Oct 06

The twenty-third post

I encountered an interesting new meme at Neil’s World recently. Theoretically, I should wait until someone tags me with it. But it sounds like fun, so I’m going to go ahead and do it. Here’s the meme:

  1. Search your blog archive.
  2. Find your 23rd post.
  3. Find the fifth sentence (this is meant to say something about you).
  4. Post that sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
  5. Tag five people to do the same.

My archives show my twenty-third post to be Falling stars, an account of watching the Leonid meteor shower with my children in 2001. The fifth sentence of that post is: “We weren’t disappointed.” What does this say about me? I’m not sure, except that I enjoy watching bits of comet debris vaporize in the upper atmosphere.

I hereby tag the following people with this meme: Ben, Bob, Gail, Greg, Virgil

I thought about tagging Alana, but her blog is too new to have twenty-three posts. I’m sure won’t take her long to reach that number, and then someone else can tag her.

Apr 22

FridayQ: Pet

I’ve skipped the last several FridayQs because they didn’t seem very interesting. But I can’t pass up this one; it’s about pets.
FQ1: Any pets as a kid? Yes, quite a few. My parents’s household has never been without at least one dog since years before I was born. The dogs I remember best are Sally, a fox terrier we adopted when I was five, and Leo, a poodle we acquired when I was a preteen.
Some other pets were with us for briefer periods. My grandmother gave me a cat when I was very young, but my mother is allergic to cats and we had to find another home for it. When I was a teenager, I had gerbils for several years, and grew to dislike them quite a bit (they’re nasty, bad-tempered creatures that like to bite). We also had tropical fish for a while. And a parakeet.
FQ2: Any pets now? Yes, we have three pet rats. We adopted our first pair of rats in 2002, and I was amazed to find that they were nothing like the gerbils of my youth. Rats have been bred as pets for about 150 years (three times as long as gerbils) and are thoroughly domesticated. If they are handled and petted by humans from an early age, pet rats are gentle and affectionate creatures who bond with their owners and love to interact with them. (In three years with pet rats, I haven’t been bitten once.)
Our original pair of rats died this year (typical life span is two to three years), and we adopted our current trio several months ago.
FQ3: Name your favorite famous pet from television or movies. Gromit, the dog from the Wallace and Gromit films. Although I’m not sure that he really qualifies as a pet; he’s smarter than Wallace and has been his partner in a couple of business ventures.
FQ BEST FRIEND: If money and legality were not a barrier, what exotic animal would you like as a pet? Not interested. Exotic animals are not domesticated, meaning that they haven’t been bred for compatibility with humans. They are wild animals in captivity, and that’s a recipe for all kinds of problems. I’d much rather share my living space with an animal that actually likes me and wants me to play with it.

Mar 25

FridayQ: Birthday

This week’s FridayQ is about birthdays.
FQ1: When is your birthday? December 20, just a few days before Christmas. It’s the day before the winter solstice, except in leap years. In college, I often had a final exam on my birthday — but when I did, it was the last exam of the semester, so I didn’t mind. (My 19th birthday was a particularly memorable example.)
FQ2: Anything interesting happen on your birthday in history? According to the History Channel, the Louisiana Purchase was completed on 20 December 1803 when France handed over the Orleans Territory to the United States. Exactly 156 years later, I was born in the former Orleans Territory (now the state of Louisiana).
On my birthday in 1860, South Carolina (where I grew up, went to college, and got married) seceded from the Union, the first state to do so. Two years later, on 20 December 1862, Confederate general Earl Van Dorn disrupted U.S. Grant’s strategic plans by attacking Grant’s supply depot in Holly Springs, Mississippi. (I live in Holly Springs, North Carolina.) And while we’re on the subject of the Civil War, here’s a Gone With the Wind connection: Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh got married on my birthday (but not to each other, of course, and not in the same year).
In 1892, two gentlemen in Syracuse, New York patented the inflatable automobile tire on December 20. On the same day in 1945, wartime tire rationing was ended in the United States. So 12/20 has historically been a good day for tires.
The United States invaded Panama on my birthday in 1989. I remember waking up that morning and hearing the news on the radio.
FQ3: Anybody famous share your birthday? Do you have anything in common with them? I share my birthday with the following people:

FQ FUTURE: On your 100th birthday, what year will it be and what do you think you’ll be wanting as a present then? It will be 2059, and I’ll be wanting new tires for my wheelchair — unless it’s a hoverchair.

Feb 20

FridayQ: Distance

In the past, I have sometimes used the Friday Five to break the logjam when I was having trouble motivating myself to post something to this blog. Friday Five, if you don’t remember, was a website that posted a set of five questions — usually all related to a single topic — for people to answer on their blogs. But the person who ran Friday Five shut it down last year. However, bloggers who found the site useful have refused to let the idea die, and one of them has created FridayQ to fill the void.
This week’s FridayQ questions are about distance. And yes, I know I was supposed to answer them on Friday. Do you want a blog post or don’t you?
FQ1: What’s the furthest north you’ve been on this world? What were you doing there? Glens Falls, New York, where I visited a longtime penpal in 1977.
FQ2: What’s the furthest south you’ve been on this world? What were you doing there? Florida. I visited the Orlando area and Kennedy Space Center in 1976.
FQ3: Where were you born, and what’s the furthest you’ve been from that spot? I was born in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I guess Glens Falls is the farthest from there that I have ever traveled.
FQ AWAY: Name a blog you read that’s the most distant from you… whether it be emotionally, culturally, religiously, or by physical location. Gauging emotional, cultural, or religious difference sounds too hard, so I’m going to stick with the physical. Of the blogs that I read regularly, the winner has to be Tim Blair‘s. He lives in Australia. It’s hard to get much farther from North Carolina without leaving the surface of the Earth. (If my calculations are correct, my actual antipodal point is in the Indian Ocean some distance west of Australia.)
FridayQ doesn’t ask about east or west, but I’ll answer those anyway. My personal western extreme is Nevada, where my family visited some national parks in 1968. My eastern extreme is Boston, where I attended the 1989 Worldcon.
You may notice that all of the trips I mention here were many years ago; the most recent (to Boston) took place when my son Ben (who will soon turn 16) was an infant. This is not a coincidence. Becoming a parent tends to drastically reduce the amount of time and money that one can devote to travel. That’s not a complaint, just an observation.

Apr 16

Resistance is futile

Here is a meme, which I encountered on Caterina’s blog:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Sure, why not? The sentence is:
“But fair and noble as were the forms in which they were manifest to the Children of Ilúvatar, they were but a veil upon their beauty and their power.”
It’s from The Silmarillion, which just happens to be in my backpack today. “They” are the Valar, the angels of Tolkien’s universe. Ilúvatar is God, and the Children of Ilúvatar are Elves and Men.
Because the preceding exercise is a meme, you must perpetuate it on your own blog. If you don’t have a blog, you must start one in order to propagate the meme. (Actually, I made that last part up. But if it motivates someone to begin blogging, then maybe it’s true after all!)

Jun 21

Friday Five: Living spaces

I’ve noticed that my answers to the Friday Five are rather lopsided; I typically write short answers to four of the questions, but ramble on at great length in response to the other one. This week’s answers are no different.
1. Do you live in a house, an apartment or a condo? House. (Answers don’t get much shorter than that, folks.)
2. Do you rent or own? After being renters for many years, Marie and I finally bought a house four years ago.
3. Does anyone else live with you? Marie and our two children.
4. How many times have you moved in your life? I would have to ask my parents to be sure about the moves I experienced before the age of five. I was born in Thibodaux, Louisiana, but I know that we moved to Texas before my sister was born. I think we lived in at least two places in Texas (my parents have mentioned Bryan and College Station), and I suppose it’s possible we lived in more than one place in Louisiana prior to that.
My coherent memories begin after we moved back to Louisiana, this time to the town of Monroe in the northern part of the state. At first we lived in a rental house on College Avenue, but that was only for a year or two while our new house was being built on Lionel Street. We lived there for about five years before moving to Rock Hill, South Carolina, where my parents bought the house on Guilford Road in which they are still living today.
In college, I changed dorm rooms several time, but I don’t count those transitions as moves because no furniture or other big stuff was involved, just my clothes and books. So the first real move after that was when Marie and I got married and moved into our first home in Carolina Gardens, one of the Family Housing sites for students at the University of South Carolina. We lived there for two years and then moved off campus to a smaller place at Westbridge Apartments, across the river in West Columbia. No sooner did we move into a smaller place than Marie got pregnant, so we moved again a year later to a larger apartment at a complex called Forestbrook (even farther west, in Springdale). It was from there that we moved to North Carolina a year later.
In North Carolina, we actually lived in Raleigh for a year, renting an apartment just inside the Beltline at Sumter Square on Jones Franklin Road. After that we rented a house on Glen Bonnie Lane in Cary, but the owner sold it after one year, forcing us to move. We found another rental house on Wyatt’s Pond Lane and ended up living there for nine years, until finally buying our current house in Holly Springs.
I believe that adds up to twelve moves for me. (I suppose I could have made this my shortest answer answer ever by just writing “12” and skipping all the details, but what fun is that?)
5. What are your plans for this weekend? At the moment, I have none.

Jun 15

Friday Five: Laundry

Looking at Ben’s blog, I was startled to see that the Friday Five has begun appearing again. I had more or less given up on it. Well, I’m a day late, but I’ll answer this week’s questions; it seems as good a way of any to break the Blogger’s Block that’s been plaguing me for weeks.
1. How often do you do laundry? About once a week. Typically, what triggers a laundry cycle is a complaint that someone is about to run out of underwear.
2. What’s in a typical wash load? I’m doing laundry for a family of four, so there’s a great deal of stuff to wash. As a result, there is no such thing as a “typical” load; I sort clothes into whites, light colors, bright colors, dark colors, reds, jeans, underwear, and linens (bedclothes and towels). Most of these are one load each, but the lights, brights, and darks typically produce two loads, and sometimes the jeans do so as well. Lately, I’ve started separating black clothes from the other dark-colored ones, since there is enough for a full load of each. I’m not sure why the volume of black clothing has increased in recent months, but it probably has to do with having two teenagers in the house. Reds and underwear are not full loads, but have to be washed separately; I usually combine them in the dryer. Whites can sometimes be combined with some of the light colors, but that means they get washed in warm water instead of cold. (I try to wash as few partial loads as possible, to save electricity, but some of them are unavoidable.)
I have sixteen laundry baskets (Ultra Laundry Baskets from Sterilite, in every color I’ve been able to find), but usually four or five of those are unavailable when I start sorting, because they’re still sitting in people’s rooms full of clean clothes from the previous laundry cycle, waiting to be folded and put away. Washing and drying a dozen loads takes a whole weekend day, or several weekday evernings.
Yes, I’m a laundry geek.
3. Front or top loader? Powder or liquid detergent? Like most Americans, I’ve never even seen a front-loading washer. And I use two powdered detergents: Tide with Bleach for the underwear (to sterilize it, and I spray the basket with Lysol afterward), and Cheer with Liquifiber for everything else. Whites, linens, and underwear get washed in hot water, light colors in warm, and everything else in cold. (Actually, if the outside temperature is below 60, I use warm instead of cold. Water colder than 60 doesn’t dissolve the detergent properly.)
4. Do you use fabric softener in the rinse cycle? No. My family seems pretty indifferent to whether softener is used, so I don’t bother. I use softener sheets in the dryer during the winter months, but that’s to control static electricity.
5. Dryer or clothesline? Dryer. We currently have an electric dryer, which was purchased when we lived in an all-electric house. Our current house has gas, but it isn’t piped up to the laundry room, so future dryers will probably also be electric unless we determine that a gas dryer would save us a lot of money.
If it sounds like I do all of the laundry, that’s not the case. I wash and dry everything, but Marie sorts the clean laundry, and everyone is responsible for folding or hanging up their own clothes.

May 17

Friday Five: The politics of hair

I detect a certain pro-youth bias in this week’s Friday Five. All of the questions are about hair. But what if we don’t have hair? Fortunately, I still have some left.
1. What shampoo do you use? White Rain Naturals. Simple, inexpensive, and gets the job done.
2. Do you use conditioner? What kind? No, there’s really no point with hair as short (and thin, in places) as mine.
3. When was the last time you got your hair cut? I don’t know exactly, but it must be about a month ago, because I’m due for another haircut. We have a hair trimmer at home, and Marie uses it to cut my hair to a uniform length of 1/8 inch. This has to be done every three to four weeks, or it starts to look uneven — apparently, the hairs have differing opinions about the best growth rate. I’ve tried to get them to agree on a single standard rate, but they don’t listen to me.
4. What styling products do you use? I used to try to do that. I experimented with various mousses and gels to try to get my hair to stay the way I combed it. I finally realized, about six or seven years ago, that what I was attempting was futile. My hair was thinning on top, and as a result, the hair density there was insufficient for those products to work. It’s a matter of sociology, really. If the population is too low and the individual hairs live too far apart, you just can’t generate the sort of solidarity and community spirit that is needed if the hairs are going to cooperate and point in the same direction. They become rugged individualists and each goes its own way. The fabric of society was breaking down. Riots and looting were imminent. Something had to be done.
I decided only two responses were possible: resign as their leader and let anarchy reign, or impose a fascist dictatorship. I chose the latter and got a crew cut. The individual hairs are now free to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t involve growing more than half an inch. This enabled me to dispense with not only styling products, but brushes and combs as well. Once I’ve stepped out of the shower and dried my hair, I’m done with hair care for the day.
The loss of individual freedoms is regrettable, but at least I’ve made the trains run on time.
5. What’s your worst hair-related experience? Believe it or not, at my mother’s urging I actually got a perm once, sometime in the late ’70s. I was so horrified at the result that I made them remove it immediately. Whatever you’re visualizing as you read this, it was worse. Best not to think about it any further.

Apr 26

Friday Five: Hobbies

This week’s Friday Five is about pastimes and avocations.
1. What are your hobbies? I used to have more, but the only one that has really survived the time pressures of parenting and working full-time is my fascination with games. Originally, it was just role-playing games (primarily D&D), but in recent years I’ve become rather obsessed with board and card games, too.
2. Do you collect anything? If so, what? No. In fact, I’ve never understood the collector’s urge — the desire to acquire things just to display them, or to seal them away in a climate-controlled vault to protect their resale value. I try never to buy anything that I don’t intend to use.
3. Is there a hobby you’re interested in, but just don’t have the time/money to do? Singing. I’ve been active in choral music on and off through the years. In the mid-Nineties I was active in the Concert Singers of Cary for several years and enjoyed it immensely, but dropped out because of the grueling rehearsal schedule and the fact that I was spending so little time at home. Eventually, I’ll go back to singing in some way, probably by joining a church choir or a barbershop group.
4. Have you ever turned a hobby into a moneymaking opportunity? No.
5. Besides web-related stuff (burbs, rings, etc.), what clubs do you belong to? At the moment, only one: TAPIT, the Palm user group that meets monthly in Cary.