On a rather cold morning recently I glanced out the window and what did I see on the bush just outside the window? What I saw was something that looked like a deformed red fruit with frost on it. This seemed strange since the apples are long gone (though I found one on the lawn just the other day), the bush in question is not fruit bearing, and it wasn't frosting yet.
Clearly it wasn't some bit of errant fruit, but what was it? After some peering the truth awakened within me. (I get so tired of the "dawned on me" metaphor.) It was a sleeping male purple finch. Its feathers were fluffed up and its head was tucked into its wing. What I took to be frost was the grey and white of its wing feathers.
Sleep well little bird; winter's coming soon.
A note on the existence of God
On a personal note I studied mysticism in my youth. (This was back in the days when we had rock gardens because we hadn't invented dirt yet.) I did indeed attain direct and unmediated contact with God. Being a curious sort, I asked Him if He existed. He replied that He did not. That settled, I forthwith became an atheist and have remained one ever since. After all, what better authority for the non-existence of God can there be than God himself?
If I recall correctly, Wyoming is our least populous state. Western Wyoming has Jackson Hole, the Tetons, and Yellowstone, all tourist attractions. There's money in them thar parts. There's not much money or people in the rest of Wyoming. There are more mountains and a lot of rather dry high prairie ... and coal. They ship a lot of coal out of Wyoming. Long coal trains snake eastwards through South Dakota several times a day, providing the stuff of electricity for the midwest.
It is as though the cities are giant leeches on the landscape, sucking sustenance out of the land. There is much to that, you know. In 1900 there were a little over one billion people in the world. Today there are a little over six billion people. Where are these people? In the great mega-cities. We have become very efficient in extracting food stuffs, minerals, and fossil fuels from the earth, so efficient that we need fewer and fewer people supporting more and more people. The countryside empties and the cities grow. We poison the planet to support our growing population. So, yes:
The cities are giant leeches on the landscape, sucking sustenance out of the land.
Testosterone is not an antibiotic
Why don't men go to the doctor? I will tell you why. Part of being a man is dealing with dealing with pain and injury. Encoded somewhere deep in the male psyche, probably encoded on the Y chromosome, is the firm conviction that testosterone is the universal antibiotic, the antidote to pain and injury, no other nostrum needed. It is part of our nature to act as though it were true even though common sense tells us that it is so much hogwash.
American politics has its looney tunes fringes. (Please do not bring up the Republicans and the Democrats - this is about the fringes.) There is a rich eccentric (when you are rich you are eccentric; when you are poor you are a crackpot) in California who doesn't like judges. He feels that you should be able to sue judges if you feel that they have done you dirt. He has been trying to get an amendment to this effect on the ballot in California for years without much success. Apparently he is a bit too much even for Californians and that's saying something. After all we are talking about a state where a body builder ran against a porn star in the race for governer.
Enter South Dakota. One of the charms of South Dakota is that it takes very few signatures to get something on the ballot. It takes something like twenty signatures to get on the libertarian primary ballot as a candidate for governor. I've been thinking about running for governor for some time. Libertarian would do nicely; the thing that would be hard is to actually find twenty liberatarians. Once I get over that hurdle I figure the rest would be a piece of cake.
But I digress. Our California friend found a fellow soul, another well-to-do fruitcake, in South Dakota. Together they and some of their like minded friends put together an action group. They hired some people to go out and gather signatures. Apparently South Dakotans are friendly people who will put their names down on anything provided they are asked nicely. That's the most charitable explanation that I have come up with. The hired signature gatherers went out and gathered rather more than the 17,000 needed signatures and, lo and behold, amendment E will be on the ballot in November.
What does amendment E say? As near as I can make out it creates a special grand jury. Judges and such like scum are not welcome on this grand jury; however convicted felons are welcome. (I don't know what they do about judges who are convicted felons.) If John Citizen feels that a judge has done him wrong in the course of a trial, he can go to the special grand jury. If the grand jury agrees with him, it can strip the judge's judicial immunity, and poor wronged John Citizen can sue the evil judge for damages. Naturally the decisions of the special grand jury cannot be appealed. After all, the point of this exercise is to give control back to the people and take it away from judges. I don't what court these law suits would place in, but I suspect the grand jury gets to try the judge too.
Even quainter, there is some doubt as to the scope of this amendment. Apparently pretty much any government official, country commissioners and school boards in particular, might be fair game. The proponents say it's just judges. At least they do in their public literature. They've been known to say differently in private.
I think it is fair to say that this is a really dumb idea. Still, you never know. Sometimes voters really latch onto dumb ideas. After all, they elected George W. Bush.
Vanilla ShortsOne of the things that I wanted to do in my recent visit to the Granola state (that would be California, home of the fruits and the flakes) was to acquire some vanilla beans. Vanilla has an undeserved reputation for being bland. Not so. Yes, the diluted ersatz used in processed food as a "flavor" is bland; however the real thing has an intense flavor and aroma much beloved by gourmets.
Not surprisingly, vanilla beans are hard to come by in South Dakota. We are sort of out on the end of the distribution channels out here, and the climate favors not growing all sorts of things. However the Granola state is a magic land wherein all sorts of produce is grown. Even if they don't grow vanilla there, all manner of good things stream in, quite often at surprisingly low prices.
I did bring back a small package of three beans that cost about a dollar apiece, a price rather better than those in South Dakota. (I once paid $15 for a single dried bean in fancy jar.) However my little sister Lois promised to send me a care package. She delivered. The other day a package arrived. In it was a sealed package containing about a dozen fresh Indonesian vanilla beans. Also in it was a pair of men's shorts, that I had overlooked when I was doing laundry at her home.
The seal on the packet of vanilla was not proof against the intensity of the vanilla aroma. The interior of the mail package was redolent with vanilla. My shorts were very aromatic.
Some people's underwear stinks; some people's underwear smells of roses; mine smells of vanilla.
This page was last updated October 1, 2006.