Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finding Your Inner Slop

  The Americans made the first automatic transmissions for cars. The British took a U.S. transmission and copied it exactly, but it would not work. When they had an American engineer check it out he told them it was too tight. "You have to build in a little slop."
  It's like that with anything you try to do in life. Bread making for example. My first loaves were disasters. It didn't help that I was using my grandmother's 1899 edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I spent half the day running around the South Shore looking for obscure ingredients like cake yeast. Then I followed the ancient method of letting the dough rise overnight. I found people to eat my results, but they did so without joy. Later I realized dough is forgiving. But only in certain specific ways.
  Or take foreign languages. You hear a delegation from Botswana is coming to town. You dig out an old National Geographic and learn a couple of phrases of greeting. But when you try them out, you only get the universal look for WTF for reply.  Unfortunately your accent is off because your vocal cords are up tight.
  And a final example from the art world. I want to be the Rembrandt of Roseau County. He lived in a flat country and so do I. When I look at his pen and ink landscapes, I can see the peasant shoveling manure in his stable five miles across the dikes. But in my tightly rendered views, all you see is a jumble of ink lines. I need to loosen up without falling apart completely.
  Thanks to much practice, I have the bread making down. The language and the art are still sloppy in the wrong ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The numbers are all wrong

  As retirement approaches, I must decide what to keep and what to throw overboard. My New Yorker subscription is expiring. I've been an off-and-on subscriber since I was 16. I have two reasons to let it lapse again: money and time. It's $89.99 to renew for 47 issues. Strange how the years get shorter as I get older. Two dollars an issue, not bad for something I get a lot of pleasure from, but it cuts into my allotted time. Time to read all the books I've accumulated. It's telling that the cover of my final issue of the New Yorker, dated October 20, has a drawing of a woman reading a book in a room overflowing with books. I'll take that as a sign, and if I lay low for a few months, they'll make me an offer I can't refuse.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Swinging In The Wind

My mother taught me to write thank you notes. Today's mothers should teach their kids to respond to emails. Trouble is, they don't respond to emails themselves.
I respond to every email I get within 72 hrs. I even respond to the Nigerian scammers: "Thanks for thinking of me, but my mother-in-law always warned against things that seemed too good to be true."
I would like to respond immediately to emails, but don't want to appear needy and pathetic. I send my correspondents interesting emails then hear nothing (with a couple of exceptions). When I see that person I ask them if they got my message. "Yeah, I meant to respond, but your email was so good, I was speechless."
A simple "Thanks" and a brief description of the local weather is all I need. So pathetic.

Friday, January 31, 2014


They say the kids are deserting Facebook because it's not cool.
 They'll be back.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three Questions

Not worried about NSA sweeps?
Have you ever made fun of the government?
Ever heard of J. Edgar Hoover?