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Collected editorials

Now what have you gotten yourself into?

Educating Australia

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has written asking permission to use a paragraph from my web site in a bank of Year 12 trial examination stimuli, and, if suitable, in academic examination programs. The paragraph is from a page called Colorless green ideas sleep furiously that refers to a famous “meaningless” sentence composed by Noam Chomsky. The paragraph in question reads:

A green idea is, according to well established usage of the word “green” is one that is an idea that is new and untried. Again, a colorless idea is one without vividness, dull and unexciting. So it follows that a colorless green idea is a new, untried idea that is without vividness, dull and unexciting. To sleep is, among other things, is to be in a state of dormancy or inactivity, or in a state of unconsciousness. To sleep furiously may seem a puzzling turn of phrase but one reflects that the mind in sleep often indeed moves furiously with ideas and images flickering in and out.
Naturally I granted them permission. However I do have to wonder: Whatever are they doing to the minds of Australian students?

Boycotting South Dakota

Apparently some people wish to boycott South Dakota because our state’s illustrious legislature passed a bill banning abortion. The legislature’s theory is that the Supreme Court will hear a case about the constitutionality of the law and overturn Roe vs Wade. I have some skepticism about the likelihood of this, but if the legislature wants to waste the taxpayer money on this folderol, so be it. After all, the taxpayer money has to be wasted on something.

That article in Daily Kos is bravely optimistic (The headline reads “ACTION ALERT: South Dakota Boycott is working!”) but the fine print suggests that nobody cares. According to an article from the Rapid City Journal that they reprinted, the SD department of tourism got 12 emails of protest, and the Journal got 9 letters of comment. A veritable tidal wave indeed.

I suspect that the truth is that most people neither know nor care where South Dakota is, including the blog’s author, Tom Duncombe, who managed to misspell “Dakota” as “Dakora”.

The value of South Dakota

Not only is South Dakota on the Liberal brown list, it is getting flack from our neighbours to the East. Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn) said the Mayo Clinic “is worth a hell of a lot more than the whole state of South Dakota.” He later apologized. I disapprove. If the man had the character to say it, he should have had the character to stand by it.

Observations on Pompei

The difficulty with using lava rock as a building material is that sometimes you get far too much in the way of fresh supply.


A long winded trip report complete with photos that recounts our trip to Italy will appear just as soon as I get it done. The details are guaranteed to be accurate except in those instances where it was necessary to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Kitchen Blues

If you were about to head off to Rome in four days what would you do in your remaining days in the United States. Obviously there is only one thing to do – rip out your kitchen. At least that’s the obvious thing to do if you are Richard Harter. It’s like this – Our Lady of the Large Black Dog has been after me to redo the kitchen in Chez Harter for the past year or two. I naturally agreed that this would be a good thing to do with the private proviso that said redo should neither cost money nor involve any significant effort on my part.

The antiquity of the furnishings didn’t particularly bother me; likewise I wasn’t troubled by their manifest inefficiency. That sort of thing is quite easy to live with. However there was some features that did distress me. Over the years the cement slab had settled a bit and had separated from the foundation, leaving a gap that provided access for cold breezes and sundry animal life such as mice, voles, and invading army ants. (Actually they were sugar ants but at times there would be an army of them.) Of late the mice had become regular visitors, dropping in to sample the peanut butter in the traps I set for them.

My patience with unwanted visitors seemingly had reached a limit. I had called a local workman to disassemble the ground level cabinets, these being the ones that concealed that which must be dealt with. Said local workman said that he could maybe attend to it in a week or two or sometime. My patience having passed the limit, I armed myself with hammer, crowbar, and circular saw and tackled the delights of demolition. (One of the truths of our species is that we delight in destruction even more than we do in construction.) Some hours later the back end of the pickup was filled with bits and pieces of formica covered particle board, masonite, plywood, drawers that never quite fit properly, cheap pine, and sundry plumbing. The body of the fossilized mouse (who had added an unpleasant aroma whilst he was decomposing) was sent outside across the fence in the serene knowledge that the elements would deal with his remains. The various evidences of nesting went into the trash; the less said about that, the better, so forget that I wrote this sentence.

This done, the unpleasant truths of that which lay behind the cabinets was exposed. This was not at all as bad as it might have been. The larger holes were stuffed with steel wool (I am told that mice do not like to burrow through steel wool). The misalignment of floor and foundation was corrected with a liberal application of patching cement. Sundry holes in the plaster were filled with plaster. The major offender was a faucet that went to the outside. The hole that it went through had been “sealed” by expanding foam. The “seal” had come totally loose from the hole and was hanging in a ring around the pipe. Surprisingly, the kitchen was much warmer when all of these holes and cracks were filled.

Having done all that I headed off to Italy with Our Lady where we had a wonderful time. The price of having a wonderful time in Italy or where ever is that you have to come back and face the music. In my case the “music” was my shambles of a kitchen. I am tackling this project in stages. The plumber has come and fixed a small leak that had not previously been evident. Walls are primed with killz (an anti-mildew primer) and a particularly offensive wall cabinet has been torn down.

I have been to a nearby (nearby by local standards – 120 miles away) palace of consumption yclept Menards where they vend home construction materials. Whilst there I purchased a door, 1650 square feet of ceramic tiles, a wet saw, and a large quantity of adhesive and grout. The palace did not have the requisite quantity of tile in stock, so it is all to be delivered some time in early march. The later, the better, I say, because the delivery marks the beginning of serious hard labor.

I purchased the door for two reasons, one being to change where and how it opens, and the other because the current door is tired and drafty. The tile I purchased because the current flooring is also tired, albeit not drafty, at least it isn’t when you get away from the places where cement slab doesn’t quite meet the foundation. There was also the consideration that the ideal time to redo the floors is when the kitchen is torn out.

The reason I am using ceramic tile is quite simple; putting in new flooring is expensive and I am cheap. (Everything involved with houses is expensive.) Good linoleum is expensive, and cheap linoleum is overpriced. It is a major pain to put in wood flooring on top of a cement slab. Etc. You can get good (but not superlative) ceramic tile at a better price than the alternatives provided you’re willing to do the installation yourself.

I actually wanted to do the installation myself. My reasons, other than the economy thereof, are simple. Putting in new flooring is a major proposition because of all the auxiliary effort required. Everything has to be moved at some point. Given the amount and kind of furniture present, this is not a simple project. It will take some months and must be done in stages.

I shall report more later.

Ten years publishing and what do you get?

According to my records this marks the tenth year of publication of this web site. Some sort of celebration is in order, but I will be damned if I know what it might be. I had originally thought that it might be nice if I did a special anniversary issue filled with the wonderfully erudite and insightful pages for which I am famed. However it wouldn’t be quite sporting to do a blank issue so I scratched that idea.

I suppose I could babble a bit about the history of the site and its place in the scheme of things. Like Gaul, the history can be divided into three parts, the Concord years, the transition years, and the Deborah years. Not surprisingly, these correspond different stages in my life.

The Concord years ran roughly from 1996-1999. It took a while for the site’s format to settle down – it wasn’t until 1998 that it became a monthly e-zine. In some respects this was the most creative era. By far the bulk of the fiction and poetry was written in that period. One reason for this is that I had both plenty of free time and many coffee shops where I could spend that time. In my experience composition is best done in a coffee shop. Also, I was reprinting “The Best of Richard”, that being the better written and more interesting things I had written in fanzines over the years.

The transition years were from 2000-2002; they were a major transition in my life and, to a lesser extent, in the web site as well. In my personal life I moved from Concord to Highmore in stages, and became my mother’s agent in her final years. In the web site I did some interesting things – the reincarnation cycle was created then as were the “Calamity Jane Austin” pages – but the production of fiction and poetry gradually trailed off.

The Deborah years run from 2002 to 2006. Deborah is responsible for a good deal of happiness in my life; she is also responsible for a major change in the web site. She likes to read the editorials. Ever since we started going together the editorials have come out once a month like clockwork. Not only that, they are longer and (perhaps) more entertaining. She also likes the letter column. For some reason I can’t quite fathom she is less interested in the articles on computer science. There is, perhaps, less new original material than before (other than editorials) but I have made up for it by mining the past.

And the future? The future will be just like the past, only different.

Baja Canada

I had been told that there was a good deal of anti-American sentiment abroad. To tell the truth, I didn’t see any. Perhaps that is because, when asked, I told people that I was from Baja Canada. It worked like a charm. I suspect the average European is quite as ignorant of North American geography as is the average American of European geography.

This page was last updated March 1, 2006.

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Collected editorials