Thursday, August 26, 2021


   When you turned to me—you in bed, still sleepwarm, against
                                                                               the pillows,
I across the room, skirt zipped, stockings on—
and you asked, so quietly,

"Was that a truthful answer?"

and outside our narrow third-storey window
the Norway maple was poking odd thumbs into the sky
and a skim milk early morning light leaked down the street,
down front porch steps, around grimed collars of snowbanks,
and the oval Victorian mirror of my dresser
reflected all that, with odd angles and rooflines, gutters, chimneys
                                                    jutting into its peripheral vision,

your question cut
like a knife so sharpened it
    slices clean and the surprised flesh doesn't know for a moment 
                                                                               how to bleed,

and I answered, after a pause
in which the strangeness felt like a form of love,


—Rosanna Warren

Thursday, August 19, 2021


 While I no longer generally attempt to contact people whom I used to know, I still look some of them up occasionally to see what they're up to. Since I've never had many friends over the years, these are usually people whom I knew through work. What I'm finding now is that a lot of them are dead, and they now appear in obituaries. Most of the people whom I knew in the Chicago area, where I lived from 1998 to 2011, are still alive and working, but before that, when I lived in Dixon, Illinois, Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Indiana and Terre Haute, Indiana, most of them are dead. Since I still have vivid memories of them, it is a little jarring to think that they died so soon. On the other hand, this provides a broad perspective on people's lives which can only be accrued over many years.

The main feeling that I have now is that the work environment for most people is completely haphazard. They are thrown into groups of other people with whom they have little in common, and everyone pretends to fit the mold set by the management. As an independent person, I always found the pressure to conform grating, and as a perceptive person I was annoyed by the disingenuous behavior of others who were attempting to sustain or advance their careers. Another thing that I've noticed over many years is that some companies are conspicuously better managed than others, and that some have incompetent employees at high levels. Thinking about my supervisors, some were indelibly affected by their military experiences, and they used a primitive chain-of-command methodology throughout their working years. Thus, they spent more time on homage and fealty to their superiors and maintaining the status quo than on solving problems and ensuring higher productivity or improving the quality of work. In my experience, the military style failed, and the companies that followed it were more likely to go out of business. Interestingly, military thinking also fails inside its original settings, thus the conspicuous mismanagement of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and the disastrous psychological and medical consequences for veterans.

In some ways it seems remarkable that I survived in the workplace for so many years, but a lot of that may simply have had to do with changing jobs and moving. Certainly I never came remotely close to finding an ideal job, thus, I am happier than ever to be retired now. I feel sorry for those I knew who still have to work: I don't see how they could be enjoying themselves.

As for my former superiors, some were better than others. Larry, the president of the company where I worked in Dixon, often said "life is short." It was for him: he died at the age of 79 from Alzheimer's disease in 2015. Another boss, Fred, from Indianapolis, immigrated from England in 1972 and was far less talented. He died at the age of 81, leaving seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Although Fred never achieved much, I guess you could say that he succeeded biologically. I think that he took early retirement when the company where he worked was sold. Several of my coworkers have also died, and some of them have changed fields. One became a bus driver, and another switched from printing to orthopedic products. Some have changed jobs several times since I last saw them. As far as I know, none have died from COVID-19.

One thing I'm thankful for is that I retired before I had to post an obligatory profile on LinkedIn. I would have found that completely degrading, because it would have been about as far from how I see myself as is possible. I think that this blog comes much closer to saying who I am and what I represent. So, if you would like to consider hiring me for a job, please read the blog carefully.

The obituaries themselves usually supply only the most basic information. However, you can sometimes tell how important that person was to others in the comments they write – if there are any. After reading many obituaries, an individual's life, in the greater scheme of things, does not seem to have much significance. As I've said, it's only a matter of time before everyone is forgotten. As for myself, I don't intend to have an obituary.

Friday, August 13, 2021

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

—Theodore Roethke

Friday, August 6, 2021


I've been reading an anthology of American poetry and have found only one poem in it that I like. That is a poem by Theodore Roethke, and I ordered and received his Collected Poems, which I haven't started yet. The Po Chü-i poem in my last post came from another anthology that I've had for many years. When I said that I like 20th century American poetry, I probably should have qualified that, because the early and late periods are pretty bad in my opinion, and the poems I like are roughly from the 1930's to the 1980's. Every once in a while I read the poems posted by Jim Culleny on 3 Quarks Daily, and some of those aren't bad, but I don't read poetry regularly.

The next nonfiction book that I'm going to read will be published in September and discusses research indicating that "much early behavior is biologically predisposed rather than learned," and this is the sort of subject that I enjoy. One of the ideas that I've found most interesting in recent years is that the universe is deterministic, and that includes human behavior. The best research is being conducted by biologists rather than by psychologists, physicists or philosophers. In this vein, Behave, by Robert Sapolsky, was quite informative. I think that most theories of human nature have been incorrect until recently, and that biologists are currently working out the actual details. What makes it confusing is that the processes are so complex that it may be impossible to fully grasp them, especially when they are considered collectively. I think that our existing concepts of consciousness, free will and mind stem from obsolete theological ideas which are thousands of years old. A key idea for me is that we don't actually have free will, but that, because of the complexity of the underlying processes that produce human behavior, we are unable to comprehend them and delude ourselves into thinking that we are free. The implications of this are rather significant in many areas, such as political systems, overpopulation and anthropogenic climate change. I can't emphasize enough that all of the problems that we are collectively facing now were directly or indirectly created by us. Thus, for example, to anyone who is willing to accept facts, democracy doesn't work and capitalism is destroying the environment.

I don't necessarily like to pick on the U.S., since the same kinds of collective errors are made worldwide. However, since I live here, American errors seem more conspicuous to me. I find it remarkable that Donald Trump has any credibility whatsoever in this country. His incompetence and corruption have been demonstrated repeatedly for more than four years now, yet, remarkably, he retains a hold on the Republican Party, and this can only be explained by the willfulness and stupidity of his supporters. Not coincidentally, the same people have been reluctant to get vaccinated and have caused surges of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in their states. To me, these are relatively straightforward examples of how the U.S. government doesn't work and how ignorant voters are endangering themselves and the world. With the lingering pandemic and global warming advancing, it is disconcerting that the near future now more closely resembles a dystopian novel.

In other news, I've volunteered at the Ilsley Public Library to remove unwanted books. Although the library regularly has book sales and recycles books that way, they have too many unwanted books and literally can't give them away. These include books that even used booksellers don't want. For this reason, the library throws them out, which means that they must be taken to the Addison County Solid Waste District, which charges a fee, since they are not recyclable. My job is to load boxes of these books into my car and transport them to the Solid Waste District. In earlier days, readers would have been horrified to see books end their lives this way. On the other hand, this is an excellent time for readers like me who dislike Kindle and now have increased access to inexpensive used books. Other old-tech items such as CDs, cassettes, LPs and videocassettes are also going out of use, and the library throws some of them away too. We still have players for all of those, and I prefer our CD player for music. One of the ironies of the digital age is that, with lower costs and increased availability, the quality of sound systems has gradually deteriorated, and, in my opinion, so has the quality of music and writing. I would guess that most Gen Z people have never heard high quality music reproduction or read a good book. So much for progress.