Friday, February 26, 2010

Letter from Linda C: Why I Love My Iphone the Best

                Linda & Baby V (JML photo, 1-10)


Dear Dave,


Well I love love the Internet, and since I moved to CA without my friends I love it even more.  When I was in bed most of the time for almost a month I really really loved it.  I love facebook, have never been on twitter, have been getting blogs (well only yours actually), getting photos and on flickr which you sent to me recently, but ...................


I am starting to love my Iphone even more.  I can take it in my pocket, I have lots of applications on it, and of course I can google anything, and push a button for any thing I want to know.  Now I know it is a little expensive, but really, at our age, how can it hurt to have some little toy, and since you have saved money at the Goodwill all these years I think you deserve it.  Also, I decided when I got mine, I was not going to be an old fuddy duddy and not let the kids use it.  And it is not really so expensive considering the wonderful hours of pleasure it brings me.  So I have games and music on it for the boys and Baby V loves loves to play with it.  That might cause you to cringe.  I might imagine it would have bothered Art, but she loves it and did somehow get a crack in it.  But if you’re stupid enough to let an 18 month old play with it, then don't complain.


So an Iphone is so different from the old plain Net, and much more fun and really I love to take it to bed and turn on some old NPR stories I wanted to hear just before I go to sleep… And then also, it is a bargaining tool for Ben and Theo -- yes , you may use my Iphone to play games it you do such and such.  That actually might work for Katja too since if she doesn't have an Iphone she will want to use yours.


So I say, get rid of that computer, use your Iphone, and no one will notice.  Yesterday I was stopped at a light in San Francisco and I started to text.  Now we have a state law that says no talking or texting when driving, but I was stopped at the red light.


I then saw a red flashing light, and saw a cop pointing at my texting, so I rolled down the window and he said to pull around the corner.


He was very sweet and young and came to the window and said, "Why do you think I stopped you?" and I said,  "Oh, I know, I am so sorry, I have always been confused if I can text or talk at a red light, but I bet I can't and that is why you stopped me, I am so sorry."


Officer: "Can you think of another reason I might have stopped you?"


Me: "No, not really."


Officer: "Well your registration date on your license plate is 8 months overdue" (actually I knew that).


Me: "Are you serious?  I just moved here from Michigan and there you change it on your birthday and now that I think about it my husband's birthday was March 13, and he died April 3rd so I think I just forgot it, now that is serious."


Officer: "And I looked it up and you haven't even been online to start doing it online.  Now a CHIP would tow your car right now but I am not going to do that."


Me:  "Thank you for not towing it, but what is a CHIP?"  (I know damn well what a CHIP is -- CA highway interstate police or some such thing.)


Officer:  "Well I believe you haven't lived here very long if you don't know what CHIP means,” and he laughs and I laugh, then he explains CHIP to me.


Then he said:  "Another thing, I was pulled up beside you and I used the siren for three short sirens and you didn't even look at me until the third siren."


Me: I start to laugh, "But that was because I was texting."


Officer laughing: "Very funny."


Officer: "Why are you in the city from El Granada?"


Me: "Well I had a back injury and I have to go to therapy right down the street at UCSF twice a week."


Officer: "I understand that, look at me,” and he shows me what looks like a stab wound but is a result of a fall and then surgery.


Me: "Oh that is terrible, it must have been so painful, are you still doing therapy?"


Officer: "I live in Daly City and I had the surgeon and PT there, but I don't think I got good care, I still have a lot of pain."


Me: "Well you live halfway between UCSF or Stanford, so for something serious you should go to one of those places."


Officer: " I think you are right.  Well you've been real polite and that goes a long way with me, so I am not going to give you a ticket, but you take care of the car registration right away, before the CHIP boys get you."


Me: "Officer, thank you so much,” and I extend my hand and shake his.


Altogether it was a nice exchange, though later last night I couldn't find my Visa card.  I hope he was a real police officer; I don't think he showed me his badge


So anyway, back to the point, the Iphone can involve you in a lot of personal eye to eye conversations.  Lots of strangers at airports want to use my charger, and that counts as contact.  I do hope you take my advice.  I have never steered you wrong before.  Oh, but I think I have never given you advice before.  But this is sound advice and even Wall Street can't get it once you have it in your hot little hand.


love the blog, linda

Gmail Comments:

-Vicki L (3-2): Hi David,  This blog response from Linda has made my day! Do you think this actually happened or was Linda copying a comedy riff from a joke book? She's too much. She's clearly a potential mentor in how to go about being a happy, vivacious widow.  

Love, V

-Jennifer M (2-27): i like the iPhone blog entry.  she's right.  :-)

-Donna D (2-26): so that's linda!....K** looks a lot like her.  so okay, david, are you convinced now about the iphone?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are We Internet Addicts? (I'm Afraid So)

Dear George,

I see in the newspaper that in 2012 the American Psychiatric Association will be coming out with its new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .  There’s a lot of controversy about whether “Internet Addiction Disorder” will make it as a new type of mental illness.   This is personally relevant to us because the mere fact of reading this blog means that one may well be an internet addict (and writing a blog is definitely far worse).  This has been making me nervous for a while, so I’ve been researching the problem.  According to, you are an Internet Addict if your on-line activities are getting in the way of your “off-line” life, e.g., if you’re neglecting your family and friends, your work, or other important things in your life because of the Net.     


Most experts think that from 5 to 10% of computer users are addicted.  Like unemployment statistics, that strikes me as an under-estimate.  According to the research, there are numerous risk factors.  Thus, you are more prone to Internet addiction if you are anxious, depressed, have other addictions (e.g., drugs, alcohol), lack social support, are less socially active than you used to be, or are a teenager.  I’m afraid that I qualify for nearly all of these (even a teenager if we toss in states of mind).


I don’t like to admit it, even to myself, but there are a number of signs that I’m developing a full-blown case of this disease.  One clue is that I now often check my e-mail before I brush my teeth in the morning.  And then, as long as I get a cup of coffee, I skip breakfast altogether in order to do “important” computer stuff.  Sometimes I even forget to walk the dogs.  When Katja came home yesterday, she was shocked when she found me downstairs reading the newspaper rather than being at the computer – she couldn’t believe it, it had been so long.  I have been reading a very interesting book in my spare time, but I’ve only covered 42 pages in six weeks.  If I start to watch a TV program in the evening, I usually get itchy and quit watching after a few minutes to go online.  And then I have to win two games of Spider Solitaire on the computer before I can go to bed.  If I wake up during the night, I have to win another game of Spider.  And then, when I do drop off, I’m as likely as not to dream about blog-writing.  (By the way, making a list of this sort is not recommended -- too revealing, too scary.)        


Fortunately for us, Dr. Kimberly Young, President of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, has developed a scientific test which proves whether or not you are suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder.  The whole test (available through a Google search) has 20 items, but here is a shortened version.  If you’re brave enough to face the truth about yourself, just answer the five questions below using this scale:  1 = Rarely.
2 = Occasionally.
3 = Frequently.
4 = Often.
5 = Always:


(1)  How often do you find that you stay on-line longer than you intended?

(2)  How often do you check your e-mail before something else that you need to do?

(3)  How often do you become defensive or secretive when anyone asks you what you do on-line?

(4)  How often do you lose sleep due to late-night log-ins?

(5)  How often do you feel depressed, moody, or nervous when you are off-line, which goes away once you are back on-line?


When you add up your scores, if the total is from 5 to 12, you are an average on-line user and are not currently in need of psychiatric treatment (at least not because of the Internet).  Scores from 13 to 19 suggest frequent problems about which you should be concerned.  And scores of 20 to 25 indicate significant, disruptive problems in your life which ought to be addressed professionally.  A good example of a pair of high scorers is the recent news story about Michael and Iana Straw who became obsessed with an online game and discontinued feeding their infant son and daughter (who were discovered only as they neared death).


One enlightening exercise is to classify how many of your friends and family members you have primarily direct communication with (either face-to-face or by phone) vs. mainly electronic contact (e.g., e-mail, Facebook).  When I do this for 17 close relationships, I have 7 people in the face-to-face or phone category, 10 electronic.  Clearly I’m teetering on the brink, gradually sliding into virtual reality, and I’m fantasizing how my life will be when all my human interchanges are electronically mediated.


Every day more and more therapeutic approaches are being developed to combat this new form of neurosis.  The Chinese have pioneered in these efforts, initially using electro-shock therapy on nerdish teenagers, but more recently shifting to a variety of physical punishments.  Right here in Ohio, you can go to Target and buy a device which will shut down your computer for all but a few predetermined time periods during the day.  For more recalcitrant cases, a residential treatment center (ReSTART) near Seattle offers a 45-day program to wean one from pathological computer use.  I myself have not taken any of these extreme steps yet.   I’m just waiting for Katja to e-mail me about her complaints, and then I’ll go from there.




Gmail Comments:

-Donna D (2-25): David, this is great.  Isn't it interesting how many "addictions" there are? Surely addictions existed 100 years ago.  Right?  So why is addiction such a thing now?

-Jennifer M (2-23): Can get time off work to get inpatient treatment for my Internet addiction?

-Amy R (2-23):  I am dying laughing.

-Linda C (2-23):  well i love love the internet, and since i moved to ca without my friends i love it even more. when i was most of the time in bed for almost a  month i really really loved it. i love facebook, never been on twitter, getting blogs , well only yours actually, getting photos and on flickr which you sent to me recently, but ...................i am starting to love my iphone even more, i can take it in my pocket , i have lots of applications on it, and of course i can google anything, and push button for any thing i want to know . now i know it is a little expensive, but really, at our age, how can it hurt to have some little toy, and since you save money at the good will all these years i think you deserve it… 

-JML (2-23):  hey dad, my score was 9 which was surprisingly low. it's probable that i'm not being totally honest with my responses. lack of self-insight.  great blog, though. i often think we should get rid of our home computer but don't have the guts. recently, k and i decided to get rid of our tv and then 8 hours later went the other direction and bought a 46 inch hdtv.  oh well.  j

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Footloose and Fancy Free

Dear George,

I was having some trouble with sore feet a few years back, and the podiatrist asked me what I thought was the cause of my problem.  I said maybe it came from buying my sneakers at the Goodwill.  He gave me a funny look and said, “You’re kidding.”  I reassured him that I wasn’t, and he advised me to throw my Goodwill sneakers away.  It was painful but I followed his advice.  My feet felt much better in a few days, and since then I’ve bought my sneakers brand new at Dick’s.  The thrift shop is still good for other stuff though.  For example, I’ve been looking for secondhand galoshes all winter long.  I haven’t had any luck yet, and sometimes I’ve wondered if people even wear galoshes any more.  So you can imagine my elation when I ran across a pair of Eddie Bauer leather hiking boots at the Dayton Goodwill a few weekends ago.  They were my size, and, while the leather showed signs of winter wear, the rubber soles seemed to be in perfect shape.  Goodwill sells their shoes for 99 cents a pound, so I walked away with practically new winter weather boots for a little over $2.  When I got home I checked on the Internet, and Eddie Bauer’s price for this model was $125.  Incredible – maybe the best buy of all times.  My first chance to try them out occurred with our recent snowstorm.  The boots offered much more solid footing on the ice than my sneakers and seemed warm enough.  I did have one problem in that I experienced mildly painful electric jolts in the ball of my left foot every three or four steps.  I thought to myself, perhaps this is why these high quality boots wound up in the thrift shop.  I put in a Dr. Scholl’s padded insole and that helped a little.  Then I discovered that if I bend my toes upward just before my left foot hits the ground, the pain is mostly eliminated.  So I’ve started doing that.  One drawback is that I have to devote constant attention to moving my toes up and down, which is a little distracting.  And I do sort of walk with a limp.  Right now I do plan to wear my new boots until spring (unless I happen to find some galoshes).  The way I look at it is that I have one new Eddie Bauer boot worth almost $62.50 and another worth nothing, and I got both of them for only two dollars.  It’s only half the bargain I thought it was at first, but that’s still very good.   



Gmail Comments:

-Ami G (2-21):  Katja!  Time for an intervention!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wintry Week in the Midlands

                             Our house in the snow (Mon., 2-16-10)

Dear George,

It’s been an unusually wintry week in Cincinnati.  As I write this on Tuesday evening, the snow continues to come down, and it’s been doing that pretty nonstop since Saturday.  The weatherman on the radio said that we’ve had more snow this February than any year since 1914.  The pile of snow on our patio table is close to two feet high, and we have another half a foot possible by the weekend.  It’s a shame that Monday was President’s Day, since the holiday was a wasted snow day for Katja, but she did get today off too.  We went to the Esquire matinee to see The Wolfman, good escapist fare in the harsh weather.


We’re still basking in the afterglow of the Saints’ unanticipated Super Bowl win.  We were emotionally involved, of course, because of J and K’s living there and their total  enthusiasm.  But beyond that, the whole country seemed caught up in the drama.  I can’t remember anything quite like it, i.e., where an already huge event was magnified even further in the aftermath of a community’s catastrophe.  The meaning of the competition took on a whole different flavor, as did its dramatic outcome.  Saints fans seem to feel a sense of destiny about the whole thing. 


Sophie, Mike, Duffy, Donna, Katja, and I have had a lot of winter get-togethers in our extended sheepdog family.  Sophie, of course, is Mike and Duffy’s little sister, and the dogs have now made up a pack for almost eight years.  Donna and I took them to Fernbank Park last Saturday after the big snow set in.  The dogs love it.  Ordinarily there are lots of people there, and we obey the leash laws.  In the bad weather though, Fernbank was deserted, and the dogs got to run free.  They dashed about in the snow, nuzzled it with their noses, and herded one another. As the photo below indicates, the dogs also enjoy jumping up on the benches.  Fernbank runs along the banks of the Ohio River which gives it a scenic backdrop.  There’s a long forest trail at one end of the park, and the woods looked like a fairyland with its icy frosting.

                  Duffy, Sophie, and Mike at Fernbank with Donna

Katja and I had a big culture weekend, attending the symphony on Friday and CCM on Saturday.  Katja grew up going with her parents to the Philadelphia Orchestra, while my parents fed us a hi-fi diet of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.  As you might guess, one of us is a high-culture person; the other, a lowbrow.  The symphony audience was under-populated because of the bad weather.  The featured artist was Radu Lupu, a gray-bearded Romanian pianist who won the Van Cliburn competition in his youth and who has had a distinguished career.  He played a concerto by Bartok which we enjoyed a lot, though we weren’t enthusiastic about the rest of the program.  On Saturday we went to UC’s Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to see their opera production of “The Rape of Lucretia” by Benjamin Britten.  CCM is one of the top music schools in the country, and we’re always amazed and appreciative of the student performances.  As the title implies, the dramatic production was pretty intense -- even shocking at times, but we thought it was one of their best opera performances in recent memory.


I worked a lot in the office this past week.  Some months ago I volunteered to help my friend and department head, Paula by reviewing course evaluations for grad student and adjunct instructors that had accumulated for the past year.  The task has taken forever, in part because I had a stack of course evaluation forms about three feet high.  I wrote a letter for each instructor, describing student evaluation results for each class (a mostly makework endeavor since the instructors are fully capable of looking at the same evaluation results and reaching the same conclusions that I do).  I finally finished with all the grad student instructors on Friday and gave drafts of letters to Paula, who, in turn, will look them over, make any changes she deems appropriate, and distribute the final products.  For a while I was disgruntled because this didn’t seem like something a retired person ought to be doing.  Then I reframed it as “volunteer activity”, and, though still a silly waste of time, I found it slightly more palatable.


Now we’re busy watching the Winter Olympics.  So far Katja likes the figure skating best, and I like the moguls.  The timing is good – it keeps us from suffering from NFL withdrawal.  Neither Katja nor I are true sports fans, but we like to participate vicariously in these big-time events.  It’s also helpful because it reduces some of the cabin fever that we’ve been experiencing.  We’re definitely ready for some hint of spring.




Gmail Comments:

-Linda KC (2-16): the house looks wonderful, i would love one week of that snow, but that is enough

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Twin City Postcards: Radio Station WMAM

Dear George,

TV didn’t arrive in Menominee until my freshman year in high school, and my family didn’t get it till several years later, so radio was a focal point of my childhood.  WMAM (570 am), located along the banks of the Menominee River in downtown Marinette, was our primary broadcaster.  We could also sometimes  get Sturgeon Bay and a Green Bay station during the day, but they were pretty staticky.  At nighttime broadcasters stepped up their power, and we received Chicago stations and even WLW in Cincinnati.  For kids growing up in a relatively isolated small town in the north country, the radio was our portal to a larger, more exciting world out there.  By our junior high years my peers and I had become pop music buffs, and we tuned into WMAM to hear “Your Hit Parade” emceed by Doris Day and Frank Sinatra.  Pattie Page, Bing Crosby, Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, and the Mills Brothers were among our favorites.  It was also the golden age for radio comedies and dramas.  The kids in our family would gather on the window seat in river house on Sunday evenings and listen to Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Duffy’s Tavern, and Phil Harris and Alice Faye.  We were also big fans of Milton Berle, Eddie Cantor, George Burns and Gracie Allen, The Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee and Molly, Henry Aldrich, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, and countless other programs of the day.  Frank St. Peter and I used to listen, at our respective houses, to Friday night boxing matches, though now it’s a bit hard to imagine boxing’s appeal in the absence of any visual image.  

The Dick Rodgers Orchestra, located in Pulaski, WI, down toward Green Bay, broadcast live from WMAM during my high school years.  Rodgers led one of Wisconsin’s best-known polka bands and recorded with Decca, Jay-Jay, and Polkaland Records among others.  There was a big Polish population in our region, and some of my high school pals crashed rural wedding receptions in Menominee County every weekend to drink beer, polka dance, and flirt with the country girls. 


As teenagers we used to stop by WMAM while driving around town at night and talk to the DJs, expressing our opinions about what they should be playing more of and playing less of.  In my senior year I got a phone call from the manager at WMAM, and he said that the station was trying to increase teen interest by recruiting a local high school student to be a DJ on a daily music program.  He said I’d been recommended by a teacher at Menominee High.  The whole idea scared me, and I said that I already was committed to my clerk job at our family drugstore.  My mother thought that was feeble, and now I’d have to agree.  One of my high school acquaintances, Gerry R, took the DJ job, and I got jealous every time I listened to his show.  But that’s how it goes.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

J's Report: How To Tell If Your City Has Lost Its Mind*

Dear George,

Something remarkable and mysterious happened here in New Orleans last Sunday night.  K went out to meet some friends at our neighborhood watering hole, Finn McCools.  Around 9 p.m. or so I stepped outside for some fresh air, and you wouldn’t believe the visions in front of me: fire crackers were blasting, my neighbors were hollering, a young man ran down the street in his underwear, shouts and screams were emanating from homes all over Cortez street and even from houses several blocks away.  It was clear that something horrible was happening.  I’d read about mass hysteria like this, but when it’s happening in your own back yard, in a major urban center, it’s a bit of a shock.


I grabbed my camera, locked the door, and ran over to Finn McCool’s to rescue my poor wife who I feared had been kidnapped or drugged.  At Finn’s the scene was wild but not scary.  The patrons were screaming and jumping; one particularly limber man in his 20s was performing gymnastic feats on the neutral ground; a grown man in his 50’s was weeping; glasses of beer were being splashed over the crowd but no one seemed to mind.  Two dogs sat to the side watching these wild humans with an expression of fear and confusion as if they no longer knew who was in charge.  Virtually everyone was screaming at full blast, mouths agape, occasionally keeled over like they’d been kicked in the gut.  My first impression was that this might be a case of mass food poisoning.  So I followed them around for the next few hours trying to make the diagnosis and documenting their behavior with some photographs.  Here are some of the images I got:

These guys are typical of the crowd at Finn McCool’s.  They look happy, but notice how wide the mouths are.

To my dismay,  my own wife was just as affected as all the others.  Whatever the condition was, it was clear that she had it bad.  She grabbed me by the lapels and started screaming: “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Champions!  We did it!”

When people are in a state of hysteria and delusional, Rule #1 is to gain their trust.  So I faked a few “Yippees” and “Yahoos”, and it was enough to convince my wife and all the others that I was one of them.


We went downtown where a lot of people had an insatiable desire to sit on top of their cars…

…or to hang out the windows while screaming at pedestrians.

Many of the hysterics decided that it would be fun to disrobe.  Not to a degenerate level, mind you, but enough to elicit laughter, guffaws, shock.

And it wasn’t just the people who you’d expect to feel good about their bodies.

Time and again, I saw little groups of incapacitated individuals come together to make music, sing a song, bang a drum.  Many had that ragamuffin look that I call “chimney sweep chic”.  This was probably the most entertaining and interesting part of the night.

Normally you wouldn’t notice a simple metal pole, the kind that holds up a balcony, but on this night, for whatever reason, poles provided endless amounts of fun and exercise for the “happy zombies”.

Though not as common as many of the other manifestations, several young women decided it would be a good idea to juggle flaming goblets of lighter fluid while doing jumping jacks and somersaults.

Grabbing and hugging one another was the normal and expected form of interaction.  On any other day I would end up with a black eye if I initiated a hug with some of these guys.


So the good news is that now it’s a new day and things are improving quickly here in New Orleans.  I awoke on Monday morning and noticed that K was able to actually carry on a somewhat normal conversation using nouns and verbs and adjectives as opposed to guttural yelps and wild gesticulations.  I’m sure that this isn’t the first episode of mass hysteria and it won’t be the last.  My hope is that the data I’ve collected here can one day be used to develop a cure for this condition, maybe a pill that could be stockpiled in bars across America should there be an obvious outbreak.  Be on guard though, as this may happen in your town.  If it does, bring a camera, call the CDC,  and let me know asap.





*Condensed from a lengthier e-mail and a larger bank of photos sent by JML.

Gmail Comments:

-Jason L to JML:  J***, another colorful and enjoyable story.... I was here rooting for the Saints quietly in front of my tv while the girls slept. I managed to have a mini superbowl party complete with chips and salsa and all american beer - Miller Lite. Yes, I felt quite patriotic that afternoon. Anyway, I really hope you all are well and I'm so glad we got to see you this summer. While too brief, it was great to see you and feel the love!

-Vicki L (2-26): Enjoying your blogs as always – J**'s photos following the Super Bowl were a blast.

-Donna D (2-11): David this is hilarious.  He writes a lot like you by the way.

-Linda C (2-10): could you please explain to george that i was there to baby sit V*** during the festivities and i swear J*** was not studying his german, and i only saw him rarely when he was in costume going to a party or dragging home to bed from a party. i am afraid when V*** is in college and someone asks her what her child hood was like , she will say, for my early childhood my parents and all their friends were in a circus.  this is a very funny and colorful dream J*** had in which he missed out on everything fun.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Dear George,

As a U.P. native, I’ve always been ambivalent about winters in Cincinnati.  We do get winter here, of course – cold weather, occasional snow, icy sidewalks, high heating bills.  But it doesn’t seem genuine.  The temperatures fluctuate between 30 and 40 most of the time, and, when we do get a snowfall, the sidewalks quickly turn to slush and the snowbanks turn gray from air pollution.  By February I find myself wishing that we lived in Florida or Arizona, thoughts that are new to me and likely associated with aging.  Then, as happened this weekend, we get a real snowfall and I feel more in tune with the environment.  Our storm wasn’t as dramatic as Washington D.C. with its 30 inches.  But there was half a foot of snow on our lawn this morning.  The sheepdogs enjoy it, even though they’re less likely to get a good walk.  Katja cancelled her plans to go to the opera broadcast at Springdale cinemas, and I skipped the monthly Dayton flea market.  It was so white and sparkly outside, though, that it was a good time for a photo expedition.  I took the pictures below while walking around our block.  The first one is the westward view of Ludlow Ave. from our front sidewalk, and the last one is the yew tree in our front yard.   It’s as pretty out there as it’s been so far this year.



Gmail Comments:

Donna D (2-8): These are awesome!

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Almost Perfect Surprise

Dear George,


Husbands have good ideas, but they don’t necessarily get things right.  A good example is a few years ago when I was driving around on the west side of Cincinnati looking for old postcards in antique shops.  I passed a place called The Doll Shop on Harrison Avenue which said “dolls and antiques” on its sign.  I parked and went in.  In fact, they did have five old postcards of American Indians which I bought for five dollars (a price way beyond my usual standard).  I looked around the rest of the first floor, but it was mostly dolls.  Then I went upstairs, where one of the back rooms had a double bed completely filled with dolls and a sign that said $15.  I didn’t know if that meant $15 apiece (which seemed kind of high) or $15 for the whole collection (which seemed unthinkable since there were 60 or 70 dolls on the bed).  I went back downstairs and asked the owner, and, sure enough, she was selling the whole batch for $15.  A double bed completely filled up.  I had to think this over.  They looked like pretty good dolls to me.  I have lots of collections of different things, but nothing like dolls.  It didn’t seem like my thing.  But where would you ever find a sale like this again?  Probably never.  It came to twenty-five cents apiece.  Katja would love it, I finally decided.  It would be like a childhood dream come true for her, something she might have always wished for but never expected in her whole life.  So I went for it – I bought the whole thing.  The dolls took up six hefty bags and filled the trunk and back seat of my car.  The shop owner said, “I thought somebody would buy this, but I didn’t think it would be a man.”  “It’s for my wife,” I said.  “She will be so excited. 


I carried the bags of dolls into the house, but Katja was out shopping.  So I took them upstairs to J’s room and set them all up on his bed, using pillows to elevate the ones against the back wall.  They totally covered the bed, crammed closely together, and were a wondrous sight.  I closed the door so I could bring Katja upstairs myself and make it a big surprise.  Then I went out to the grocery store.

When I got back Katja was waiting for me.  I could tell something was wrong as soon as I walked in the door.  “What have you done?  What have you done?” she hollered.  I asked what was the matter.  It seems she’d come home and gone upstairs and taken a shower.  When she’d finished, she’d needed to get a towel from J’s room and went there in her birthday suit.  Exposed and vulnerable, she opened the door and was met by 60 or 70 pairs of eyes staring at her from the dimly lit room.   By Katja’s account, she screamed in horror, slammed the door shut, and ran, still screaming, into our bedroom.  Even now, she shudders as she describes it.  She says she is lucky she didn’t have a heart attack right on the spot.


After she’d calmed down a little, I explained about the amazing bargain I’d gotten and how certain I was that she would be thrilled to have this new collection.  “I hate dolls,” Katja said emphatically.  “Why would you think I would want all these dolls?  They’re horrible.”  I mentioned that she still had a doll that she’d bought in Switzerland as a college student, but that carried no weight.  Katja told me to get the dolls out of there immediately – she never wanted to see them again.  So I silently stuffed them back into the hefty bags and lugged them up to the attic to my paper ephemera storage room.  That’s been their home ever since, and they lend a very pleasing, human touch to an otherwise unremarkable place.  Katja’s forgotten they even exist.  But I feel they’re just about the best purchase I ever made.




G-Mail Comments

-Phyllis SS (2-8):  Dave, Cute, funny story.  They look nice on the file cabinets.  I'd love to met them someday.  Linton was very good today.  But we knew that you and Katja were having a grand time at the game.

-Vicki L (2-6): Dear D, I'm so glad you still have the dolls ... I'm sure J and K will really appreciate them when they have to go through your things post-mortem (now that I think of it .... we could set up all kinds of surprises for our children as they go about de-constructing our lives...whips and bondage devices come to mind, cases of ex-lax hidden under the floor boards; silver dollars taped to the wall behind the refrigerator. Gosh, the possibilities are endless). Love, Vicki

-Gail CL (2-6-10):  David. Great story ;;))))))its great to hear from u

I hope all is well.  Miss u. 

Monday, February 1, 2010


Dear George,

This month is the one-year anniversary of my retirement. It’s gone by much too quickly. I told our department secretary Linda that my aim this year was to slow down the passage of time, and she said I would be the world’s richest person if I could accomplish that. I’d say my main feeling so far is one of mild depression. For years now I’ve asked retired colleagues about their states of mind. The gamut has run from manic elation (“I’m having an unbelievable time”) to deep angst (“I’m at a total loss about what to do”). When acquaintances ask me, I usually say, “It’s o.k., though I liked working better.” Walking home the other day, I mentally rated my retirement year on a scale from +10 (successful, positive) to -10 (failing, negative). I decided upon a +1 (i.e., not much to be excited about, nor to be miserable about). My new daily life seems sort of routine and humdrum so far. I’ve enjoyed working on my blog; going to the fitness center seems worthwhile; and I like having more time with the sheepdogs. The days run into one another though, and, aside from a couple of visits with Baby V and her parents, a lot of my daily life has been pretty solitary and humdrum. Mild depression comes into play when I start reflecting on huge losses, e.g., productive work, friendly social contacts, a monthly paycheck, recognition from others, being involved in a larger collective enterprise, reasons for being, etc.

The other day I consulted the I Ching about my dilemma, asking it what I might do to make the coming year better. Katja and I first ran across the I Ching as college students at Antioch. My brother-in-law David was our most knowledgeable source since he had consulted the I Ching regularly for some time, and he advised us to purchase the Wilhelm/Baynes translation. We still have our original copy, though it’s looking a little tattered. The I Ching (or Book of Changes) is an ancient Chinese compilation of wisdom and prophecy central to Confucianism. The basis of its philosophy is that nothing is static and that human tasks are to adjust to the ebbs and flows of change. Scholars believe that the origins of the I Ching date back to the time of the ruler Fu Hsi about 5000 years ago in ancient China. Thus, the I Ching is one of the world’s oldest surviving books. Reading the I Ching involves casting three coins to build a series of 6 solid and/or broken lines called a “hexagram”. Each line is either Yin (the feminine force) or Yang (the masculine force). Six throws of the coins determine a specific hexagram, which is then looked up in the I Ching for a passage which describes the meaning of that hexagram and each of its lines.

Having posed the question, “How can I make the coming year better?”, my resulting hexagram was labeled Kên (Keeping Still, Mountain). According to the I Ching’s text, this hexagram addresses the problem of achieving a quiet heart. The I Ching describes rest as a state of polarity that always includes movement as its complement. Thus, “true quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward.” The I Ching observes that when movement comes to a standstill, “the ego, with its restlessness, disappears as it were.” When an individual has thus become calm, “he may turn to the outside world…he has that true peace of mind which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them…”

Interpreting the I Ching is challenging. My initial reaction is that I’ve been a long way from “keeping still” and that the attainment of such inner peace is key to my doing better with retirement. My work mode has always been one of stress and striving, focused on external goals and making demands upon myself. I’ve always found it difficult to shift into a vacation frame of mind, and that nervous, goal-directed state of mind has followed me into retirement. Following the I Ching’s reflections, I conclude that it’s time for me to come to terms with being retired, to slow down and relinquish “the restlessness of the ego.” If and when that happens, I’ll hopefully be able to then “turn to the outside world” in fulfilling ways.

There is this minor problem that I can’t remember ever achieving a moment of inner peace. However, I’m sure the I Ching knows what’s it’s talking about, and so I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll consult the book of wisdom again in the future, and I’ll let you know how things seem to be going.



G-Mail Comments:

-Phyllis SS (2-6): Dave, Loved this one especially because it is what I am also thinking about through a different venue -- daily meditation. Whenever I reach that state of "joy" I seem to want to avoid it - it feels too intense and maybe different.... P

-JML (2-1): hey dad, you need to be a hardcore saints fan and then you won't have to search for things like fulfillment and meaning and productivity because you'll simply be content to listen to talk radio and all the cable sports shows. that's my advice and you have 6 days to follow up. WHO DAT!. love, J

-Ami G (2-1): Just a +1? Yikes! Never even one moment of inner peace? Really? You have to fix this! Can you try to re-invent yourself with only internal goals and pleasures? It's time for you to start painting or collaging or sculpting again. Maybe you could then get lost in a project. I'm getting worried about you.