dish that features vegetables.

What children, and adults with childlike taste such as the writer of this review, won’t love about this cookbook is that many recipes are designed to sneak second-rate veggies to the table behind layers of cream sauce, crumb topping, cheese, or even pie crust. To make an asparagus casserole, after cooking asparagus in the usual way you use the water to make a cream sauce, spread the asparagus in a greased dish, cover with cornflake crumbs, then chopped boiled egg, then cream sauce, more crumbs, more sauce, and shredded cheese, and bake for half an hour. Right. What I want to know is, who would let asparagus get into a shabby enough condition to need such a deep burial? Fresh asparagus is something you have to stop children from eating right out in the garden. I prefer to wash off the topsoil, myself, but I’ve never seen any reason to cook asparagus. It looks so much more, er, adult, while it’s raw, with a droplet of water glistening on the tip...

Grandma didn’t use recipes like these because she liked to nag children to eat vegetables. She invented these recipes during the long dark winters when the family ate their way through crocks of salted-and-vinegared vegetables and jars of overcooked vegetables they’d put up during the summer, and since they had no other vegetables and were on the verge of scurvy, they found it good. But Southern living is about having a garden and using vegetables while they’re so fresh that even the shelled peas, stringbeans, and potatoes taste good raw. Crisp, juicy, just slightly sweet, Southern vegetables are supposed to be treats for children.

The Southern Living Vegetables Cookbook was not written with restricted diets in mind, but does contain several meat-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free recipes. Several recipes use all natural ingredients and can be made entirely from garden produce. And some don’t even bury the healthy veg in saturated fats and simple carbs.

How I Shake Off a Bad Mood

First let's acknowledge that "bad moods" are fewer and farther between after midlife. But I learned to shake off "bad moods" while I was still stuck on the hormone treadmill. I learned to stop calling progesterone moods "bad." My peculiar body tended to rush through them anyway and I found it helpful to cherish and savor my slower moods.

Too many of us allow other people to judge our moods, as if our own body processes had anything to do with them. We need to rediscover the idea that these people are rude, and must be retrained to back off and not judge our moods. The body cannot lie, but neither can it stick to a subject, especially not the subject of interest to these pushy pests, which is themselves. The body is not really unlike the pushy pests--only quieter. Nine parts talking to one part listening, if that, and the topic of the talk is "me, me, me, me, ME!" The body is no more interested in a pushy pest than the pushy pest is interested in the stifled sneeze that was what the body was displaying that peculiar expression about.

One aspect of the "You look this way and I think you ought to look this other way" routine overshadows all the others, together, in vileness. That's the demand that young women paint their faces to "look their best" on the job. Most of these women have no scars nor wrinkles to "make up" for. Some of them have acne, and need to minimize opportunities for anything, even their hair, to sweep any dirt into their hypersensitive pores. For some jobs it really is necessary to paint the face in a way that exaggerates its features. Having the face look recognizable on television is the point of being on television, and is rarely if ever possible without a heavy TV-only makeup job. But most of the time, what young women are really being told is "Some man out there despises women so much that he's only willing to look at or listen to women who look as if they wanted to flop into bed...and instead of educating him, we want you to indulge him, whatever implications that has for your personal safety." 

Yes, men who think women exist for only one purpose do think the painted-on "blusher" and heavy lipstick make us look "prettier" or "friendlier" or "more interesting." In the sense of "incompetent bimbos whose minds aren't on their jobs." Women could just agree to take the position that the correct word for the way our bare unpainted faces look, most of the time, is "work-focussed," and that it's how we're supposed to look, at work. Certainly it's hard to imagine a husband not preferring that, when his wife looks "inviting," she's at home, with him, and she really is inviting. 

Other damage done by allowing people to try to "read faces" and judge our moods don't stack up very high beside the demand that young women nonverbally invite harassment. Still, even men sometimes get the "You look..." or "You ought to look..." treatment. Usually it comes from extroverts who want to believe that everything is all about them, who probably deserve to see on everyone's face the message "You're a horrible self-centered bore." Probably that is what they read into the sight of someone who's living per own life, minding per own business, feeling what person feels. When these people realize that our bodies are bodies, not cheerleaders for them, they go all to pieces. 

Someone's body language might be saying very clearly, "I'm tired because I put off writing my term paper until 6 o,n, yesterday evening and then sat up writing it until 4 a.m. this morning, and if I think about that, I'm also apprehensive because I typed and pasted in a lot of source material in which I hardly even changed the words." Screaming Meemee understands that to mean "I'm tired of you, and I'm afraid or ashamed to admit it because I'm a weak person who can be bullied," so the verbal bullying begins: "YOU look like you're in a BAD MOOD! Aren't you? Well, YOU wouldn't be in such a BAD MOOD so MUCH OF THE TIME if YOU didn't..." 

One very important way to prevent really bad moods is to eliminate this kind of people from your life. 

Another good practice, specifically for preventing this kind of unpleasantness, is to do an assignment or at least the rough draft as soon as you get the specifications for the job. Quite a few of the little rules for life that may make some people seem "hyper-conscientious".are actually very effective ways of avoiding bad moods. Sober, responsible drivers don't have bad moods related to traffic court. People who don't tell lies don't suffer from anxiety caused by trying to keep track of what they've told whom. People who don't get drunk don't have to endure hangovers.

I reclaimed my right to define my own moods. Occasionally, usually as a symptom of some sort of medical problem, I have a mood swing that really is bad. Most of the time, my moods have more variety, and deserve to be savored. They're energetic, relaxed, or tired. They're enthusiastic or cautious. They're sociable or task-focussed. They're serious or giggly. They're sentimental or not. None of those things is bad. Even an irritable fighting-off-flu mood is less bad than a whatever state of mind a person has to be in to extend per control-freaking to other people's moods.

Any mood, even a joyful one, can be considered "bad" if you have to be around people who think they're supposed to be able to dictate what you feel. They probably want you to stop floating on that cloud and feel tense and stressed-out like them. The solution to this problem is not to try to shake off your mood; it's to shake off the control freak. .

This one simple decision, that I am the only person who can pass judgment on my moods, eliminated nearly all the bad moods from my life. I discovered something interesting about the ones that were left. It would be interesting to hear whether others have found this to be true for them too. 

It has not happened in every year, but once in a while I feel perfectly horrible. Like a big bubble of boiling tar, a wellspring of bad-feeling surges up within me. Sometimes it has taken the form of despondency, or despair. Usually it feels more like anger--but anger unrelated to, and out of proportion to, any anger I normally feel. 

This tends to work better because I'm more likely not to act on anger. Despondency might be able to pass itself off as reasonable: "Why even bother finishing that project when someone else is sure to have had a better idea anyway." Whereas the anger that is merely a mood swing, quite distinct from the sort of anger I might feel about inflicting pain on an attacker, is always blatantly irrational and out of proportion, not only to what strict justice might say about some past offense, but to what I feel about it myself.

"Person is late," I might accurately observe, and go on. "Person is willfully being late out of pure spite and ill will, because person is nothing but a wad of toxic waste stuffed into a shirt and animated by the Evil Principle. Person's ancestors were undoubtedly all useless too. Person probably has cousins.."

I notice myself thinking this way. It's not normal. Normally I'd be more likely to think thoughts like "Person is a decent human being who does not waste other people's time on purpose. What's the matter with person?" 

The mood in which my thoughts go straight to blame and anger is a very bad mood, not because any person with a defective sense of personal boundaries judged it so, but because I know it's a symptom of a physical disease reaction. Most often it's the prodrome of a celiac or glyphosate reaction. It might also be the prodrome of an allergy reaction, or it might mean I'm going down with flu and need to sit down, oe preferably lie down, now

Usually this anger-prone mood lasts about as long as it takes me to notice it. I think, "Uh-oh, what am I coming down with this time," and the anger-prone mood evaporates. If it lingered, or recurred, I'd consider calling a doctor, or asking someone I trusted to monitor my condition and call a doctor if necessary. I'd remember that feeling anger-prone for longer than a minute was something I noticed just before going down with mononucleosis, not something I've had with ordinary cold or flu infections, which usually begin with a tired, lazy mood. 

When the answer to "what am I going down with this time?" is "Something that will be inconvenent for a day or two," the mood swing passes quickly. I have just time to recognize it. Then it's gone. 

What I do with a bad mood, generally, is recognize it as a symptom and refuse to take it seriously. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Shelter Dogs by the Numbers

In search of a theme for this week's adoptable dog photo contest, I thought youall might be interested in knowing which kinds of dogs the shelters are most likely to have for adoption. Here are some numbers for your consideration. 


Bear in mind that a shelter dog's listed breed is often a best guess based on which two or three breeds' distinguishing features the dog seems to have, or what someone giving up a pet can tell them about the dog's ancestry. When a dog seems to be a mix of two or three breed types, Petfinder may list it under each breed--the numbers of dogs sorted by breeds is greater than the number of dogs in shelter. With those qualifications, here are the top ten breeds of dogs easiest to find in many shelters. 

1. Mixed Breed--duh! They may have been sent to shelterw because they're mixed breeds. For the zipcode 10101, Petfinder lists over 142,000 dogs. Over 2700 of those dogs are listed as Mixed Breed.

2. Pt Bull Terrier. Somebody wanted one, and then moved to a place where the landlord said it couldn't stay. Over 2000 of New York City's shelter dogs are believed to be at least partly Pit Bull.

3. Labrador Retriever: Barkley! Who could put Barkley up for adoption? A person of less fortitude than LB Johnson (which is most of humankind) who'd been laid up with a leg injury as a result of a long brisk walk with the dog in the middle of a rainy night, that's who. New York's Petfinder shelters list over 1800 Labrador Retrievers, plu over 100 Yellow Labrador Retrievers and over 300 Black Labrador Retrievers. And over 100 Golden Retrievers, too.

4. Terriers: Apparently some people are a badly terrified by terriers, generally, as they are by Pit Bulls. The fourth largest category on the list was American Staffrdshire Terriers (over 900) followed by plain old Terriers (over 900), Jack Russell Terriers (over 100), and Staffordshire Bull Terriers (over 100). 

5. Chihuahuas. Probably just because they're so popular. Over 800 Chihuahuas and crossbreeds are currently in NYC shelters.

6. German Shepherds. Admittedly they seem bigger in a tiny NYC apartment, but, peoplei...Over 800 German Shepherd and over 700 more listed as "Shepherd.," which to most Americans means the same dog. No doubt all 1500 aren't as clever, brave, and lovable as Rin Tin Tin, but...

7.. Hounds. This one is harder to interpret, since so many different types of dogs are classified as hounds. To what extent "Hound" (over 700 dogs) overlaps with more specific categories like "Beagle' (over 300) and "Catahoula Leopard Dog" (over 100) is hard to know, especially when comparing numbers of different shelters around the country. Most of the very specialized, recognizable types of hounds, like Bassets and Greyhounds, are very scarce in shelters.

8. Boxers: Not my favorite breed, but somebody wanted over 500 Boxers to exist in New York City in the first place.

9. Huskies: Over 300 plain "Husky" plus over 100 "Siberian Husky" dogs were listed.

10. Australian Cattle Dogs: As distinct from Australian Shepherds. Over 300 of these are up for adoption.

Age Ranges 

When dogs' real ages are not known...well, they spend more time in the "Adult" category than in the "Young," "Puppy," or "Senior" category. That is the frequency with which dogs' ages are specified in the Petfinder system. 


It doesn't really matter when they're neutered. Petfinder listed about equal numbers of male and female dogs.


The largest number of shelter dogs have at least some white in their coats. The next largest color groups are black, yellow, and brown in that order. Other dog color categories are seldom used, though Petfinder offers eleven more. In some cases the names are confusing--does sable mean sand-colored (it's the French word for sand) or the color of the sable animal (brownish black)? Petfinder defines sable as sand-colored and fewer than 100 Petfinder dogs in New York City are described as sable, possibly because sand-colored dogs are classifed as dark cream or dull yellow. 


So, in order to consider the type of dog in greatest need of good homes, we'll look at mixed-breed adult dogs with white or white-spotted coats. 

Zipcode 10101: Thelma and Louise from New York City (sort of) 

Louise' ancestors are thought to include beagles and Australian Shepherds. Thelma's ancestors were a type of dog technically known as a Cur. ("Cur" has, like "hound," been used to mean an unwanted mongrel dog, but it is, like "hound," the name of a type of dog that includes multiple recognized breeds.) They've never been considered a good-looking breed, nor have they had any snob appeal. People like Curs for themselves. 

As in the vintage movie, two adult females who had had hard lives became friends. Now they do everything together and, their foster human says, they're ideal for someone who has an active social life with other humans, because they'll keep each other company when you're out. They came from a small-town shelter that wasn't getting much traffic. Petfinder let them be listed in cities to which their foster human can transport them if you pay. As a result of this arrangement each dog's "adoption fee" is on the high side, but they have run up vet bo;;s amd you might be able to haggle down to a "buy one, get one free" deal. The dogs are small, just under 25 pounds, and are said to be friendly and cheerful and full of energy. They like to run. At least one human in their ideal home likes to run a few miles a day, too. 

Zipcode 20202; Valentina from Potomac 

Although she weighs only 21 pounds, this rat terrier crossbreed was brought to a shelter as the mother of ten homeless puppies. Well, that won't happen again. Her mission in life is to keep someone's property free from rats. She'll tolerate some petting, but as you can see she's a very serious, responsible, respectable dog. (Though said to wiggle ecstatically when petted.) She's being treated for heartworms; her humans will need to take over that responsibility for a few months. 

Zipcode 30303: Dolly from Peachtree City  

Little is known about Dolly. She's had basic veterinary care and behaved well during the shelter experience. She is photogenic Unlike most of the dogs with white or partly white coats in shelters near Atlanta, she is not a Pit Bull. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Book Review: Adrian Mole the Lost Years

Book Review: Adrian Mole, the Lost Years

Author: Sue Townsend

Date: 1984-1994

Publisher: Soho Press

ISBN: 1-56947-015-4

Length: 309 Pages

Quote: “No letter from Sarah Ferguson today.”

“Not lost enough,” says a caricature of Margaret Thatcher on the cover of this book. I beg to differ. This book contains a short reprint from True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, most of Adrian Mole from Minor to Major, and all of Adrian Mole, the Wilderness Years

Adrian Mole is the definitive nerd-as-opposed-to-geek. Theoretically intelligent enough for all sorts of opportunities, he tends to defeat himself, in real life, by his overwhelming real-world stupidity. He’s the sort of guy who’s invited to do a radio talk, where his lack of money and fashion sense won’t be held against him, and promptly tells the folks in radio-land that he’s wearing a shirt from a rummage sale, over a T-shirt with a message that embarrasses him, and “executive striped trousers” and “designer training shoes.” He’s the sort who reads a passage on clichés in The Complete Plain Words and notes that his writing style needs to improve “by leaps and bounds.”

In The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Pandora Braithwaite was his academic rival. In The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, she was his first girlfriend. Though not quite as perfect as Adrian has always thought her, she’s destined to go further than he, in life, and will be elected to Parliament while Adrian is still relying on his mother to finish his first book manuscript . (For a recipe book, Adrian’s first deliberately published work will show a remarkable degree of feminist consciousness.)

Meanwhile, Adrian’s diary should appeal to anyone who enjoys the blog genre. He dutifully reacts to the news items of each year of his fictional life. His reactions vary from standard-TV-viewer to unique. He forms a crush on Sarah Ferguson, without losing his feeling for Pandora, and sends her a poem pleading, “Don’t marry Andy...Come to Leicester, come to Leicester, marry me!” He dutifully visits Bert, the senior citizen he met when he and the other thirteen-year-olds had to do community service projects (for school, not as a punishment). There’s a chortle on every page, and the laugh is usually on Adrian, but none of his friends or neighbors is beyond ridicule.

If you use out-loud laughter as a painkiller and mood elevator, keep a copy of at least one Adrian Mole book handy at all times.

Butterfly of the Week: The Obscure Pachliopta Schadenbergi

This week's Atrophaneura, now generally called Pachliopta schadenbergi, is an endangered species. Most of what's been published online about it are lists of endangered species. 

This male, typical of the subspecies micholitzi, has been quietly fading in a French museum for twenty years. When living, his pale pink spots might have been redder. The female is a little larger than the male--not a lot. The museum's pair's wingspans measured 74 mm for the male, 75 mm for the female. The easiest way to recognize the male, even spread out as a museum specimen, is by the little scent folds on the inside of his hind wings. 

Always rare, schadenbergi (and its subspecies micholitzi) were only identified as a species in 1891. The fad for naming butterflies in this genus after characters in literature had passed; the species and its subspecies were named prosaically after contemporary people. The first authoritative article about these butterflies that's been published online is in German. Funet gives a link for it; if you can read German you might want to see whether your browser does better at following the link than mine did.  

The first English description, also provided by Funet, is terse: 


P. schadeubergi Semper, forma typ. \_S , ?].

Hindwings shaped as in aristolochiae Fabr. ; with the submarginal spots rounded and well marked on the upper- and underside, the anterior ones white, the posterior ones red; without discal markings.

Hah. X.^V. Luzon and Babuyanes (ace. to Semijer, I.e.) (3 c?, 2 ?).

(6): P. schadenbergi micholitzi Semper [J, ?].

Papiliti {.Uenelakle.'i) sdiadtiihcnji var. la'fJtoViV.i SuiuptT, /.<■. p. 269. sub n. 393. t. 44. f. 2((^): t. 45. f. 6 ( ? ) (1891) (N.E. Luzon).

Differs from the typical form in the spots of the hindwings being all white, or creamy white; the forewings are less white behind the cell.

Hub. N.E. Luzon (ace. to Semper) (1 J).

As the dry-season specimens of P. aristolochiae kotzebuea Eschsch. are sometimes very similar to the present species, and as further there are no differences between the two insects besides jiattern, F believe that schadenbergi will turn out to be the northern form of kotzebuea; but this is only a supposition.


Of the many Philippine islands, schadenbergi was found only on Luzon and the Babuyan group, only in its season, and only in some types of woods. It was able to survive when some forests were reduced to "grassland." Its food plant is not known, so whether it lives on grassland or only forages there, while living in woods, is unclear. It is sometimes found in the same places as kotzebuea and does not noticeably crossbreed with kotzebuea, although the two species look alike. In schadenbergi the typical Atrophaneura black-white-grey pattern appears predominantly white. 

Its season turns out to be almost year-round; the season the early writers had in mind was probably April, still the peak season for sightings, but the butterflies have been seen in different places between February and November. 

Nobody can state certanly how long this butterfly lives, what it eats, how many generations per year it has (almost certainly more than one), or what it looks like at any stage before it flies. As a result, although people have wanted to save the species for a long time, plans for doing so seem to be limited to "Stop cutting down forests." Then the argument is raised that nobody knows for sure that this butterfly needs trees to survive. Not one of the high-flying species, it may survive without trees, but its numbers drop when humans move into its habitat..There are wild creatures that react badly to humans in et per se--something about our breath seems toxic to them--but schadenbergi seems to be threatened more specifically by human "agriculture." 

Meaning that, if humans could slow down population growth, practice less intensive methods of agriculture--keeping inedible plants as borders and ground covers, not spraying poisons, not overfarming until they leave "bald mountains as far as the eye can see" (S. Yamaguchi's lament on a visit to China)--people might be able to coexist with these pretty butterflies as easily as people in Virginia coexist with our Tiger Swallowtails? We don't know. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Bad Poetry: Losing Track of Time

I just had to play with that flamenca form...This is actually Friday's post. It's late because I call it Bad Poetry but I kept trying to make it a little less bad. 

Jack's favorite way, he
Says, is Amazon Prime--
Losing track of time--
Jill likes to curl up with
A cizy tale of crime.

In first grade, Jack always
Seemed to lose his lunch dime--
Losing track of time--
In high school, Jill left keys
She had dropped in the grime.

Only since they passed the'
Ripe age of sixty-nine--
Losing track of time
Brings Alzheimer's Disease
To the front of their mind. 

Book Review: Blessed to Be a Blessing

Title: Blessed to Be a Blessing

Author: James K. Wagner

Date: 1980

Publisher: Upper Room

ISBN: 0-8358-0410-0

Length: 144 pages

Quote: “God has the power to achieve his purposes, but he does not superimpose it on our will.”

This is a book for church workers who want to “have an intentional healing ministry in [their] church[es].” It’s part of the charismatic movement thart appeared in several mainstream churches around 1980.

As disillusionment with the wilder claims of charismatic “healing ministers” set in, many churches lost interest in this kind of ministry. Wagner does not encourage the kind of false hopes that did harm to some who hoped for healing. He discusses possibilities like “[The patient] may not be cured of the cancer, but may yet receive help in one or more of the other areas,” and “All physical healing is temporary...physical death is not the end but the transition.” The Bible is as clear about the fact that some members of the apostolic church were not physically healed as if is about the fact that others were. Paul himself prayed about a “thorn in the flesh” (he was short, arthritic, nearsighted, and bald) and concluded that God intended for him to live with it.

I could wish that Wagner had given more attention to the healing visions in which some people report being directed to seek for instructions that will facilitate physical healing.

I thought, too, while reading this book, of one of those casualties of certain “healing ministries.” During the 1980s a “healing minister” came out with his retinue, and they laid their hands on the head of a cerebral palsy patient who had spent her life in a wheelchair, and prayed. To the extent that they were praying for her to stand up and walk, their prayer was answered firmly, “No.” She has never walked all the way across a room. Nevertheless, during the rest of the 1980s the thirty-something patient learned to type on a computer, got a job, and did much to educate people about brain injuries.

If Wagner had been present, he might have quoted from page 66 of Blessed to Be a Blessing: “When a person comes for healing he or she is always helped in some way.” As things were, the so-called healer announced that the lady remained unhealed due to unconfessed sins. He maintained this position after the lady had published tedious little confessions of every impatient word, lustful fantasy, or stolen cookie she could remember. Then the church became disillusioned with this minister and with the idea of healing prayer. They might have benefitted from this book.

Even Wagner, however, fails to discuss the possibility that the lady’s “healing miracle” could be that she would discover, or motivate someone else to discover, a physical cure for injuries like hers.

Although this book is addressed to pastors and contains liturgies for healing services in a church, it can be used by people who want to pray for healing at home or in small groups. Wagner tries to prepare people to understand that the answer to such prayers may be a dramatic recovery, an emotional healing journey, a subtle impression to consult a certain doctor or book, or even an impression that someone’s “healing” might involve writing off a wrecked body and moving on into eternity.

It may also be helpful to bear in mind that those praying, as well as those prayed for, may receive “help” from healing prayers. When my husband failed to recover from flu, and I prayed for him, the first clear impression I received was that I was concerned about my shortcomings, but “he was suffering for his own sins.” When I shared this impression with my husband, he immediately admitted something I had suspected before—that he felt worse after angry outbursts and felt better after praying for those who seemed to have provoked his periodic rages. (This was a month or two before we learned that he had multiple myeloma; after his death I learned that hypertensive rages may be an early warning of this rare form of cancer.) Later both of us prayed, and received an impression that his healing would consist of an almost painless departure from a body that was past physical repair. While some kinds of bone cancer are extremely painful and some patients feel pain with multiple myeloma, my husband consistently reported that what had felt like stiff muscles or rheumatism, while he had seemed healthy, had given way to numbness.

I mention these things to show why people should avoid projecting their disappointments onto others, “You prayed for your relative, and he died.” A simplistic approach to healing prayer tends to disillusion people. A broader understanding of the many levels on which healing is possible seems less likely to generate ill feeling. If you are searching for this broader understanding, Blessed to Be a Blessing is for you.

Web Log 9.22.23 to 9.23.23

Late. Oddly enough, one of the things I've been trying to write is a poem about Losing Track Of Time...

Armed Citizen Fights Crime 

Another category of stories that newspapers controlled by the Censorship Party avoid printing. If you didn't see it in your newspaper...


Why are people revisiting this post? Because the school year is just beginning. Any teacher or student can benefit from the book reviewed.


Flamenco dancing celebrates physical passion through exhausting physical performance. Its predominant sound is a fast rattling beat produced by the dancers' fast-moving feet, by castanets and other percussion instruments, but it can be accompanied by music, including songs. When songs are used they have a traditional meter that is surprisingly hard to imitate well in English (the songs are of course in Spanish). The Dverse Poets challenged themselves to write canciones flamencas in English. Most of them described videos of flamenco dances, but this poet not only made the form work in English but attempted to relate it to spiritual passion. Great? The greatness of poems is judged by subsequent generations. What can be said now is that it was a brave, innovative attempt.

One about the dance; 


"This thing is a phone." The Android wasn't hard enough to keep from slithering down into sewers to pollute the water supply forevermore?

Now, THIS is a phone. Not that the shape is the only consideration if reasonable people ever go back to using phones.  

See how convenient the size is: Fits into the same pockets and wallets as a card or a folded dollar bill. Matte finish, well balanced shape, fits between thumb and fingers, so it's not constantly sliding out of your hand or even off your desk, much less out the car door and into the sewer. Screen will not display pictures, much less snap pictures of you without your consent--yes, that's a thing. And you paid for the service by buying a plain card, cardboard, not even plastic, with a string of digits on the card, which you punched into the phone after paying for the card in cash. People could hear your voice but that did not enable them to steal your identity because it did not connect to any other piece of information about you except your location...which was mobile. Picking up this phone was not an instant breach of basic common-sense personal security, the way picking up the Android is. This was a good kind of phone. If the companies want people carrying cell phones everywhere, they need to get back to the design that worked. This time, make sure the phones, which are permanently locked into a fee schedule of 10 cents per minute of conversation or 3 cents per text message, are guaranteed to be fully maintainable for a minimum of 50 years from the date of purchase or the lifetime of the company. Throw in a year of free service to make up for having forced the useful kind of phones out of service, and the companies might have a deal. Though there needs to be something to offset the companies' unilateral decision to cancel their contract with their loyal customers, too...something like "Customers may set up a service agreement by furnishing their legal names to the company, after which they may reset the cost of 'additional minutes' cards to 1 cent per card if they feel like it." Seriously. You don't cancel the contract under which you sold an object if you want to sell anybody any other object, ever again!

I wish I had a link you could follow to find a local retailer that sells sensible phones. There is no such link. But if the phone companies want to survive., there will be one...before everybody discovers the convenience of switching to e-mail only and then not making time to check our e-mail if not expecting any special messages. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Book Review: Wise Blood

Book Review: Wise Blood

Author: Flannery O’Connor

Date: 1949, 1983

Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (1949), Signet (1983)

ISBN: none

Length: 232 pages (1949), 120 pages (1983)

Quote: “Do you think I believe in Jesus? Well I wouldn’t even if He existed.”

The Bible says, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Wise Blood (which exists in a bulky, eye-friendly form and in a compressed, closely printed form) is an expanded variation on this theme. Whether you have the original 232 pages or the unabridged packed-down 120 pages, what you have is the tragic history of a young fool.

The word “fool” has always included the ideas of genuine stupidity, of sickness, and of wrongheadedness, or any combination of all three. Hazel Motes, a shell­shocked veteran, seems to be both sick and wrongheaded. He is also ignorant. He probably would never have been at the head of any class in any school, and he didn’t spend much time in school, but he’s not stupid enough to be easily written off. He is not more than twenty-three years old, apparently attractive to women, very serious, very sensitive, and very confused. Deeply religious before the war, he comes home determined to be an atheist, but he’s not cynical enough to be a good one. He gives up his attempt to organize a “Church of the Truth Without Jesus Christ” when his followers fail to keep his doctrine pure.

Before he dies—and there’s no room for doubt that he wants to die—Haze is determined to commit some Major Sins, and he commits some, in the laughable way that’s probably only possible for a very young and very goodhearted ex-Christian. He offers his virginity to a sleazy woman. That’s not bad enough. He rents a room from a decent woman, preaches atheism, is revulsed by his followers, and decides to seduce an old blind preacher’s daughter. To his disgust, the preacher is neither really blind nor really a Christian; it’s not clear whether his partner-in-fraud is really related to him, but being seduced is nothing new to her. The landlady steps in to help Haze get rid of this pair of scam artists, tries mothering him and even gets her hopes up about marrying him, but by this time Haze is walking around with barbed wire wrapped around his chest and gravel in his shoes, trying to die of pneumonia.

O’Connor was a Catholic, looking down on the Protestant peasantry of North Georgia. It’s hard to imagine her ever thinking of Haze as someone that God, as O’Connor understood God, wasn’t actively trying to redeem, through the grotesque days of his decline; but she couldn’t quite bring her antihero to salvation. And Wise Blood is probably easier to take if the reader is also Catholic, or Buddhist, or something that allows some hope for Haze’s posthumous redemption.

It’s also an anti-war tract. Men like Haze are still floundering around the streets of our cities today. As I read I found myself thinking, “Not true: friends and relatives of mine who saw horrible things, not even in Germany where they were told they could feel good about them, but in Korea and Vietnam, came home and were okay, as long as they hadn’t taken drugs.” Yes, but they had homes to come back to. Haze doesn’t. Haze, as fictional character, represents all the guys who joined the Army because their parents were homeless or on welfare or dead, or because they’d stomped or been kicked out of their parents’ or wives’ homes, or because they’d done something stupid and needed to get out of town fast. These were not the soldiers to whom we sent food treats in Vietnam. They were the ones to whom nobody wrote letters. I used to see them, and some of them were as old as Haze but were still alive, at soup kitchens in Washington. They were still visibly deranged. Most of them had, at some point between 1945 and 1985, taken some sort of drugs or “medication.” Mostly it hadn’t helped. Most of them were still carrying heavy loads of hate, grief, and guilt; many were also twitching. This is one of the things wars have always done to young men, and, these days, to young women.

O’Connor’s way of writing stories like Wise Blood is not for everyone. How can this tragic story be told as if it were a satirical comedy? O'Connor probably intended that most readers would want to rescue, if not to adopt, Haze. She intended to kill him by torture, anyway, and part of the torture is setting him in a scene like a Hogarth painting. These things exist, O’Connor tells us, and you, who are almost certainly stronger than I am, can do something about them, now that I’ve forced you to see that they’re there. Go and do it.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Link Log for 9.21.23

Links below the rant...


No link for the bad news because you've already read it. It's the Bill Cosby story all over again...Russell Brand is sometimes funny, sometimes bold in telling the truth, sometimes (I think) misled. I'm inclined to believe that he was all that his haters claim he was, twenty or even ten years ago; he has that look and manner. (Cosby did not, even at the time of his alleged misdeeds. I'm not talking about the hair; I'm talking about the body language.) Brand looks like a man who's trying very very hard to overcome the fact that he was, not too long ago, a scag. 

And Brand, unfortunately, is young enough that he could still be dangerous. This web site called for moderation when people were howling for punishment for Cosby, on the grounds that Cosby was obviously unlikely to do anything more dangerous than down, or for Senator Conyers, on the grounds that he was in a bleepin' hospital when the story broke. The world does not need a lot of protection from eighty-year-old cardiac patients. Those exemptions do not apply to Brand. generation grew up in a world where any male/female conversation could still ruin the life of the female involved. Payback time has come. At least the men whose careers can now be ended by an unsupported allegation of inappropriate touching, or inappropriate language, or the inappropriate suggestion that a mere male would be qualified to tell if a woman was incompetent, are not subject to abortions.

Doing anything that could cause pregnancy, when you're not married and ready to be a father: It's not something we talk about any more.

But one observation this web site made during the demolition of Bill Cosby's career, and will make now. The timing of the accusations against these men are very suspicious. Would anyone have denounced Cosby if he hadn't dared to oppose the "Black Americans are incapable of having stable marriages, doing good work, saving, investing, or owning property, and just need federal handouts and more federal handouts" narrative of the racist left wing? Doubtful. Would anyone have denounced Brand if he hadn't dared to oppose the "All young people are socialists" lie? Also doubtful. 

And if Brand still looks like a scag now, he must have looked even more like one when he actively was one, so what kind of women were these dates toward whom he behaved badly? Probably nobody we've ever heard of, but employers may want to be sure they don't inadvertently offer these she-scags any responsible jobs, either.


Another beautiful flower that tends to be underappreciated merely because it's native and easy to long as our native pollinators are here...


Should city governments operate groery stores in neighborhoods that become "food deserts"?

Chicago jokes aside, it's a serious question, because there really are city neighborhoods that can't keep a supermarket. In these cities the supermarket prices tend to be higher than they should be, anyway, due to city taxes and "urban overhead" (shoplifting with the connivance of, and done by, store employees) and just whatever-the-bleep-they-can-get-away-with. However, in the poorest neighborhoods the supermarkets aren't even there. And it's not that they're unnecessary because people buy their groceries from local corner stores, either. There are local food sources but they're fast-food chain restaurants competing with local snack wagons. There's no place to buy basic groceries. There is that catering to the section of the market demographic that burn through their monthly food stamp handouts in the first week of the month, buying all "convenience" food. What about Suzie Smartshopper? She plans and buys groceries when and where they're marked down at the supermarket, just as she would in the more affluent neighborhoods--except that, since no smart shopper owns a car or drives in the city, she doesn't even know people who have a car pool going, so she get to the stores in the nicer neighborhood by city bus. For a start she can rule out anything frozen--it'd melt on the bus ride, likely to be more than an hour of local warming. Also, by the time she gets home on shopping day, she and her family are too tired and hungry to make cooking feasible, so she'd better have bought a supply of overpriced convenience food for that day anyway. 

Are there solutions to this problem? I'm not sure. It's an undeniable fact that these neighborhoods are the sinks for people who choose stupidity on multiple levels. People don't own houses, they rent rooms, and if they've overcome stupidity or caught a lucky break they think about moving out of these neighborhoods, not making them better. There's no continuity, no community. "We don't live here. we only stay till we can afford to move away." Lots of people changing their addresses may give a short-term boost to the local economy by making realtors rich, but it's a recipe for neighborhood decline. The best thing for these neighborhoods might be to leave them in their slummy condition while the people drain out of them or die. Then yuppies can move in and claim that applying fresh paint, putting in a skylight and calling the effect of not replacing the rain-rotted floor a "cathedral ceiling," and quadrupling the rent have "transformed" the slum into a terribly chic and trendy urban neighborhood. If they keep the population density down, they may even make the neighborhood charming again...working back to one house per family with at least one acre of garden space per family member and at least one large tree with room to drop limbs on the ground, not the roofs, in between every two houses. 

But if people want an alternative that preserves the low-rent city neighborhoods, I'd propose this. Government does not try to operate the grocery stores. Government licenses neighborhood residents to operate them, for profit, with minimal government involvement consisting mostly of making sure they are selling groceries instead of illegal drugs. 


If you blog, have you posted something in each of the 52 categories this blogger has taken the time to classify? 

This web site has not been, and will not be, the site of audio or video posts, because our mission statement includes that we'll stay accessible to readers who can't listen to those. At the time of posting I have a laptop that has audiovisual capabilities. So of course my first task was to disable those, because they are memory hogs that don't help me write or you read. However, if readers or sponsors wanted us to post live video content, say of local musicians and music venues, or Jim Spears' idea of a "Flea Market Live" video showing shoppers who'd brought what to a given market on a given morning, we could do that kind of thing. I do have YouTube and Discord accounts, and could probably get Rumble, if adequately compensated for the time. You want to be able to show potential visitors what's still going on at the Carter Fold--yes, country music lovers of the world, it's still here even if the Carter grandson goes by his father's name--you pay for tickets for me and a driver. But, despite my belief that programs like Office should do the same thing in the same way for as long as the original purchaser is likely to live, I do like playing with new gadgets to do new things. Vlogs can happen; they can be linked here.

Book Review: What's Bred in the Bone

Book Review: What’s Bred in the Bone

Author: Robertson Davies

Date: 1985

Publisher: Macmillan / Penguin

ISBN: 0-14-00-97112

Length: 436 pages

Quote: “If one member of the Cornish family is shown to be a crook, the financial world will be sure that the whole Cornish family is shady.”

They are. What else is new? But if you’re a person who enjoys long novels full of picturesque details and complex relationships, you may get some pleasure from finding out how, when, and why they’re shady.

For one thing, they’re the sort of people for whom the term “cousin” does not automatically exclude the thought “bedmate.” I understand that in England, where part of What’s Bred in the Bone takes place and where some of my better documented ancestors lived, many people feel this way. I had more Irish than English ancestors, myself, and the cousin-lust motif grosses me out. And I don’t think Davies minded grossing readers out; holding my nose and reading on, I come to scenes that could hardly be meant to serve any other purpose for any reader.

One of the questions the novel promises to answer is whether Frank Cornish was homosexual, or, if not, what was his sexual aberration. I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to know that sort of thing, but I will warn readers that a formative influence on Frank was discovering his secret, shameful, shut-in half brother. The half brother is abnormal because their mother tried so hard to abort him, but Frank’s elders blame his abnormality on the fact that he was conceived outside of marriage. Unable to do much else, the half brother fiddles with himself a lot.

We’re supposed to share the adult Frank’s shame and horror at the harm done by Victorian efforts to deny sexuality. I find myself pondering the shifting fashions in moral conventions, and wondering which of our society’s taboos will seem most outrageous to our grandchildren, like Victorian denial or the early twentieth century’s ideas of eugenics. Will it be the 1960s view that the worst sexual sin was to withhold erotic pleasure from another person, thereby causing frustration, which might cause hostility, which might cause nuclear war? Will it be the current effort to claim that homosexuality is “gay” and is “just as good,” at least for humans, rather than being the symptom of overcrowding and harbinger of disaster that it is for other animals?

Well...Cleveland Amory, a fine writer and a great American, maintained that women can’t be curmudgeons. Out of respect for his views on this subject, as a quintessential curmudgeon, I will not claim that novels like What’s Bred in the Bone are helping me develop toward being a curmudgeon. I will say that, along with my inner children and inner sages and all the other trendy denizens of my psyche, I have an inner curmudgeon. Sometimes he is loud.

Robertson Davies had an inner curmudgeon too. Possibly that’s why I’ve enjoyed his short nonfiction so much. Definitely it’s at least partly a defect in me that I didn’t enjoy What’s Bred in the Bone, the first and last Davies novel I’ve read. Davies’ inner curmudgeon had no objection to Peeping Tommery. Mine has. And unfortunately this novel is mostly about people’s dirty little secrets.

When it’s not, What’s Bred in the Bone does contain the kind of felicities to which Davies rose in his short essays. Fun facts float out like bread on the waters: “The name of the Recording Angel was Raduriel...the Angel of Biography, and his name was the Lesser Zadkiel.” Clever phrases bubble up: “lettuce-juice words like ‘extra-terrestrial,’” “a drunken detrimental called Old Billy,” “a man who knew his place, but also knew his worth.” We can hear the Liszt rhapsody performed at “pell-mell speed,” see the schoolboys drawing and shellacking silly faces on their raincoats, feel Frank’s admiration for a cousin who “was a Terror, even among the Chegwidden lunatics.” For sheer word-smithcraft, I agree, Davies deserved the fame he enjoyed. I merely prefer his craft dedicated to fun facts, literary criticism, and parodies rather than continually twitching shower curtains and giggling at the back views of people.

If you don’t agree, you may have remembered by now that Davies was Canada’s best known writer during the years before Atwood and Gibson teamed up. No doubt at least we can agree that, some of the time, he deserved his reputation. If you like wit and literacy mixed with smut, this book is for you.