“After the Ecstasy, the Laundry”

[Video: “Behind the scenes” look at the making of a pop-up “art book,” Everyday Wonders, which was created to advertise the features of a new Samsung smartphone. (The advertisement itself is here.)]

From whiskey river:


There are so many messages I can’t interpret.
The hundred maples at the edge of my street shout orange, orange,
orange, in silent voices. And may say more if I could decipher.

How I want to understand the many calls of the birds migrating through
on their long journey. And what is the message of the shaggy
wave-curled sea quarreling around the black rocks out at the far point?

Perhaps words themselves wander off into other fields, like sheep lost
in the depths of the hills beyond the local hills so the shepherd has to
go climbing up and down, his legs aching, his breath heavy
in his chest until he spies them off there under

that far evergreen, and wrestles them down and brings them home.

(Patricia Fargnoli [source])


Anyone can see that if grasping and aversion were with us all day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand them? Under that condition, living things would either die or become insane. Instead, we survive because there are natural periods of coolness, of wholeness, and ease. In fact, they last longer than the fires of our grasping and fear. It is this that sustains us. We have periods of rest making us refreshed, alive, well. Why don’t we feel thankful for this everyday Nirvana?

We already know how to let go — we do it every night when we go to sleep, and that letting go, like a good night’s sleep, is delicious. Opening in this way, we can live in the reality of our wholeness. A little letting go brings us a little peace, a greater letting go brings us a greater peace. Entering the gateless gate, we begin to treasure the moments of wholeness. We begin to trust the natural rhythm of the world, just as we trust our own sleep and how our own breath breathes itself.

(Jack Kornfield [source])


Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter.

(Shauna Niequist [source])

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A Face Only a Mother Could Love

We’re thinking of physically reconfiguring our network equipment here at the house. Currently, the DSL modem and router are upstairs in my office — at the far end of the house — where they’ve been since we moved here ten years ago. Since then, things have changed:

  • The Missus no longer has a desktop computer. She has a laptop, which can use either a wired or a wireless connection.
  • We have new smartphones, which can connect to the Internet either via our carrier’s own network, OR through (much faster) WiFi if available.
  • We have a streaming-video device connected to our TV which lets us download movies and TV shows (etc.) — unavailable through our satellite-TV provider — via services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and so on. Or rather, it would let us do so, if (a) we had a reliable wireless connection at that location, or (b) the wired connection there weren’t already devoted to our satellite DVR.
  • Our newest Kindle, like the smartphones, can use either WiFi (faster) or Amazon’s own 3G “Whispernet” network, depending on which is available.

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Fun situation: a crash-bang-thumper of a thunderstorm blew through our neighborhood the other night. No animate casualties, gratifyingly. But among the inanimate ones:

  • The Missus’s computer.
  • our network router
  • the base station of our cordless phone set
  • our phone service, briefly, and
  • either our DSL modem…
  • or my computer’s network card…
  • or both.

Not a happy Internet user here.

I”m hoping it will take only a day for me to get back online. (The Missus: not that lucky.) Until then, I’ll be checking my favorite haunts via Blackberry. And maybe even posting that way (as in the present instance).

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Rigged — Involuntarily — for Silent Running



…oh, and in case I haven’t said recently: Grrrr.

As a good number of you already know, ’cause I’ve already told you: I cannot comment on your blogs during the work day. (I’ll detail some technical reasons for this at the end.) This post is to let you know that during those eight-ish hours of every weekday:

(1) If the main part of your blog’s address ends with wordpress.com, I can read it and comment there only via my BlackBerry. This is unchanged from recent months.

(2) If your blog’s address ends with blogspot.com, I can still read it during those hours. However, whether I can comment there at all then depends on two things:

(2a) If comments on your blog are entered on a completely separate page from where the posts are displayed, I can comment only via BlackBerry.

(2b) If comments must be entered on the same page as your posts, in a little box at the foot of the given post, I can’t even use my BlackBerry to enter them.

(3) If your blog’s address ends with things like livejournal.com or tumblr.com or ning.com or posterous.com or various other standard social-networking addresses, I can’t comment during work hours, probably at all.

(4) If your blog’s address ends with anything other than any of the above — that is, if you have your own domain name (as is true, e.g., with Seven-Imp — or with RAMH itself, for that matter), no change: I can both read and comment freely during work hours, just as I always have.

Note that the above supersedes any earlier email you may have gotten from me on this subject.

All of which means that you won’t see any sign from me that I’m actually still reading — and being engaged by — your writing on weekdays, unless I can post comments via BlackBerry… and maybe not even then. (If you monitor your site’s traffic, you will however still see my footprints in the damp ground outside, under the windows.)

To say that this drives me crazy really understates the case. I am, oh yes, annoyed. I am wroth. I am, indeed, mightily pissed off.


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Remotely Running After My Hat

[Image of 18th-century dowser from Wikipedia… Wonder if it’s sized to fit?]

I’m going to be computerless much of this week. Which presents me with a convenient dilemma — to wit, how to do a whiskey river Friday post?

You may be thinking: How, exactly, will this be “convenient”? Sounds rather like a pain, in fact. (Also a bit presumptuous. There can’t be that many people who know this Friday series even exists!)

Nonetheless, I’m curious to know how easily this will be accomplished. Options considered and rejected so far:

  • Emailing a post via WordPress’s own built-in feature (limited features)
  • Installing and using the Postie WordPress plugin (not working from Blackberry email address)
  • Posting via Posterous.com (ditto)

Finally, I guess I’ll try what I’m doing now: using the Blackberry WordPress app. Tedious entering mass quantities of text, but I guess since the Friday posts are mostly copy-n-paste anyway…

Here’s a test, using the poem in last year’s edition of the Poetry Daily e-newsletter for today’s date:

How to Find Water

Easier if there are springs.

Before sunrise, lie down flat where the
search is to be made. Place
chin on the earth, so that your
sight will not range
higher than it ought. Then

Valleys receive rains most
abundantly and snow is squirreled by forests. Springs
run underground and
burst forth in the middle of
plains, protected
by the shade of trees.

Melting, it filters through
fissures in the ground and this
reaches the foot of the
mountain, from which gushing
springs come belching out. The earth
gives moisture under the influence
of heat, as a body emits sweat.


(Keith Waldrop, from Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy)

How’d that look? ‘Twas a bear to enter, even with copy-n-paste: the (highly idiosyncratic!) line breaks went missing and had to be entered manually, toggling back and forth into email and the WP app to check and correct them.

…And I still won’t know if it’s right until I can see it in a real browser!

Have a feeling Friday’s post will be very short, ha ha.

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Uncomfortable Numbers

From whiskey river:

A Word on Statistics

Out of every hundred people,

those who always know better:

Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.

Ready to help,
if it doesn’t take long:

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four — well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know,
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.

Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:

Worthy of empathy:

one hundred out of one hundred —
a figure that has never varied yet.

(Wislawa Szymborska; translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak [source])


One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?

If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.

If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.

But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.

How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

(Federico Moramarco)

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Voice Tech Follies

I’m really not a fan of the telephone: give me good-old when-I-get-to-it email any day, y’know? (People at work long ago got used to the idea that I intentionally sit with my back to the phone — so I never even have to see the red “voicemail message waiting” light. They all email me, even the ones who work in the next cubicle.)

Under the circumstances, it might surprise you that I signed up for Google Voice (even more assumption that I might use the telephone?!?)… at least until you learn that, among its other features, it includes a speech-to-text translator.

Closed captioning for voicemail messages — zowie!

Needless to say, it’s not perfect. So far the only person who’s left messages for me is my brother, whose voice sounds so much like mine that even I myself can’t tell the difference except by checking to see if my lips are moving.

Alas, this also means that his voice is husky — breath-driven rather than vocal-cord-driven — and this seems to confuse Google Voice quite a bit. In the most recent message, giving me a heads-up about videos from Conan O’Brien’s final show, the transcription software kept “hearing” the suddenly-former talk-show host’s name as “calling O’Brien.” Earlier, I was myself confused by a transcript in which he talked about his recent “conversation with Oscar.” Oscar? I kept asking myself. Who the hell is Oscar? I don’t know any Oscars!

Then I listened to the voicemail. Oh. He had a conversation with our sister.

Another cool thing you can do with Google Voice is get the transcript — and the recording itself — forwarded to you as email: invaluable if you get so few voicemail messages that you almost never visit your voicemail Inbox. (Like, oh, say… like me.) Here’s the text of Google Voice’s own welcome message:

Welcome to Google Voice! Google Voice gives you a single phone number that rings all your phones, saves your voicemail online, and transcribes your voicemail to text. Other cool features include the ability to listen in on messages while they are being left and the ability to make low cost international calls. To start enjoying Google Voice, just give out your Google Voice number. You can record custom greetings for your favorite callers or block annoying callers by marking them as SPAM. Just click on the settings link at the top of your inbox. We hope you enjoy Google Voice.

And here’s the message itself (which of course is perfectly accurate for this occasion, cough):

[Below, click Play button to begin. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is :29 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You notice how the voice suddenly switched from that of a”normal” American to a sort of Central European sound over the course of the last couple sentences? I like to think the original transcription was accurate only for one half of the message, so they went back and re-recorded the other half.

For what it’s worth, the “voice of Google Voice” — the one which walks you through the menus, and such — is that of an actress and voiceover artist named Laurie Burke. What a… what a… what an interesting thing to have on one’s résumé. (Although personally, I’d much rather be known as the voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Open my Inbox, HAL.” “I’m afraid I can’t do that, David.”)

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Department of Unintended Consequences
(Animals & Technology Division)

The Missus and I are not alone in having a dog who barks rabidly during thunderstorms. But alone or not, we do. She may be little, and her bark may be a mere yip! compared to the more conventional woof! of full-size hounds, but she is determined to scare the storm away.

(And you know what? You can’t argue with results. The storm always leaves.)

For the record, she also barks when dogs on TV bark, and she barks when doors slam on TV, and when she’s anxious for dinner, and when someone opens the front door from outside, and she barks when she’s happy and excited about a new toy or t,r,e,a,t being unwrapped.

Still, she was doing this new thing in the last couple of weeks which I couldn’t understand: she’d suddenly start barking for no reason. It was like her storm-barking: frantic, maddened you-better-stay-away-from-my-family barking.

I couldn’t understand it, that is, until the moment over the weekend when I just happened to— well, let me explain.

The Missus and I have new “smart” phones. I don’t know what The Missus is up to with hers, but by default, when my own phone rings it just rings. Oh, I’d done the obvious thing already — downloaded a ringtone, and aren’t I hot stuff for having figured that out?

But then my former boss was telling me about her phone, which is roughly the same model, and she asked if I’d gotten into customizing ringtones: really customizing them.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “I set mine up to ring as usual whenever someone calls, and I’ve got a different ringtone for my Mama, and one for my sisters…”

That sounded (ha, no pun intended) pretty cool to me. So I did some research. And then took action.

Now, I haven’t gone as far yet as my ex-boss. But on a lark, I did set the phone up to play my downloaded ringtone whenever a call comes in… and to vibrate whenever an email arrived in the Inbox.

That was it, you see:

Notifications from Facebook: bzzzzzzz, BarkBarkBark!

Spam arriving: bzzzzz, BarkYipBark!

E-newsletter subscriptions: bzzzzz, YipYipYipYip!

In short, the dog was being driven slowly but unambiguously mad by the male human’s flaky experiments in telecommunications.

And all it took for the male human to figure it out was to move the phone from the coffee table to his hip pocket. And then, of course, to make a connection between the bzzzz! against the thigh and the YipYipYip! in the ear. We won’t discuss how long this last step took.

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Bars on Every Corner

AT&T Pantech Matrix phone (click for original)I worked for AT&T, late 1970s through sometime in the early 1990s (depending on where you want to place the marker). And I was a loyal customer, too. When less costly competing services came along, from MCI and Sprint, I never gave them a glance. I never considered buying a phone or answering machine that lacked the stylized bell logo (or later, the stripy globe). Even my first real home PC was an AT&T model.

In more recent years, the loyalty has faded. It’s pretty much just the brand name now which gets acquired by new corporate scalphunters. (For people I worked with back then who remain with the company, such as it is, working life must feel a little surreal.) My cell phone now comes from Finland. It operates on a cellular network belonging to one of those “inferior” competitors. I’ve moved on.

All of which is by way of saying (you were wondering, admit it): I don’t have any particular vested interest in recent AT&T cellular service ads on TV… except as a TV viewer.

And as a TV viewer, I’ve started to become obsessed with those ads. Those frigging ads

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