Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A little of this and a little of that, or Fast away the old year passes

Two more days and 2015 will be history. I'm still boggled at the thought that the 21st century has arrived, and already a sixth of it is down the drain.

A hundred years ago we (well, not we, but you know what I mean) were embroiled in World War I and the sinking of the Lusitania was just months away.

Two hundred years ago the Napoleonic Wars, which had lasted from May 1803 until November 1815, ended in Europe. On this side of the pond in America, General (and future President) Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans early in 1815. Since 1959, thanks to country singer Johnny Horton, we former colonists remember it this way (2:28).

Three hundred years ago, the French had just lost Louis XIV after a 72-year reign (if Her Majesty reads this blog, there's a new goal for you) and the British were just beginning to get used to George I after the death of Queen Anne of rounded furniture legs fame. Here is a statue of her that stands in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

A High Tory political opponent of Queen Anne wrote that "it was fitting she was depicted with her rump to the church, gazing longingly into a wineshop". Except that our president would be gazing at a golf course instead of a wineshop, many Americans know, as they prepare to enter a new year that will see the end of the reign tenure of Barack Obama, just how that Tory felt.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Got a minute? I have something really important to tell you.

On the afternoon of December 25th, whilst driving with Mrs. RWP the 30 miles to our son's home for the Brague family get-together (total in attendance: 15 , or 17 if you count Chester the dog and Gracie the cat) , I turned the radio on in our car (which vehicle was recently upgraded to a 2006 Nissan Murano with 107,000 miles from a 2000 Toyota Camry with 324,000 miles and now we are only a decade behind the consumer paradise where the automobile industry's incessant commercials tell us every right-thinking citizen should be instead of a decade-and-a-half) . It being Christmas and all, the regularly scheduled talk-radio programs (Can you say Rush? Can you say Sean?) had been replaced by four-hours of pre-recorded holiday music entitled "Mannheim Steamroller's American Christmas" -- I know it was pre-recorded because (1) the very same four-hour tape was broadcast on the afternoon of December 24th as well and (2) the talent presented included stuff like Bing Crosby singing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and a male-female duo who reminded me of but were not Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and what sounded like a very young Barbra Streisand singing, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" -- stuff nobody but old geezers whose minds are gone and whose muscles are too atrophied to stretch out their hands and change the station would listen to for more than five minutes.

I said all that to say this.

After every third or fourth song, the music was interrupted by somebody from Mannheim Steamroller telling all of us in the vast listening audience some supposedly interesting fact about the season. One of these non-musical segments was about our old friend Santa Claus and his counterparts in various countries of the world. What nearly made me drive off the road was that after the man with the radio-trained voice said that in England Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas, he told us that in France he is called Pierre Noël.

You read that correctly. Pierre Noël.

Au contraire, my golden-voiced, misinformed, highly paid friend. In France Santa Claus is not called Pierre Noël (Peter Christmas) . He is called Père Noël (Father Christmas) .

I'm so glad we had this time together.

I feel so much better now.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hodie Christus natus est

Well, not exactly hodie, more like the day after tomorrow, but I may not post again before Christmas.

As we used to say in Old English, wolcum yol.

Shooting Parrots expressed his admiration of the nativity tableau in my last post. Ian, this close-up is for you. Yorkshire Pudding expressed his dislike that my photographs overlap into my sidebar. As my mother used to say, like it or lump it.

I thought I skipped the Bah, Humbug phase this year, but apparently it is trying to rear its ugly head.

I won't let it.

I will listen to Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols.

I will listen to the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah.

I will listen to the King Singers sing "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming".

I will listen to the good folk in Gloucester Cathedral sing Christina Rossetti's words, "In the Bleak Midwinter".

I will listen to Karen Carpenter sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

I recommend that you do the same. If those won't get you out of any residual pre-holiday funk, nothing will.

I have used U.K.-style end punctuation throughout this post (the periods outside the double commas).

I repeat, Wolcum yol.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It’s NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas, plus a 7-year-old’s advice to President Obama

This is a bifurcated post. For those of you in Alabama, that means it has two parts.

Let’s begin.

It’s NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Oh, there’s this:

and this:

and this:

and even this:

but so far there’s not any of this:

The temperature around here has been in the 70s this week. That’s Fahrenheit, kiddies, not Celsius. Let’s not be ridiculous. Global warming hasn’t gone quite that far yet. Although I did read that it was 93 in Brisbane, Australia.

Which brings us to Part 2 of this post.

I also heard on the radio that a father explained to his 7-year-old son, after they both had listened to President Obama speak last Sunday night, what terrorism is and what global warming is. The father happened to mention that Earth’s temperature is expected to rise by two degrees in the next 100 years. The son sat down and wrote two letters to President Obama.

The first letter said, “Don’t be afraid of the bad guys. Just go and fight them.”

The second letter said, “Buy some sunblock.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Thus ends this bifurcated post. As it is my 87th post of the year, I probably will not make it to 100 posts in 2015. Still, seven or so times a month for a 74-year-old man is pretty darned good, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Time marches on and I must too!

I can't believe it’s December.

Thanksgiving came and went. We shared ours with 45 people altogether. Not all at once, mind you. We attended two Thanksgiving feasts, one on Thursday in Alabama at our daughter’s in-laws’ home with 29 in attendance, and one on Saturday closer to home at our second son’s home with 16 in attendance. A good time was had by all on both occasions.

So now it’s the first week of December. St. Nicholas Day. Pearl Harbor Day. Christmas is right around the corner. I don’t even want to think about it.

The busy-ness of the season has already started. Two choir practices last week instead of one, the regular Thursday night rehearsal and an additional two-hour rehearsal on Saturday. Friday evening we traveled 25 miles to our granddaughter's school to watch her in a musical program. Saturday evening we attended the Christmas extravaganza at the huge mega-church our neighbor attends (seating capacity: 9000). This week there’s our third-oldest grandson’s 18th birthday and two more choir rehearsals. Chiropractor appointments. Haircut appointments. Basketball games. Prayer meetings. Shopping trips. Wrapping of presents. Sending of Christmas cards. Getting out the nativity scene. Putting up the tree. Getting down the decorations. Actually decorating. Cleaning the house. I’m already tired and it hasn’t even begun yet.

As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, “It’s always something.” I do miss Gilda Radner.

Instead of complaining, though, I will be thankful that I am alive and breathing and in good health, because twenty years ago next month I had a heart attack, an anterior myocardial infarction, to be exact. Fortunately I have never had to take a single nitroglycerin pill.

At my last semi-annual visit to the cardiologist, my EKG was excellent and all my lab work was within normal ranges except for one thing. My good cholesterol, the HDL, was a bit low. I asked him if there was something I could do to increase it and he told me that only two things will raise one’s HDL -- exercise and red wine. He recommended one glass with evening meals. He also wants me to exercise but we will have to see how that goes. (Yorkshire Pudding recommended yesterday that I take up Yemenite dancing.)

I told our prayer group leader that it was official: my doctor had told me to drink a glass of red wine every evening. The prayer group leader said, "That must be a big relief" and we both laughed hysterically.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

First night of Hanukkah, er, Chanukah, er, the Festival of Lights

At sundown tonight -- or, for some of you, at sundown last night -- the eight-day Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah began. Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or however you choose to spell it) marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV (around 165 B.C.).

It commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil" that held enough oil to last one day but burned for eight. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Each evening during Hanukkah, another candle is lit on the menorah until, on the final day, the entire menorah is lit.

The re-dedication of the temple is described in the book of First Maccabees in the Apocrypha, which writings are accepted as canon by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but not by Protestant churches. (Your trivia fact for the day: Protestant Bibles contain 66 books; Catholic and Orthodox Bibles contain 73 books.) The "miracle" itself is not mentioned in First Maccabees, but the eight days are.

The dreidel, a four-sided top, is used for a game played during Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), and ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for the Hebrew phrase "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, reading from right to left, of course) which means "a great miracle happened there."

I am indebted to Wikipedia for much of the information in the preceding paragraphs.

(Photo by Roland Scheicher, 1 August 2006)

No matter what anyone might have told you, Hanukkah is not "the Jewish Christmas."

In the interest of full disclosure, my mother was Jewish (non-practicing) and my father was Christian (lapsed Methodist).
I was raised Christian and have never attended a synagogue, but for years I struggled with my own identity. I wondered whether I was Christian or Jewish or half-Jewish, whatever that meant, and whether there could even be such a thing as "half-Jewish." In 1962, Mrs. Lydia Buksbazen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose husband Victor headed the Friends of Israel missionary organization, told me, "Hitler would have considered you Jewish." So basically, if my great-grandfather Max Silberman and my great-grandmother Sarah Nusbaum had not left Germany with their respective families and come to America in the mid-nineteenth century, we might not be having this conversation.

This year, the eight days of Hanukkah run from sundown Sunday, December 6th through Monday, December 14th. Therefore, please do not wish your Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” around December 25th, long after it has ended. They will certainly appreciate the thought but they may look at you strangely.

[Editor's note. Parts of this post were previously published on this blog in 2007, 2008, and 2011. --RWP]

Friday, December 4, 2015

It’s simple, really...

...when you think about it.

I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.

Everything is so much clearer now.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A quiet afternoon at the bookstore

...can turn into something else entirely when my youngest grandson, aged 14, is out and about.

In other news, we are expecting our first hard freeze in North Georgia tonight. Temperatures will drop into the 20s (Fahrenheit) , so I have turned off the water supply to the outside spigots and covered the gardenia bush with a queen-sized sheet. The camellias and azaleas will just have to fend for themselves. But they are a hardy lot and have survived every winter of their blooming lives so far.

Today is also the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald. Fewer and fewer people remember that terrible day. To my grandson, so full of life, it is ancient history.

John and Jackie Kennedy at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. (Photo by Art Rickerby—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

“Now, in the sunny freshness of a Texas morning,” LIFE magazine would write in its Nov. 29, 1963, issue, “with roses in her arms and a luminous smile on her lips, Jacqueline Kennedy still had one hour to share the buoyant surge of life with the man at her side.”

Life goes on, except when it doesn’t.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A horrible example is more effective than a word to the wise every time

It wasn’t in the night, but it definitely went bump.

I was in my bathroom on Thursday morning, sitting on what Americans quaintly call “the potty” and reading blogs on my iPhone at the same time. Eventually I finished both activities, but I must have been sitting there for quite a while because when I tried to rise, my jammies still at half-mast, I discovered that my feet and lower legs had fallen asleep. I pitched forward, unable to stand. To call my temporary affliction the “wobblies” would be a bit of an understatement.

Something went bump all right.


Kersplat is more like it.

Narrowly missing both the shower door and the bathtub, I made a perfect three-point landing on the tile floor.

To keep your imagination from running wild, I hasten to divulge that the three points were my left elbow, my left pinky finger, and my head. I do have a few bruises and scrapes and my body seems to be sore all over, but I was not seriously injured.

Thanks be to God.

Since there but for the grace of God go you, I want to leave you with what Michael Conrad in the role of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say at the beginning of every episode of Hill Street Blues:

“Let’s be careful out there.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sayings of Chairman Obama

June 2015:

November 12, 2015:

November 16, 2015:

...and on and on it goes. On and on and on.

I have stopped listening, but stupidity is hard to ignore.

God help us all.

Even the very liberal Democratic Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, a longtime member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, could not keep silent. Here is an article from the Washington New Beacon:

Feinstein Contradicts Obama: ISIS ‘Is Not Contained,’ It’s ‘Expanding’
by Alex Griswold, November 16th, 2015

Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein contradicted President Barack Obama‘s statement Thursday that the U.S. had “contained” ISIS, telling MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that they were actually gaining strength.

“We have been talking about the president’s strategy, he reiterated his strategy today,” Mitchell said to begin the interview. “You have said before that 50 special forces is not enough. What would it take to defeat ISIS?”

“Well, let me begin by saying this; I have never been more concerned,” Feinstein said. “I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained, ISIL is expanding. They just put out a video saying it is their intent to attack this country…”

“There’s only one way we are going to diminish them and that is by taking them out, because they are growing. They are in more than a dozen countries now, they are sophisticated, they have apps to communicate on that cannot be pierced even with a court order.”

“They are on the march. It is important to recognize this and prepare to deal with it with action,” Feinstein concluded. “And candidly, I don’t think bombing runs alone, we have done about 8,000 now, can really make a difference.”

(end of article)

I saw another headline today that said “France’s President Hollande Makes Obama Look Like A Fool”

That headline is wrong.

President Obama is doing it all by himself.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes !

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Friday, November 13, 2015

Incontrovertible proof that I am a grammar nerd

In my last post we were going to talk about when to use less and when to use fewer. But we never got around to it. Pity. At this point, that’s water under the bridge.

Sometimes I think I am a grammar nerd. (I can hear my daughter saying, “Sometimes?” But I digress.)

Take quotation marks, for instance. (I am suddenly reminded of the old one-liner by comedian Henny Youngman, “Take my wife -- please.” Oops, I did it again.)

I digress a lot. Any little thing and my mind flits off in another direction entirely. For example, on a Christian blog I read quite often, there was a small discussion going on a few days ago about the communion of saints (which phrase occurs in the last paragraph of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”) and I was suddenly off on another subject because of some quotation marks that I felt were unnecessary. I mentioned it in a comment and a short exchange ensued:

been there, done that (formerly rhymeswithplague) says:
November 6, 2015 at 9:08 am

I believe in the communion of saints. I didn’t use to, but I have come to as more and more friends and family depart this life. But something else about this post alarms me.

I am concerned about the increasing use of quotation marks on this site. Quotation marks are funny things. They can mean This Is Exactly What Was Said (Or Written) or they can mean Not Really, I’m Just Being Symbolic, Don’t Take Me Literally. A few days ago, the Trinity was described on this site as God in three “persons” and I took exception to it. I believe God exists in three persons, not in three “persons”….In today’s post it happened again. Twice. First in describing God’s realm as “heaven” and then in saying Jesus will “return”…perhaps I’m being overly pedantic and semantic, but God’s realm is real — heaven (not “heaven”) — and Jesus will return in actuality (not “return”).

Flannery O’Connor’s famous reply when Mary McCarthy said that the Eucharist was symbolic, “Well, if it’s symbolic, to hell with it.”, applies here. Heaven, God in three persons, and Jesus’ return are not symbolic. They are an actual place, an actual state, and an actual event. I am not Roman Catholic (actually, I’m Methodist) — you would have a hard time getting me to accept that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven or that she is the co-mediatrix of all grace or that the pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra — but I agree with Flannery on this one. If you want me to believe in “heaven” instead of heaven, in Jesus’ “return” instead of His return, I say “to hell with it.” And you can quote me on that.

I know this was off-topic, but I needed to get that off my chest.

Chaplain Mike says:
November 6, 2015 at 9:22 am

Bob there is a difference between the reality and our conceptions of it. When I use quotation marks, as in this post, it is to highlight the fact that we have words from scripture that name what is in fact inconceivable and indescribable. I do not mean to question the reality of these things, merely to point out that the realities we are trying to describe are above our pay grade.

This is an attempt to show humility, not deny reality.

been there, done that (formerly rhymeswithplague) says:
November 6, 2015 at 9:40 am

Understood. Thanks, Chaplain Mike, for clearing that up.

Mike H says:
November 6, 2015 at 9:35 am

I think that “quotes” are often used in recognition that some terms have a certain deeply ingrained popular usage, and that those ingrained definitions can derail a conversation if we aren’t conscious of how they’re being used. “Heaven” as fluffy cloud heaven in the sky, for example. Using quotes isn’t a sign that something isn’t real; it draws attention to the deeply ingrained ways we have of thinking about them.

That’s how I often use quotes anyways.

(end of cited material)

There are several wildly hilarious websites with examples of misused quotation marks. I will let you look them up for yourself. Far be it from me to force you to do anything.

But to repeat what I was trying to say at the beginning, anyone whose mission is to explain to others the difference between less and fewer or to straighten out the world’s insistence on using quotation marks inappropriately is definitely a grammar nerd.

I plead guilty and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.

Perhaps you can discuss appropriate punishment in the comments.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Scientia potentia est*

The two major American political parties have begun the long, arduous road to the 2016 presidential election by holding a series of so-called debates at which potential candidates can put forth their views so that the general public, or at least the party faithful, can narrow their choices from five or 10 or 16 (yes, 16) to three or four before the individual states hold their primaries after the first of the year. The Republicans are holding nine debates and the Democrats are holding six.

One of the Republican candidates, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, was applauded at Tuesday’s fourth Republican presidential debate when he called for easier access to vocational schools. Then he made the following remarkable statement: “For the life of me I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

As you might expect, philosophy majors and professors all over this great land of ours were appalled and have been expressing their disagreement with the Senator.

I am appalled as well, but not for the same reason the philosophers are.

We may need more welders -- I really don’t know -- but Senator Rubio should never have said, “We need more welders and less philosophers.” Clearly, what he should have said was, “We need more welders and fewer philosophers.”

Obviously, what we really need are more English majors.

*Knowledge is power

Monday, November 2, 2015

The first shall be last, and...well, you know.

And if you don’t, the full statement is that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

I’m sure I do not understand all the ramifications of that statement of Jesus Christ’s, but it has special meaning for me because -- full disclosure here -- I was always first in my class academically but on the athletic fields of my youth I was always chosen last. And when I say always, in both cases I mean ALWAYS.

Don’t get me wrong. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am not nearly as bright as I once thought I was. There is obviously a great deal about which I haven’t a clue (British: klew) . I’m no Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein. I’m not even Malcolm Muggeridge. Far from it. I did manage to earn a decent living working for both IBM and AT&T, but so did thousands of others. Smarter replacements arrive all the time. I am well down the list in the brains department. My athletic abilities have not improved one whit. The fulfillment of that particular prophecy/wish of last becoming first is apparently still in the future.

Life is funny (not funny ha-ha, funny peculiar) and things often have a way of working out. Hopes and dreams have a way of coming to pass. For example, Mrs. Janet Baines Brockett, my high-school math teacher, neighbor, and friend, thought I should go to Duke University. I didn’t, but one of my grandsons is a student there now. Miss Sally Pearce, my first band director, wanted me to spend a summer at the famous music camp in Interlochen, Michigan. I didn’t, but that same grandson did. I always loved baseball and longed to be able to play better. So far it hasn’t happened, but another of my grandsons was recruited to play on his college’s baseball team. Two grandsons have excelled at basketball. One actually played three different sports. All of the grandchildren are excellent students; there’s not a ringer in the bunch. One is an excellent trumpet player. One is an excellent French Horn player. Two are excellent dancers. And since these young people are extensions of me and have my blood coursing through their veins, I participate vicariously in their successes and revel in their accomplishments. It’s almost as though I’m right there too.

Please don’t try to disabuse me of this odd notion or tell me that’s not what Jesus meant. Some days it’s all I have.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Just yesterday it was 1958

Where does the time go? How can it be the end of the month already? Didn’t October just begin? Why does life move at such breakneck speed as we get older?

Margaret Mitchell called her book Gone With the Wind. Maybe that is where the time went.

At the end of The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Au contraire, F. Scott, I find that I’m being borne forward ceaselessly into the future.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. But my vehicle seems to be moving faster than ever before. The telephone poles fly past my window with ever-increasing speed and the trip is nearly over. The destination is just around the next bend. It will be here before I know it.

I want to stay a little longer. I want to enjoy the autumn leaves, the smell of the sea, the grandeur of the mountains, the laughter of children, the embrace of a lover.

I don’t want it to end. But it must. It will.

Today I am beating against the current. Tomorrow is Halloween. Tomorrow night Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. In what is a total illusion, we will all turn our clocks back and “gain and hour.”

No, we won’t.

November 1st is All Saints Day. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. Easter. 2025.

Time marches on. I wish I could too.

I am a Christian. I do believe that a better life awaits. So what am I trying to say exactly?

Maybe just this: “To life! To life! L’chaim!”

I don’t think this post makes any sense, but I’m going to publish it anyway.

Maybe one of you can explain it to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October! That means it must be...

...wait for it...


Long time no post.

A few weeks ago we drove to southeastern North Carolina for the funeral of Mrs. RWP’s brother at the same time that Hurricane Joaquin and a second unnamed storm inundated that part of America’s coast with mucho agua. Agua is the Spanish word for water and mucho in this case means between seven and ten inches of the wet stuff. If you are not of a scientific bent, let me just tell you that that is a lot of rain. The trip was, to put it mildly, a trip. On the way back to Georgia, the car containing my two sons hydroplaned on Interstate 95 in South Carolina, but they managed to get home unharmed.

We recently returned home from another trip. We spent a few days in a beautiful cabin in the mountains of western North Carolina. The leaves were just beginning to turn. The temperature got down to 39 degrees Fahrenheit one morning but the days were clear, brisk, and fabulous. We were about the same distance from the coastal deluge experience as Sheffield, England, U.K. is from Antwerp, Belgium, but we were still in North Carolina. (Yes, Virginia, America is a big country.) I didn’t do any posting. I just stood on the deck and gazed at this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

We left refreshed, renewed, reinvigorated, and ready to return to whatever the future holds.

I knew you would understand.

Friday, October 9, 2015

As Oscar Hammerstein II said back in 1945...

It might as well be spring.

Of course, it is spring in the Southern Hemisphere now (waves to Sue, Helsie, Carol, and Katherine) but here in the good old hémisphère nord it is definitely l’automne. Autumn. Fall. Clear blue skies. Cool days and even cooler nights.

But you would never know it by looking at our yard. I took this photograph yesterday afternoon with my cell phone:

Our front yard is adorned with several Encore Azaleas -- they bloom in both spring and fall, hence “encore” -- and a lovely Sasanqua Camellia bush that bursts forth faithfully every October.

The pot of yellow chrysanthemums on the wrought-iron table in the entranceway? That was my own addition.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me

So there I was, blogging somewhat less than in days of yore, tootling along with around 100 views per day, some days fewer, some days more, when suddenly on October 3rd a spike occurred.

Here’s how it appeared on Blogger’s chart of this week:

...and here’s a slightly longer view showing the past month:

There have been spikes before but never of this magnitude.

Specifically, this blog had 87 views on October 2nd and 108 views on October 4th, but on October 3rd it had 2,987 views. About 90% of these originated within the United States. What I want to know is:

What does it portend?

Let the speculation begin.

P.S. to Hilltophomesteader: I am going to send you a proper thank you by snail mail shortly, but I wanted to report that we found your package by our front door Monday morning after we returned home from North Carolina late on Sunday night.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Today is:

(a) the day after the fourth blood moon of 2014-2015;
(b) the day after the astronomical trifecta of the harvest moon, the super-moon (when the moon is at perigee and appears 14% larger than when it is at apogee), and a spectacular total lunar eclipse;
(c) the day after Pope Francis completed his three-day whirlwind tour of the United States -- well, the cities of Washington (where he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress), New York (where he addressed the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly and visited Ground Zero), and Philadelphia (where he celebrated his umpteenth mass since arriving);
(d) five days after the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, which is the vernal equinox in the southern hemisphere;
(e) five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in year 5776 of the Hebrew calendar; and
(f) two days after the death of my 84-year-old brother-in-law, now free from pain and the ravaging effects of Parkinson’s disease, whose funeral we will be attending later this week.

It has been a busy week.

Today is also the eighth anniversary of the day this blog began.

Happy anniversary to me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Two, Two, Two Posts In One, or One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others Department / There's Something About Adjectives

A. Ovine - like a sheep
B. Bovine - like a cow
C. Equine - like a horse
D. Porcine - like a pig
E. Lupine - like a wolf
F. Vulpine - like a fox
G. Canine - like a dog
H. Feline - like a cat
I. Ursine - like a bear
J. Serpentine - like a snake
K. Asinine - like a donkey
L. Feminine - like a female
M. Masculine - like a male
N. Divine - like a god, like God
O. Pristine - like a virgin (Madonna Louise Ciccone, take note.)
P. Tatooine - Luke Skywalker’s home planet

My answer is Tatooine because it is a noun and all the rest are adjectives. Perhaps you have another answer for another reason. I’d like to hear it.

Even more words end in -ine -- elephantine, byzantine, morphine, nicotine -- but not all of them are adjectives.

Funny things, adjectives. They have different endings. Let me count the ways (my apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning):

1. -ine: (see list above)
2. -ic: (gigantic, rustic, pedantic, pediatric, geometric, alphabetic, moronic, idiotic, tectonic, bubonic, Teutonic, demonic, fantastic)
3. -ous: (bulbous, monstrous, miraculous, marvelous, multitudinous, disastrous, mountainous, bodacious, wondrous)
4. -al: (vernal, maternal, paternal, fraternal, arboreal, dual, verbal, adjectival, pastoral)
5. -ant: (verdant, dormant)
6. -an: (gargantuan, Machiavellian)
7. -ian: (Christian, pedestrian)
8. -ful: (wonderful, beautiful, masterful, plentiful, delightful)
9. -ar: (peninsular, jocular, popular)
10. -ile: (mercantile, fragile, docile, juvenile, mobile)
11. -ish: (Jewish, outlandish)
12. -ial: (partial, marsupial, adverbial)

So there are at least a dozen. Maybe even more.

But I do wonder why adjective endings developed the way they did. [Editor’s note. It probably has something to do with declensions in Latin. --RWP] Why do we say “a prepositional phrase”and not “a prepositionic phrase? Why do we say “gargantuan”? Why not “gargantuous”? And why did the Sherman brothers write “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” for the Mary Poppins movie instead of, say, “Supercalifragilociousexpialidistic”?

Adjectives are indeed funny -- not “funny Ha ha” but “funny peculiar” -- and don’t even get me started on the differences in British punctuation and American punctuation.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The first Frost of the season

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(from “The Road Not Taken”)

Good fences make good neighbors. (from “Mending Wall”)

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. (from “Birches”)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(from “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

Don’t like excerpts? Here are three in their entirety:

The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be--
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cue the Woodpecker, or I am a camera

Speaking of Walter Winchell, the mid-twentieth-century American broadcaster/newsman always began his radio programs by saying, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea” with the sound of a telegraph in the background.

After beginning this blogpost with a reference to the previous one, I now continue it by saying, “Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Señoras y Señores, Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages, please direct your attention to the center ring this blogpost has absolutely nothing to do with Walter Winchell, ships at sea, or telegraphs.”

No, friends, the subject of this blogpost is still lifes.

I know, I need to work on my segues.

According to the well-known but admittedly non-authoritative online encyclopedia Wikipedia, “A still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, dead animals, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on).”

There are an amazing number of paintings entitled “Still Life with...” and the subjects are many and varied. Some of the ones I found online are:

- Still Life with Pie, Silver Ewer, and Crab (Heda)
- Still Life with a Globe and a Parrot (Boel)
- Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Rembrandt)
- Still Life with Fruit, Flowers, Glasses and Lobster (de Heem)
- Still Life with Bouquet and Fan (Renoir)
- Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle (Meléndez)
- Still Life with Silverware (Manieri)
- Still Life with Apples, a Pear, and a Ceramic Portrait Jug (Gaugain)
- Still Life with Cherub (Cézanne)
- Still Life with a Beer Mug (Léger)
- Still Life with Sunflowers (Gaugain)
- Still Life with Geraniums (Matisse)
- Still Life with Chair Caning (Picasso)
- Still Life with Eggplants (Matisse)
- Still Life with Goldfish Bowl (Lichtenstein)

They go on and on and on.

Not to be outdone, here are three still life photographs I took in our home:

1. Still Life: Kitchen corner with Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), 1940s-era Wooden High Chair, Fruit Plaque, Ceramic Duck, and Grapes Painting by Renowned New Zealand Artist Kate Steeds:

2. Still Life: Cherry-Pineapple-Coconut-Pecan Dump Cake with Ice Cream and Aluminum (British: Aluminium) Foil:

3. Still Life: Coffee Mug with Methodist Hymnal on Blue Tablecloth:

The Methodist Hymnal above was given to me by Mrs. Joan M., who found it among her mother’s belongings after her mother died. It is quite small and contains lyrics only, no musical notes. The oldest item in my home, its title page shows a publication date of 1845:

In composing this post and sharing some of our still lifes with you, I felt my heart strangely warmed.

[Editor’s note. The last sentence is an allusion to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It’s okay if you didn’t get it. --RWP]

Monday, September 7, 2015

Separated at birth?

20th-century American broadcaster/newsman Walter Winchell

Actor/writer/comedian Steve Martin

Read more about them here and here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Green is not the color/colour of my true love’s hair

...but it is the color/colour of the outfit she wore at my recent “retiring-as-pianist-but-not-leaving” reception:

...and of some of the icing on the cake:

...and of the pastor’s shirt and the bag the marginata plant was in (here are 3 views of each):

It was even incorporated into the lei and the paper napkins:

Green is also the color/colour of my newest favorite thing, a gardenia bush planted three years ago by our back door. People sometimes say of English ivy that the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps. This saying applies as well to our gardenia bush, because after two years of sleeping and creeping, it suddenly began blooming this month for the very first time. Today I counted eleven gardenias growing on it, but I couldn’t get them all in one photograph:

Note to my loyal readers: Although I have not yet turned into a doddering old fool, I am well on the way to becoming one.

You do not have to agree with me in the comments.

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...