C:\> Monday, August 12, 2013

Four years later



Four years later and a week doesn’t pass by without me thinking, for a fleeting second, “I need to tell my grandpa this.” Then, of course, reality sets in and I get angry. Angry that four years have passed and the hurt still remains at the realization that he’s not here, and at the thought that soon, one day, it will be twenty years. I was led to believe, or at least hoped, that this would go away with time, but something will still come up that will remind me of him, and for a brief second I’ll forget that he’s no longer here. Something as simple as a mosquito bite will remind me of how he’d daub calamine lotion all over his arms and legs after being bitten at the lake, oblivious to how ridiculous he looked with all these bright wet spots covering his body like some sort of flesh-toned leopard. Or I’ll find myself whistling and remember how he could carry a tune in that manner like a songbird in search of a mate. He had a great memory for names and people, and occasionally I’ll be wondering about something or someone from our days in Oak Park and I’ll think, for a nanosecond, “I’ll have to ask grandpa if he remembers,” only for me to remember that this is no longer possible, and I get angry. I miss him, yet the rest of the world keeps going forward like nothing is wrong. I know intellectually this is how things are, but it doesn’t stop me from spewing a string of profanities in my mind at my perceived unfairness of “how things are.” 

And it makes me think of my own future and my own death, and how we come and go in a blink of time’s eye, the world moving on like a steamroller on steroids, leaving a trail in its wake that over time fades until nothing remains. My grandfather, at least, touched and impacted many people. His force still leaves tendrils going forward that are intertwined with others to such an extent that, again, I sometimes forget he’s not here anymore. If someone like him will someday be forgotten, his impact lost over the passing years, what hope is there for someone like me who has basically done nothing with his life compared to him? I know some will be irked with me saying that and remind me that this is not true, that you can’t judge a life by accomplishments, and for the most part I agree. I just expected more, having him as a role model, and while, yes, some things that steered the direction of my life were beyond my control, others were my own doing, or more precisely, my own not-doing. I hate even expressing such feelings openly, because it smacks of feeling sorry for oneself, even though this is not the case; I know my life is so much better than most (First-World Problems and all that… ;-) And you know what? My grandfather was good at discussing such things with me, and he was able to make me feel better. That was one of his roles, being the anchor of the family. I feel like I must take on that roll for my family, for my daughter and her son, but worry that there will be no way I’ll be able to succeed in this as my grandfather did, and think to myself, for the second time this week, “I’ll have to ask him about this.” And we’ve come full circle.


C:\> Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magic, Statistics, and The Holy Grail

The following will be dry and probably be of interest to no one but other magicians, and even then that's doubtful. But I'm writing it anyway... ;-)

So, for the last few years, due in part to the legendary (at least in magic circles) David Berglas, many in the magic community have been obsessed with an individual effect called "Any Card At Any Number", shortened to ACAAN. The basic plot is as follows:

One spectator names a number, a free choice between 1 and 52. Another spectator names a playing card... another free choice. A deck of cards, which has been lying in full view the entire time, is handed to a third spectator who counts down to the selected number, dealing cards face up. When the selected number is reached, the playing card at that position matches the card named.

Ta Da!

Here's a Youtube clip that looks pretty much like this pure effect being performed:

ACAAN- The Berglas Effect



While Berglas didn't originate the plot (early descriptions of this plot include "The Acme Card Trick" by Chas. Shepard in the March 1908 issue of The Sphinx, a couple methods exist in Erdnase, etc), his performances of ACAAN have become stuff of legend. In fact, many think it is just that, a legend. He rarely performs this effect. Few have actually seen him perform it first hand. Those who have, however, including magician Barrie Richardson as related in his book Theater Of The Mind, describe an effect that seems impossible. Barrie actually got to witness it twice. On one of these occasions, David and Barrie were driving somewhere when David suddenly asked Barrie to name a number, which he did. He says he had a free choice, with no use of equivoque. Then he was asked to name a card. Again, a free choice. David then told Barrie to open the glove compartment of the car and remove the deck of cards he found there. He did so, and then was told to count down to his number and turn over the card at that number. He did, and it matched the card he named.

Over the years, this pure version of ACAAN has also been called "The Berglas Effect", and duplicating this effect using a set of conditions has pretty much become the Holy Grail of magicdom. The required conditions are as follows:

1. No stooges (i.e. confederates/secret helpers of the magician)
2. Free choice of card and number
3. Only one deck
4. Spectator counts the cards, the magician never touches deck during the entire effect.

Berglas seems to have met these predictions, but he's never revealed his method. Well... not fully. In The Mind And Magic Of David Berglas, a book that was eagerly awaited by the magic community due to the fact that supposedly Berglas would reveal his method to ACAAN, he devotes and entire chapter to this effect. However, the secret can basically be summed up as follows: You have to be David Berglas to do the Holy Grail version of ACAAN. He claims to use psychology, audience management, luck, the right time and right circumstances and taking advantage of such things when they come up, and several different methods and means in order to achieve "The Berglas Effect". It's an interesting read, but there's no way someone reads this chapter and then is able to go out and perform ACAAN for his friends at a bar.

So the search for this Holy Grail continues.

Several marketed versions have been released over the years, but none fulfill the requirements set forth fully. Some use two decks, some turn out to be more of "Card At Any Number" (notice the missing "A"), some use multiple decks, some limit the choice of number, some require the performer to count the cards. Etc. However, and this is where it gets interesting (really!! ;-p), all this causes philosophical arguments within the magic community. Many think that this ACAAN effect is really just "magic for magicians", that the average layman doesn't really care, that, to them, the effect is no more amazing than any other card trick, and that some (especially The Invisible Deck), are even stronger from a layman point of view with basically the same plot. (For those who have never been forced to watch me perform the Invisible Deck, the plot is basically someone names any playing card, and that named card is found to be the only reversed card in a pack of face-up cards).

Let's focus on The Invisible Deck (ID) for a moment. An argument can be made that to the spectator this plot is the same as ACAAN. A freely thought-of card is proved to be known in advance by the performer. In fact, the plot is simpler and more direct than ACAAN, because no counting or choice of number is required. The fact that ID is easy to do, has no set-up and an instant reset is another plus in its favor. But magicians love to fool other magicians, and to say that the ID is universally known among magicians would be an understatement. We all want the Holy Grail, we all want to fool fellow magi, and we all sometimes forget that the point of magic, especially to a working performer, is entertaining laymen (or at least our family and friends if we're hobbiests). Thus the obsession with ACAAN.

There are also disagreements about the need to steadfastly stick to the conditions "required" for a pure ACAAN as if they were handed down to the magic community by Moses himself, i.e. if all the requirements are not strictly met, but to the layman the effect is the same, who cares? Often, no matter what conditions are met, the spectator walks away thinking he saw the magician perform the Holy Grail version. One forgets all the minutia of the routine the performer used to achieve the result. As an example, compare this version of ACAAN to the one above:



This version obviously isn't the Holy Grail, but really, does the spectator care? When he or she thinks of the effect later, and describes it to his friends, how will it really differ from the pure Holy Grail version that Berglas supposedly has performed? Again, it would seem that only magicians care about this. We're a bored lot it would appear.

I'm also interested in the statistics, and while I'm better at most at such things, the ACAAN problem it's hard for me to wrap my head around the supposed odds involved. Magicians, amazingly enough, also can't agree on this (again, we're bored). Many say that ACAAN isn't that amazing, anyway, because it only represents a 1 in 52 chance, which isn't that high. However, I don't know if i agree with his. To me, ID does represent a 1 in 52 chance: A card is named, it is the only card reversed in the deck. I tackle this problem this way: how many decks would the performer need on hand to assure a successful completion of ACAAN on the one hand, and ID on the other.

For ID, you'd need 52 decks. Each deck would have a different card reversed. One deck, for example, would have the two of hearts reversed. Another deck would have the Queen of Clubs reversed... and so on, using a separate deck for each card, totaling 52 decks. You'd either have to have 52 decks hidden about your person, pulling out the correct deck once the spectator names a card, or you'd have one deck and take your chances. The chance you'd be correct with only one deck is thus 1 in 52. Right? Right.

Now let's move on to ACAAN. Most magicians claim this is also a 1 in 52 chance, but to me this can't be correct, since these are the same odds as ID, and obviously ACAAN has two different criteria: the card, and the position. In my way of thinking this would require 52 decks just for a single card, say the Queen of Clubs. You'd need one deck where the Queen of Clubs was the first card, another deck where it was in the second position, and so on until you had a deck where the Queen of Clubs was at position 52. This would seem to require 52 decks for each card, or 52 X 52, or 2704 decks of cards (hidden about your person. Fun!).

However, others have sussed the odds as follows: Once the number is named, there is then a 1 in 52 chance that the named card is at that location. In other words, spectator A picks the number 17, then spectator B picks the Queen of Clubs. Once the number is named, there is a 1 in 52 chance that the Queen of Clubs is that card. Makes sense.... BUT that would mean the ID and ACAAN share the same odds, and that seems counter-intuitive. I've tried to think about this, and perhaps, since the order of the other cards make no difference, there are 52 possibilities out of a total of 2404 for a given card, or 52/2704 = 1/52. But again, this is the same as ID.

My head hurts. I need input from people on this. But if true, and if most spectators sense this on some level, then why not just perform ID and be done with it? Why? Because magicians are bored. ;-)

And no, I am not a geek... :-P

C:\> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

D Minus

The lowest grade I ever received for actual work submitted (not counting zeros or what have you for not doing an assignment) was a D- (D minus), for an essay in 11th grade honor's English on A.E. Housman's poem, "To An Athlete Dying Young". In this class, taught by Mrs. Dedman, we'd often read a poem in class and then have to write an essay, right then and there, on what the poem "meant." Mrs Dedman was of the belief that a poem had one and only one correct meaning, and that she knew what that correct meaning was.

This bothered many of us, since we liked to think that the meaning of a poem or short story might be open to interpretation, and that sometimes a poem was a poem, with no hidden allegories to ancient Greece, or no cryptic jumbling of proper names that when correctly re-jumbled would refer to the author's gay lover. Or what have you. Sometimes, like a cigar, a poem is just a poem. We all went round and round about this all semester, but Mrs. Dedman was not swayed.

Anyway, and to continue after this bit of background, we all read the Housman poem in question and couldn't make head nor tails of it, other than what is spelled out in the poem's title. You could not stretch out the title, however, into a three or four page five-paragraph expository essay, with intro, three paragraphs of points, and conclusion. We all complained. We all gnashed our teeth. I just seethed.

So she said, "Go!" and most people began writing. You could hear the scratch-scratch-scratch of pen on paper fill the classroom; it reminded me of the squeak-squeak-squeak of basketball player's shoes on a highly-polished parquet floor when the announcers are quiet. I did no writing, however. I just sat there, thinking. And seething. Finally, with about 10 minutes to go in the period, I started writing. Oh, I was sarcastic and bitter.

I wrote something like, "A.E. Housman's poem has a theme that you'd think only AE Housman would know, or maybe one that could be determined and analyzed by many people, each coming to a different conclusion based on their life experiences... but you'd be wrong. No, it is only the high school English teacher that has the gift of analysis... She, alone, is bequeathed with the author's true intent like manna from heaven"... etc. It went on in that vein, because I didn't care anymore. With about two minutes to go I threw in something about "planting the stiff" and forgotten races and turned the paper in, without making eye contact, and leaving the classroom with the speed of an athlete dying young.

Several days later Mrs Dedman returned our now graded essays. But before she did so she read a bit from one of them, one talking about "planting the stiff" and overbearing 11th grade English teachers. The class laughed. When I got the paper back and saw the D - I seethed some more. However, it turned out that was one of the better grades. Some of my classmates had received the dreaded F- - (F minus MINUS); we didn't even know such a grade existed. I mean, if you failed, you failed... what is this minus stuff? And minus minus? WTF?

No one could believe I wrote what I actually wrote, and had the guts to turn it in, but if those grades had been curved, I'd have had an A, so who was the fool now? Eh?

We had to return our papers that same day, since we were not allowed to keep the essays we wrote in class (or any essay we wrote at home, for that matter, but theoretically we could have had a copy of take-home essays at least) out of fear that we'd give these essays to some future student. I really, really, wanted my essays, however... especially the D - one, so I asked Mrs Dedman at the end of the year if I could have them.

"No," she said, "we have to keep them. They weren't very good, anyway".

Oh, that Mrs Dedman: How I loved her.

C:\> Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Which Hank Takes Advantage Of The Remaining Vestiges Of Fever And/Or Tamiflu(tm) Side Effects

See subject.

Yeah, I think the fever is breaking, but just a bit. I still feel a bit loopy. Or I should say more so than usual. At least my synapses are more quiet at night... at the beginning of this fun-filled H1N1 week I really couldn't sleep, because my dreams would be filled with the same fever-induced mind-numbing repetitive Kafkaesque (hey, that's a word?) images which are hard for me to describe "sober": basically, dark, black & white imagery of a repetitive nature where somehow I lose sense of the size of my physical self. I feel either incredibly large, or incredibly, small, either folding within myself or folding out to infinity. In a bad way... but that's a given. Usually, at some point, I force myself to awaken, get up, attempt to dry my sweat-soaked hair and pillow, and turn on some light in order to break the dystopian-like state of my nightmare. That sort of describes it... but not really. Throw in a bit of "Eraser Head" meets Lars Von Trier put on a constantly repeating 20 second video loop that appears in your head every time you close your eyes, and we get a bit closer.

But enough about me.

How are you doing?

I've always been a retrospective person, almost to a fault, and this last year more so than usual. I think the death of my grandfather was a big impetus, but again, I'm wired to look backward, anyway. Still, his passing, thinking about his life where it intersected with mine, and the fact that there would be no common nodes ever again going outward to the future really made me realize that you can't hold on to time. He was the anchor that let me believe for a while that you could, but with that gone all bets were off, or rather the obvious had to be accepted. There is a before, there is a now, and there is a later. When I was young I focused too much on the "later"; most of my adult life I've focused on the "before". Someday, pretty damned soon before it's too late, I need to focus on the "now". But those of you who know me well know that I'm a broken record in this regard. I'm introspective enough (probably, again, to a fault) to know this is my problem, but either too lazy or to dumb to do anything about it, other than, of course, harp on this and complain about it. But to actually change my outlook/thinking?

Nah. That would be too easy. Or too hard? I don't know which it is, and that's not just the Tamiflu(tm) talking.

C:\> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

That Damned Glass

Do we really need despair and heartache to remind us that our otherwise mediocrity isn't so bad? Do we need joy and contentment to tease us, to show that this same mediocrity and sameness is, well, static and mediocre? That we should hope for more but not be surprised if it gets even worse?

The ubiquitous famous glass is always either half empty or half full; it never has just the right amount of liquid. This sad and tired metaphor is thus overly simplified by people, forcing one to chose a life-view paradigm, pessimism versus optimism, where really we miss the real lesson: that the glass is never correct and is constantly taunting us with either more or less liquid. Whoever first noticed that glass had something, but instead of asking us to choose sides he should have thrown it against the wall and called it garbage, plain and simple.

Enter God. He has a plan, you see, and thus both the highest summits of our existence, as well as the lowest abysses of our anguish, are honky-dory by him. (Or Him. Though, to be fair, I sometimes wonder if a deity whose "Big Picture" is so big that we're supposed to shrug off the deaths of 400,000, say, in an earthquake as 'part of His plan', really deserves capitalization of his pronoun. Or His. But, as usual, I digress). Are you telling me that this creator knows all, let allows us free will, and that evil and badness and despair and loneliness and poverty are part of his grand scheme? Why? So we can feel better about ourselves? So we can notice that dirty chipped glass is in fact half full? Are you telling me that the butterfly has to be stepped upon so 20 million years later primates rule the earth? That's fine for the primates, but it sucks for the butterfly. I can't ignore the butterfly, and I can't ignore the half-empty glasses.

Thus, exit God. I know that may be harsh, but in a world full of glasses of stagnant water and millions of butterflies cast aside for the greater good of some distant future or someone's peace of mind I say we hardly knew ye.

C:\> Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I Walked Into Your Class But Couldn't Find Your Name"

I was in grad school, in a never-ending quagmire that is EBD ("Everything But Dissertation"), finishing up a teaching certificate as a potential safety net, when I got divorced. My daughter was 2.5 at the time, and in order to bring in a bit of extra money I had started teaching computer skills at an Austin day care center chain a few months before The Event. It didn't pay much, but they provided free daycare for Adri, so it was a win-win: some extra money, and Adri got to socialize with other children her age. I also started subbing in these schools during the hours I didn't have computer classes, and eventually a director at one of the schools offered to pay me more if I exclusively subbed at her school. There was a signing bonus and everything: a gift card to TCBY!

Adri, therefore, became a full-time member of the Two Year Old Class. She got her own cubby, complete with hand-painted name card above her coat hook. I'd drop her off, teach computers at various schools, sub at her school, eat lunch with her, and take her home. It was wonderful, and I could have done that the rest of my life and have been happy.

However, that was not to be for a myriad of reasons that are not relevant to this post. Suffice to say that one day Adri no longer came to my school. Of course, she still went to day care, just somewhere else, because heaven forbid she see me more than her mother. No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask? However, the director, being a human being and all and sensitive to these matters, didn't remove Adri's name card from her cubby. I'd walk in to the Two Year Old class to get a student for computers, or fill in during the two-hour nap time while a teacher went to lunch, etc, and see her name there. It was comforting for some reason, perhaps because as long as her name was there there was a chance that maybe she'd return.

One day, a few weeks later, I walked in to the class and her name placard had been removed. It felt like someone had hurled me off a 20 story building and then kicked me in the ribs for good measure as I lay sprawled on the concrete below. I didn't cry, but probably because at that point anything inside me capable of expressing such emotion had been ground up and spat out months earlier. A friend walked into the room, however, and saw me. She did cry, I comforted her while really comforting myself, and went home.

On the plus side, I went home that day and wrote a song including the above incident that I've always liked. It's too bad that I require intense emotional pain to write music now. ;-)

C:\> Friday, January 22, 2010

Sam Cooke, Barney The Dinosaur, and The Acquisition Of Language As An Extended Developmental Psych Project

When my daughter was first born I couldn't wait to have a conversation with her. Well, let's back up for a moment: during the entire nine and a half months that my daughter was awaiting birth I couldn't wait to have a conversation with her. After she was born, therefore, I wasted no time in attempting to speed up her acquisition of language and development of vocabulary.

I would sing to her all the time, our favorites being the collected works of Sam Cooke. She really liked the low bass voice that opened up "Chain Gang", the "Well don't you know..." part that I'd sing in a exaggerated deep, booming voice. She also liked "Cupid", especially the "thwwwwirp" sound/onomatopoeia that mimicked the sound of the arrow (" ...and let you arrow fly.... thwwwwrip ... straight to my lover's heart..."). But the best and most favorite of all was "Only Sixteen", which I sang whenever she reached a "6 milestone", as in:

"She was only Six hours, only Six hours, I loved her so..."

...which was the first. But of course, I sang the song at 6 days, six weeks, and six months as well (which was the last time). Those of you who find this hard to believe and/or a bit Temporally OCD on my part are referred to a previous missive I wrote on my abnormal obsession with time and numbers, here.

I had to do a lot of singing to Adri, because she was what was called "colicy" back then (still used?), or in other words, she cried a lot at night when left alone in her crib to sleep. I'd sing Sam Cooke and rock her in different exaggerated ways in order to calm her. It usually worked.

I also, of course, figured that the more she was exposed to language the quicker she'd start talking. So I'd sing and do a lot of pointing to objects and naming them, mostly her body parts ("this is your foot. These are your toes", etc). This is no different than any parent does, of course, but I was doing it specifically to speed up the day when she and I could have a conversation.

She picked up language quickly, as most young humans do, and when she was still pretty young I could ask her where her nose was, for example, and she'd point to it. I kept a running tab of how many words she understood in this manner. It was easy to do so at first, but the number grows in a logarithmic manner, with a steep upwards curve. At first she knew, say, 10 words, then 50, then 200, all in quick order. I actually kept track until it was well over 500 (when I couldn't sleep, which was often when I was younger, I'd sit in bed and think of things. Back then, I'd go over all the words Adri knew, counting them instead of sheep until I fell asleep).

In what seemed like an eternity then, and a blink of an eye now, she gradually began to be able to hold a conversation with me. Sure, it was mainly about Barney the Dinosaur at first, but then progressed to explaining to me why Barbie needed a Barbie Car of her own, to what she was learning in school, to what friend said what about who, to the point that I sometimes wondered why I had taught her to talk in the first place; she was very verbal, and she felt comfortable telling me anything. ;-) At the risk of embarrassing her if she's reading this, the pinnacle of my "I can't wait until we can talk to each other" project occurred the day she called me all excited to tell me that she'd had her first period, going into detail about how, when, and why. Part of me wished she'd simply sang "Wonderful World" to me instead.

But only a part of me.

C:\> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants

Often, when he was alone, Ted would think of that teddy bear, the only remaining tangible thing from that time. Not that he had the teddy bear, of course; he assumed she still had it, but then again, why? Why would she keep the only remaining tangible thing from that time? She did have it for awhile, at least. He knew that much. A teddy bear with a terrible secret living amongst all the other innocuous stuffed fauna that lived on top of her bed. When he'd walk into her room back then he'd see the bear staring at him with accusing jet-black cold pieces of plastic that passed for eyes. And now, years later, it was the teddy bear that still haunted him. He'd forgotten the little details of the rest, somehow... the little details that really mattered. Those were, thankfully, gone. The damned bear, however, remained in his memory, with its stupid sewn-on grin and lifeless black eyes.

They'd gone to a mall afterward, and Ted had bought the teddy bear and given it to her on the spot. Just another for her collection, or so he'd thought. Something they could look at that afternoon and hold, instead of looking at each other. She'd smiled a sad smile and stroked the bear's fur while Ted looked at his feet, trying desperately to only think of the bear and not the other missing thing. Missing things, rather, for several things were lost that day. Ted's purchase and gift of the bear was a somewhat feeble attempt to fill that emptiness, and emptiness that would just grow larger until it was an abyss swallowing him whole. But he couldn't know that at the time. No... give her the bear, look at your feet, think of nothing... especially don't think about that... and everything will be fine. If not today, at least tomorrow. Surely tomorrow things will be better.

Tomorrow was not better, nor the next day. The bear remained. Perhaps it was the bear's fault. Its stupid black eyes that stared at you, because it knew. Ted hated that bear. Things were fine before the bear, and then there was this accusatory teddy bear on the bed, and then things weren't fine. Ted couldn't believe that was just a coincidence. She, however, didn't seem to even notice the bear, and never talked about it.

Eventually she left, or maybe Ted left, but in any event Ted stopped thinking about that day and enjoyed a respite from the evil teddy bear's glare. However, there were times when something would be said or happen that would trigger a slight memory of that day... when he was alone and feeling unfulfilled or otherwise down... and the bear would come back, eyes black as ever.

And he'd wonder what that bear was doing now.

C:\> Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Talahi Diaries, September 10, 1966 / 2005

In a fitting piece of irony, synchronicity, coincidence... or whatever you may call it... the very first entry in the Talahi diary was written on the same day that the very last entry was entered, 39 years later:

September 10, 1966

Drove to Lake Geneva to look at property for a summer home. Went to Joerm [?] Realty. Mr. Clifford showed us several. We fell "in love" with a house in Indian Hills. [Grandpa]

That's the house they put an offer on two days later (according to the diary). The offer? $14,000. I don't know if that offer was accepted, but the house was purchased, and they closed on October 14, 1966:

Closed deal on purchase of property in Fontana. Will name it "Talahi" (our T.C. annual) which is Chippewa Indian for "Under The Oaks." Very appropriate w/ our oaks. [Grandpa]

"T.C" refers to St. Cloud State Teacher's College, as it was called then, and is where my grandparents met. Here's a picture taken just three or so months later, early in 1967:

Fast-forward 39 years to September 10, 2005. My grandparents were now living in Dallas, but were spending the summers at the lake house. However, we didn't want my grandfather to make the long two-day drive, so the last couple of years I'd drive them up there and fly back home. At the end of the summer I'd fly back up there and drive them back. After 2005 we didn't think it was a good idea for them to be up there for three months by themselves, so they stayed year around in Dallas. This particular September day was the last time my grandfather was at Talahi, and, as usual, I made a diary entry:

September 10, 2005

Breakfast at Hot Diggity Dog. Today we'll make the house ready for the winter. Will leave tomorrow in the AM. [Hank]

"Hot Diggity Dog" was a hole-in-the-wall eatery of the type that my grandparents were so fond. It was in Walworth, and was open from 5am to 1pm, basically serving breakfasts to local farmers and the occasional hot dog to tourists.

Now, I was up at Talahi last summer (2008) to load up a U-Haul full of furniture and boxes that I then drove back to Dallas, but I was unable to make a diary entry. I really wanted to, knowing that it was the last day I'd ever be at Talahi, but unfortunately the diary had been packed in one of the boxes and I couldn't find it. I contemplated "faking" the entry, adding it after the fact, but in the end chose not to. The entry of September 10, 2005, coming 39 years to the day after the first entry, thus, is the final entry.

Here's a picture of the house from 2004. (Click on it to see a larger version). In almost 40 years the pine trees at the front of the house have grown from about 3 feet high to about 40, and the new edition that we built onto the house is visible on the left. The composition is kind of odd, but I wanted to capture the feeling of the tall, majestic oaks that surrounded the house and property. They were, after all, the inspiration for the house's name:

C:\> Friday, July 24, 2009

New Money-Saving Anti-Socialism Idea!

I want to privatize the police and fire detartments. Why this socialized protection? We all should have to pay a monthly fee to something called "civil protection", and, after we've met our deductible (over $200 in theft/damages), then the police will come out and investigate. We'd still have to pay them a small "appearance fee", of course. I think the police force might even start showing a profit finally!

Of course, if our house had been broken into in the past due to a faulty lock before we started our civil protection plan, then the police wouldn't have to come if we had a new theft due to the preexisting condition of the faulty lock. Same thing with the fire department. Oh, you have a roof with wood shingles instead of composite? Well, that's not covered, then.

If you wanted to higher a private investigator/consultant, furthermore, you'd first have to get the approval of the board of directors of the civil protection plan/police force. If they approved it, their fee would be covered under the plan (less the small copayment, of course). Furthermore, this plan would just cover regular beat cops. If you wanted a specialist, say a homicide detective, that, too, would first have to be approved by the civil protection plan, after filling out 12 forms and making seventeen phone calls, but hey, it's the cost of freedom.

To make this civil protection plan more affordable, we could force your place of employment to offer a group plan, and pray and hope that they payed a portion of your premiums, because, dammit, obviously your home and property's safety should be the responsibility of your employer. Of course, if you were laid off and lost the civil protection coverage, the 911 dialing service on your phone would be disconnected. That's a shame, but if you just got a new job with a new employer who paid your civil protection plan, you'd be fine. Stop being so lazy. And oh: that old door lock, alarm system, and roof are now no longer covered since they're preexisting conditions, so let's hope the burglar comes through your back window.

Next up: My plan to end socialized military, because the private sector (Haliburton, Blackwater, et al), do it so much better and earn some green to boot.