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Happened to see my next-door neighbor (who we share a driveway with) as I was on my way out the door this morning, and he informed me that they had purchased a home in Springfield, about an hour's drive west, and would be moving out soon.  I was rather astonished by this unexpected news.  We have been living next to them for the ten years the Wife and I have resided in our current abode.

The husband is a quiet but friendly fellow, Japanese, who travels quite a bit for work.  His English is not so good but we occasionally have limited conversations.  His wife (white) is very nosy, and tends to be a talker, but she has MS, and for the last several years has great difficulty leaving the house and she now speaks haltingly and only with effort.  But she always has been nice and jovial to me even though her behavior has been infuriating at times (she's one of those people who will watch as you go about your business, then corner you when you come by, forcing you to stop what you are doing for the next 20 minutes while she goes on and on about something you don't care the slightest about).

I assume I'll get the full scoop later - don't know why anyone would move where they are moving.  The last couple years their one son has been doing the Millenial thing of moving out, moving back in, moving out, moving back in, but I think he finally moved out for good a few months back.

It's been a regret of mine that I haven't been able to really connect with any of my neighbors.  The first year or so after we moved in I really made an effort to be social, but, as is usually the case with most people, daily obligations just took over and chances of establishing actual camaraderie withered.  Now there is an inertia in place that would be quite difficult to dislodge.  But I always had a cordial relationship with my soon-to-be ex-neighbors, they never made any disturbances (aside from the son getting a little rambunctious during his college years) and they maintained their property.  We even exchanged Christmas cards.  Now I'm nervous about who will take their place.  Our houses are only 20 feet apart and our side doors face each other, so we are guaranteed to run into whomever lives there on a frequent basis.  This has the potential to turn out quite badly.

We Need a New System, Part II

I mentioned previously that I have been doing some thinking about how to make America safer in regards to mass shootings.  There is one component of a new, improved system that would help prevent killings that occurred to me.  Here’s the outcome of my ruminating: We need to introduce a tiered system of citizenship, one where a lower class of citizen is denied certain freedoms.  I think we literally need to create a legal category for second class citizens.   And some of those second class citizens will not be allowed to own guns or perhaps fly on airplanes.

I know, that sounds crazy, right?  Authoritarian maybe? Un-American, definitely.  Completely beyond the pale of acceptable political musing, certainly!  Any libertarian-minded individual reading this is now doubtless seeing red.

And yet, currently:
We don’t allow 18 – 20 year olds, who are ostensibly adults, to purchase alcohol, or even, in increasing number of cities, tobacco products.

We don’t allow 18 – 24 year olds to rent hotel rooms or rent cars.

We take away the driver’s license of elderly people considered too infirm to safely operate a motor vehicle.

In most states we permanently take away the right to vote for convicted felons, even if they have been released from prison.

We prohibit labelled sex offenders from living near schools or daycare centers, and they are entered into a registry.  Sex offenders must also avoid playgrounds, recreation centers, gyms, bus stops, parks, swimming pools, libraries, nursing homes and certain places of worship (2007 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act).  Sometimes they must even reregister if they move residences, change their employment or enroll at a post-secondary educational institution.

There are probably many other examples that I am not thinking of at the moment.  Note that I am not necessarily saying doing the above is against the public interest or patently unfair, but we DO do these things to people who are citizens and theoretically of equal standing to the rest of us.  One of the main virtues of the law is that, in a justly organized and operated state, it is applied to everyone in the same way. The classic definition of political equality is being treated equally before the law.  However, in practice clearly these individuals are not of equal standing.  Said another way, there are different rules for different folks.  I think that deep down all of us suspect that this state of affairs is true, i.e., that it describes reality.  Furthermore, the way society is going I don’t expect this to change; if anything, this trend will intensify as long as the government has the power and resources to enforce its edicts.

Nonetheless, most people agree with the government-enforced restrictions listed above.  Thus, they implicitly support the existence of a piecemeal ad hoc “second class” of citizen.  My only proposed change is that I want to codify it and make the system explicit - one where everyone knows where they (and everyone else) stand, where there is transparency, the possibility of appeal, and some semblance of due process.  No secret lists.  No hidden agendas.

Therefore I advocate for an officially recognized group of “First Class Citizens” (Class 1), and another of “Second Class Citizens” (Class 2), the latter to be subdivided into distinct groups.

Examples of such subgroups might be:

2i – the infirm (includes the feeble and/or mentally retarded)
2d - suffering from dementia and thus not responsible for making medical or financial decisions
2f – felon
2s – sexual predator, must be kept from victimizing others (primarily by denying them access to potential prey)
2m – mentally ill 

This last one is very important, and ultimately is the main point that inspired this post.  We need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unbalanced – people who are delusional, schizophrenic, paranoid, “hear voices”, suicidally depressed, etc.  People like Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter.  I think this would help greatly in that regard.  We can quibble about the other groups and the prohibitions assigned to each later.  But we need to solve the intractable problem of how to keep guns out of the hands of would-be criminals while ensuring that the freedoms of law-abiding people are not infringed.

At Home, Doing Typically Normal Things

Work has been insanely busy as of late - had to be in the office Saturday and Sunday.  I'm treading water, but still around. Ugh, the house needs some tending to.  Here's a pic of me rooting about in the basement - there sure is some weird stuff  down there!

Spare Me Your Platitudes

Yet another in the "I don't dare post this on FB" category:

In the wake of the latest Islamic terrorist attack in Orlando, I keep seeing people on social media telling others to "Be Safe".  While I understand the sentiment that is being conveyed, it strikes me as a particularly useless thing to say to people.  It is in no way actionable.

"Be safe".  Oh, OK.  I was planning on being un-safe, but now that you say that, I will make sure I am defended against all possible harm!  How exactly would one achieve this beneficial state, anyhow?  You might as say to the gay man "Don't be gay".  If that was possible, it certainly would have saved the victims' lives in the gay Orlando club.  But that is equally useless.  And probably offensive.

The other responses I see are similarly pointless, but even more pathetic and possibly counter-productive.  Calls for "solidarity", prayers, vigils, moments of silence, photos of flags at half-staff, more rainbow graphics - all the customary bullshit intended to make people feel as if they are somehow doing something when really nothing is being accomplished whatsoever.  The usual leftist knee-jerk reaction to restrict firearms for the rest of us.  Calls for more back-ground checks even though background checks were conducted and failed.  Calls for the FBI to get more powers of surveillance and greater investigative resources even though they interviewed the shooter three times and deemed him not a threat.  Pleas to continue to turn a blind eye towards Islam's essential incompatability with Western Civilization.

You know what could actually help you in such a crisis situation?   Here's what I want to say to people: "Get yourself a fucking gun, and learn how to use it properly."  Just a single person armed in that club could have turned that around.  Ditto for the Paris shootings: France, with the strictist gun control laws in the world - well they worked all right!  Hundreds of people at a venue, and not a single one with a gun.  Except the terrorists.

Give yourself at least a chance to survive.  And if you do die, you can at least be on your feet, surrounded by spent casings, rather than on your knees crying and begging for your life from a stone-cold killer completely unacquainted with the quaint notion of mercy.
Addendum: 7/5/16 Oh look - someone took my advice!
Bet you never saw THAT trending on the FB newsfeed.

On This Day, in 2011

FB informed me this morning that five years ago today I capitulated to the dictates of modernity and acquired my first cellular phone (or as I like to call it, "the ol' ball and chain").  At the time, it was regarded by many as an incontrovertible sign of the imminent Apocalypse.  But as we all know, interpreting prophecy can be tricky.

[Not My] Rose Garden

As promised/threatened, here are some photos from the local Whetstone Park of Roses.
I know I posted some last year, but these are even better because I got there at the peak bloom time.

Here the entrance hints at what's to come...

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Staging in the Garden

One of the aspects that sucks people into gardening, even if they don’t like to admit it, is the complexity. There are so many variables to consider. This makes mastery elusive, which I guess appeals to some perverse quality of the human spirit.
One of these variables is what I call “staging”. For example, if you plant tomatoes you may not want them to all ripen at the same time, because for a couple weeks you may have way more than you know what to do with, and then of course nothing the rest of the time. So it’s common to plant multiple varieties that can be harvested at different times, so you can enjoy fresh tomatoes over a longer duration. Sounds simple enough, right?

But when you are talking about ornamental gardening – specifically flowers – the issue starts to get more complex. If you’re not careful you may order a bunch of stuff from a catalogue and end up with flowerbeds that look fantastic for two weeks and then look like crap the rest of the year. You’ve probably seen those front yards where people have planted a bunch of bulbs, and they have tons of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils in spring and then nothing the remainder of the growing season. That’s something I’ve tried hard to avoid, in my admittedly amatuerish way.
This is the rolling progression of flowering plants I currently have in my yard, from early spring to early autumn:
Hellebore, crocus
Daffodil, lungwort
Bluebells, bleeding heart, viburnum, dogwood, redbud, crabapple, hawthorn
Iris, peony, columbine, lilac
Weigela, day lily, jacob’s ladder, spirea (which is all happening currently)
Hydrangea, astilbe, hosta
Coreopsis, coneflower, black-eyed Susan, yarrow
Liriope, sedum
Of course, there’s probably some overlap and I may have forgotten a couple plants, but in central Ohio this scheme has been working pretty well for me. Perhaps it would work as a template for you fellow gardeners as well? It may seem like a lot of variety but with the bloom times being staggered and the plants being scattered around the yard that's not really the case.  I know come late July-early August there’s not much going on bloom-wise, but it’s so frick’n hot here that I don’t want to spend time in the yard then anyway! (Further random thought: maybe someday I’ll get some blue asters for autumn).
I don’t do annuals because I don’t need the extra work. But the one thing I’m really lacking are roses. I have my reasons. Besides, the Park of Roses here does them way better than I ever could. Photos from there will be posted soon.
Went up to Cleveland on Sunday for a little respite from my troubles and spent the afternoon with my older brother.  He has been seeming more like himself lately (http://meistergedanken.livejournal.com/42241.html), and taking early retirement seems to agree with him (wouldn’t it for most of us?). He is leaving for a vacation at Yellowstone Park today. While he is away our sister-in-law will be stopping in to take care of his cat. She will probably bring her two boys (our nephews), ages 8 and 5. When they come over his house they always run over to the cabinet in the living room where he keeps the assembled Lego sets he has built – he’s got the Main Street of a little town in there.

Anyway, he got the idea of devising an old-fashioned scavenger hunt for them in his house while he is gone.  So he taped the first clue in a little envelope to the cabinet door for them to find. He read me all the clues (seven in all) so I could gauge the level of difficulty, and because he was quite pleased with himself. Naturally, not only were they riddles in that old-school Tolkien sense, but he composed them in rhyming verse. I felt like Batman confronting the Riddler! There was only one I didn’t figure out immediately because it required special knowledge only the kids know:

In the dark place, down below,
Where you are not allowed to go.”
Etc., and so on.

- Which was the basement, because I guess he told them they are not permitted to go down there.

Eventually the final clue [ironically] leads them back to the very same cabinet where they started, but to its bottom drawer, which when opened will reveal a new "Hotwheels" car for each of them.  Quite satisfactory all around; couldn’t have done better myself. But then that’s my older brother – everything is done just so, with class and ingenuity. I wondered if it might be a bit difficult, but our sister-in-law will probably prod them along if they get stuck. I suggested that maybe he might want to divulge up front the number of clues, so they might have some idea how far along they are, like say “1 (of 7)”. He was emphatically against that idea, however, and sternly shot it down in a way that made him sound like he was channeling our mother: “Absolutely not! If they give up mid-way then they failed, and get nothing!” Actually, the toys would simply be given to them at their birthdays a month later, but still, he wanted there to be consequences for giving up, and for failure.

Nonetheless, I mused on the gift that even failure would bestow upon them. They are never going to forget this, I’m sure. And in a kid’s imagination who knows what fantastic treasure they might have acquired if they had successfully persevered until the end? It would loom large in their minds for years and years – and we uncles would of course build it up to lofty proportions! J   It made me think of something from our youth that I hadn’t thought of in decades...

We had some relatives that lived in Martins Ferry, a little town on the Ohio River.  They were the sister of our paternal grandmother and her son, who was a teacher. Once when I was little we spent a day or two over their place and Uncle Don (as we called him) showed us a chest in the basement. “You wouldn’t even believe what’s in this chest,” he said gravely. “It’s a big secret – you can’t look inside. The stuff inside is very valuable, but it’s locked. Maybe someday you’ll get to open it. Maybe.” For years my younger brother and I would wonder what was in that chest. And we never found out, either. Damn it. Still, maybe that was for the best.

That anecdote made my brother think of something else from our youth: there used to be a little farm not far from our house, called “Cole’s Farm”. It had a wood sign with hand-painted white letters under its mailbox that we would see every Sunday when we drove to and from church. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, the farmer realized he couldn’t really make much money selling crops, so he kind of converted it into a children’s destination. Teachers used to take busloads of kids on field trips there. He had a petting zoo with sheep and goats, probably horses. I remember there being a pen of turkeys. He had a teepee he built, and the kids would all sit down in front of it and he would tell “Indian stories” to them – stuff I’m sure he just made up – and also, the sort of thing that would be heavily frowned upon today! But most impressive to all the boys was a tiny island in the middle of a pond. There was a wooden bridge that lead to the island and at the front of the bridge was a sign that proclaimed it went to “Treasure Island”. Well, for a six year old to see that…you can imagine how it would seem. Anyway, when I went there I wanted to go to the island and see the “treasure”. My older brother was incredulous when I told him that Mom hadn’t let me! In her typical dream-crushing brutalistic manner she just barked out, “No! There’s nothing to see there – there’s no treasure! It’s just fake junk.” Which was undeniably true, but come on, right?? I thought the real reason for her objection was that it cost an additional fee to cross the bridge, which made my brother roar out, “For God’s sake, it was only 5 cents! It was a nickel!!”   Yeah. Gives you some idea of the nature of our childhood.

My brother had seen the “treasure”, of course.  He was too headstrong to even let our mom’s admonitions and prohibitions stop him. He said it was a chest half-sunk into the earth, with a big round hole cut in the top. Chicken wire covered the hole to prevent kids from reaching into it, but you could see inside a mound of nuts and bolts that Farmer Cole had spray-painted in gold and silver paint. About what you’d expect, and not too shabby, really. It probably would have convinced a first grade me. And then I subsequently would have mounted a doubtless ill-fated expedition to claim it.

Sometime in the early 80’s the property was sold to a developer, who broke it into a few dozen lots and crammed a lot of big houses on it, like all the other farms in our town.  Another quirky local institution lost to the past and denied the children of today, sadly. But it was fun to recollect all this, if only for a few moments on a warm Sunday afternoon.

The Creeping Ravages of Age

Today's sorry milestone - just picked up my first pair of bifocals. Am anticipating a longer-than-promised adjustment period. Actually these are this weird kind that has three different prescriptions stacked vertically, "blended" from one to the next. First problem: when turning my head and my gaze locks on an object that passes diagonally across the lens as I turn there is a perceptible distortion that gives me a twinge of vertigo as I watch the image bend. The woman at the store insisted I would get used to them by "training" myself to coordinate the movement of my head with my eye movement to minimize this. We'll see. At least I won't have to look above my glasses to read the buttons on my calculator anymore.

Last week I put on two different pairs of pants that I had recently washed only to find that I could barely button them. As God is my witness, I am NOT going to a bigger size, even if I have to wear sweat pants to work.

I shouldn't be surprised, with everything going on at work and dealing with the Wife's medical issues at home I have been stressed out, not getting nearly enough sleep, haven't been eating right and my exercise regimen, despite my best efforts, has gone down to only twice a week. That has to change.

Still, this morning I was informed that a coworker had brought in doughnuts. I happened to walk by them once (they're situated such that one has little choice in that regard) and refrained. I stayed at my desk longer than I wanted, hoping that other people would step up and eat them all, or at least eat all the "good" ones so I could more easily resist their sweet allure. Then I had to go to a meeting - walked by them a second time. Then an hour later came out of the meeting, and my supervisor, who was walking with me, stopped by the remaining dastardly baked goods (or is it evils?). We both gazed down at the reduced - but still tempting - selection, our resolve crumbling. He said, "I really shouldn't...", then reached down and retrieved one. And Heaven help me, I did the same and hoisted a billowy cruller into my mouth. Ugh.

Furthermore, at 2:00 pm today there is going to be one of those stupid "cake-and-ice cream social" things to congratulate someone in our section who has put in 20 years with the firm. It's like some kind of conspiracy. Well, I am NOT going to eat any goddamned cake, nor any ice cream. Thus spaketh me.