Pocket Oxford Dictionary

When I was in 6th grade, I made a trip to London to see my Grandparents. Grandpa was working as an executive with Lincoln National Life Insurance. They were living there for several years as Lincoln Life was working to set up an affiliate in France.

It was a nice visit. We got to see a lot of sights.

One goal was to go to the prime meridian in Greenwich, so we were able to do that.

Grandpa and I at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich

We went to a miniature village that was an exhibit in a near town. Another incident I remember was getting scolded by an officer for trying to climb a statue of Peter Pan to get a nice photo.

At the miniature village

I have a Pocket Oxford Dictionary that I have appreciated since then. The inscription reads “Given to me by Mrs. Ann Porter the nice woman who lived in the flat across the hall in England.” It’s my favorite dictionary. The copy I have is the 5th edition from 1969.

It might be optimistic to call it a “pocket” dictionary. It might fit in the side pocket of cargo pants, but a shirt pocket is out of the question. The first edition from 1924 was the “Concise Oxford Dictionary” which seems a more accurate title.

When I returned home, I arrived at the Montreal airport. The family met me there so that we could continue on to a vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone. I was perplexing to the customs inspectors that interviewed me. I didn’t know how long we would be staying in Canada and couldn’t answer their questions very well.

The flight was on BOAC and I remember getting a few souvenirs from them. I think they’re in a scrapbook my mom put together.

So, Mrs. Porter was very kind. I’m sure she didn’t know she had given me a gift that would be appreciated for 50 years.

Sincere, tolerant and enthusiastic

I was looking at a poster I have in my kitchen about different positive attributes. Three of them I noticed today were “sincere,” “tolerant” and “enthusiastic.” They’re principles that I can practice and notice when my thoughts and actions are aligned with them.

Sincere means being consistent between what I say and what I mean. In sincerity, I’ll act in good faith because I will value my own integrity. In sincerity, I won’t need to worry about being misunderstood or to feel uncomfortable with internal conflict. Sincerity can be a barrier against hypocrisy. I’ll try to make my actions align with what I believe and say. It isn’t a guarantee, but it pushes me toward doing what I profess. Sincerity enhances the goal of honesty.

Tolerant means that I allow people to disagree with me. I can look charitably on people who are different. Measuring other people with the ruler of my own perceptions and experience will be uncomfortable because I know I fall short as well. When I act in tolerance, I don’t need to obsess on the small “misdeeds” that I see other people do. I don’t know what they are thinking or how their understanding is different from me. I am not always right when I think I am, so I can believe that other people could be right when I think they’re wrong.

Enthusiastic feelings are a source of strength and energy. When I’m enthusiastic I’m looking away from depression and negative judgements. When I decide to do something, I can put my whole effort into it. The time I spend will be meaningful and might have unexpected benefits. My enthusiasm can be a little extra power when I am trying to accomplish a goal.

It isn’t an issue of trying to act on these ideas perfectly or to apply them in every situation that I find myself. When I offer myself self-forgiveness, I accept that I will fall short. At times I will notice that I’m doing the opposite, being insincere, judgmental, or lack-luster. Although I won’t find all of my opportunities to do better, my goal still is to improve.


Pouring Out Of The Soul By The TRUTH will set you free! (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An underused tool

My Mom’s computer had its printer failing to print with the problem “printer is in an error state.”

When I searched online, most of the information had four levels of suggestion: “Check that key is in the ignition,” “Replace the spark plugs,” then “Put in a new timing belt,” and sometimes “Take it to my buddy’s shop.” The vast majority of the help sites do not suggest “See what the operator manual suggests.”

“Check that the key is in the ignition” includes “Make sure that the printer is plugged in.” “Make sure that the printer is turned on.” “Make sure that there is paper in the printer.” “Make sure that the printer cable is connected.” These are all low-impact solutions. If any of these solve the problem, you don’t need to proceed to the next level. Performing them will not make things worse.

The missing level of “Check the operator’s manual” include running Windows troubleshooters and consulting printer manufacturer documentation.

“Replace the sparkplugs” include things such as make sure the printer is the default printer and clear the printer queue. Things that you can do with the menus and options available from the Windows interface. They’re not likely to cause damage, but may require more experience to follow the instructions.

“Put in a new timing” belt are things like “Uninstall drivers,” “Revert to an older version of Windows.” “Delete the files a folder,” and “Modify the registry.” They often require an extra confirmation step. Often they’re irreversible and may be pointing you toward the abyss.

“Take it to my buddy’s shop” include “Call our help line,” and “Install our software to repair it.”

The next thing one should do after “Check the key is in the ignition” is to “Check the operators manual.” With a PC, that means running the troubleshooter to diagnose and repair the problems automatically. Had I thought to suggest that first, Mom could have done it over the phone.

This is a general problem with online resources to help you solve a problem. They often want more that you would stay with their site longer, rather than of suggesting that you use existing tools to solve the problem.

Microsoft’s troubleshooters are not sexy. However they’re built in and maintained by the manufacturer. They can be more thorough by accessing the internal architecture of Windows. Many help pages that do suggest running the troubleshooter give it only a passing one or two sentence statement. Then go on to offer more extreme suggestions that seem plausible. Another non-sexy option is to go to the printer manufacturer’s site and see what their troubleshooting instructions are.

Any help site that includes “modify the registry” and install outside software shouldn’t be trusted with any of the rest of their suggestions.

For my Mom’s computer, the troubleshooter was all that her computer needed. Her computer got back on the road without needing an overhaul.

The Fighters

On the dairy farm, I had lots of chances to get outdoors. Watching the sky could be a relaxing pastime. It’s a reason to appreciate creation. After a high pressure system arrives in the summer, the clouds can have beautiful “fluffy” cumulus clouds and the low humidity would be pleasant.

I miss the sky when I visit Chicago. If I don’t leave the downtown, the skyscrapers won’t let me see much of the sky.

When things need to be done outside in the fields, it can be really pleasant. One thing that needs to be done is process the fields. Our main crop, hay, was always a source of work. We preferred alfalfa, which is a legume. It uses bacteria to take nitrogen from the air and “fix ” it so that the fields need less fertilizer. Alfalfa is nutritious for the cattle.

When it was ready, we mowed the hay. The mower is a machine that uses the tractor’s PTO. It’s some gearing and a “cutting bar” that stretched out to the side It had guides that help keep the hay from moving sideways. Behind them were some triangular teeth with really sharp edges. The tractor made the cutting bar oscillate left to right rapidly so that it could cut the hay close to ground level against the guides.

That’s where watching the sky becomes important.

Hay needs to dry before it can be baled up and stored. Rain interrupts the drying and if we’re unlucky, it could even make the hay get moldy. That’s less palatable for the cattle. However, if you store it when it is too wet, it risks spontaneously combusting and causing a fire.

A couple of times, when I was outside, I saw a military fighter plane go by heading north. It was going low to the ground and very fast. I never learned its origin nor destination. Fort Wayne had some military activities at Baer Field so that might explain it.

Sometimes, on the highway I-69, there would be a caravan of military vehicles go by. The trucks were all painted in camouflage. They were going out on training exercises, as best as I knew.

At the time, my attitude toward the military was pretty negative. I didn’t know anyone in the family that was in the service; maybe it was a throwback to the negative attitude toward Vietnam vets from earlier and I never knew any better..

Now, on Veterans Day, I can have breakfast with a friend who served in Iraq. At the time, when we were mostly at peace, the military seemed less relevant, but now I can appreciate the sacrifices they make.

Scared of heights?

I never really think about it, but I’m not afraid of heights. However, in the city on a tall building, I don’t like being on the edge so I have my limits on that.

The farm we had had a 50′ and 60′ (15-18m) silos. It was really grimy climbing into them. There was a closed channel on the side. It was really messy because the silage was thrown down the same chute to a conveyer belt to feed the cattle.

A silo is a place to store chopped corn that is preserved by the weight and lack of oxygen. To put new silage in, there was a little separate chute that led up the side with a slide at the top that could be turned to spread the new silage evenly. It was important to be careful because, if it plugged up, it was tedious to clean it out.

What’s most notable on the farm was how we powered the impeller to push new silage up. Normally we would have used a tractor and its PTO. A PTO is a “power take off” crank coming out the back of a tractor that could drive equipment. For example, it could power a baling machine that packs alfalfa and compacts it with twine into 40-50 pound (18-22kg) cubes. That made a lot of work for us kids in the summer!

For our silo, dad took an old car (an Impala or Taurus?). He welded a big flywheel on the drive shaft and used a belt to make the blower rotate. I remember the right setting was to have the engine set to 30 or 40 mph (50-65km/h) in reverse.

By having a dedicated machine, it saved the need for an extra tractor and the inconvenience of manipulating a tractor into the right position over and over. The impeller had a bar with universal joints to give some flexibility, but it was still challenging to get a tractor hooked up.

My lack of fear of heights came in play because I would climb up the outside to keep the silage in the right place. The path up was with a small metal ladder in the open air. Around the ladder was a little metal cage so you had a little protection if you fell. We never had a safety harness like linemen use when they climb a power pole. It must have been relatively safe because I never heard stories of people falling.

There’s lots of stories about the farm.

An eye for an eye, bad cops and their prosecutors

Looking at my Zondervan’s Exhaustive NIV Concordance, I find three places in the Bible’s Old Testament that refer to an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth. I want to address third because it can be relevant today.

The first two are what people reference when they argue that religions are inherently harmful. I won’t answer that question. Those passages are about retribution for injuries caused by one person on another. They’re pretty graphic to drive home the point. For example, in the Common English Bible, Exodus 22:23-25 refers to a “burn for a burn.” Its Leviticus 24:19-20 mentions “broken bone for broken bone.”

The third use of the phrase “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is in Deuteronomy 19:16-21. This verse is in a different context, as it addresses false accusations. I can argue that it applies to modern times. Not the harsh penalties described, but rather that false testimony is a very serious offense. However, currently, officials with power can be rewarded for false testimony without fear of any reprisal or penalty.

In the Common English Bible, the passage is “Now if a spiteful witness comes forward against someone, so as to testify against them falsely, the two persons who have a legal suit must stand before the Lord, before the priests, and before the judges that are in office at that time. The judges will look into the situation very carefully. If it turns out that the witness is a liar–that the witness has given false testimony against his fellow Israelite–then you must do to him what he had planned to do to his fellow Israelite. Remove such evil from your community! The rest of the people will hear about this and be afraid. Show no mercy on this point: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

The King James Version in its classic style reads “If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Although, the described remedy for the false witness is much too harsh for modern times, what is the sentiment and who can it apply to?

In the United States criminal justice system, the incentives for the police, district attorneys and prosecutors are heavily weighted toward getting a conviction not toward finding the truth. The prosecutor can have an incentive to withhold exonerating evidence from the accused to not “lose” a case. The district attorney may use animus against a person, group of people or race when they decide who to prosecute. The police officer can be rewarded by their number of arrests not the more difficult-to-measure goal of making the community safer. Bad cops are willing and at times successful when they plant drugs on a person to arrest and convict them.

The incentives are so skewed so that even if a conviction is proven to be false, some state governments are required to protect the conviction and prosecutor but not the falsely accused. If a false conviction is made, there very few consequences for the powerful and limited venues for revealing the truth for the weak.

The gist of this version of an “eye for an eye,” is that falsely accusing someone is a serious offense. If the reason for the false accusation is animus and prejudice, all the more reason to take action against the accuser, especially if they occupy an elevated position of power and responsibility.

In addition, the exhortation “look into the situation very carefully” should allow the situation to be repaired after a trial is over. The justice system should be rebalanced to diligently find justice and the truth, not get and save convictions.

Deuteronomy 19:16-21 indicates that it is important that a false accuser be held responsible. By describing harsh penalties, it strongly emphasizes that point. Legislation toward that aspiration for the criminal justice system is worthy of consideration.

A Tour of Whole Foods Parking Lot

Yesterday I was driving with a friend from South Broadway in Fort Wayne to Jefferson for a trip to New Haven.

We were way-laid by an accident outside the Whole Foods entrance. The car in the driveway was pretty mangled but there weren’t any ambulances. A man directed us to go into the parking lot. It was an exercise in patience. The parking lot filled up quickly. We were all trying to reach the only other exit on the far end of the lot.

One driver in front of me looked like they’d hit the end of their patience supply and rushed the car before theirs and braked quickly.

It was a test of anyone’s patience and I did ok. Most people were pretty civil about it all. The customers in the store were probably not impressed by the unexpected traffic jam. I let one car back out in front of me, but most of the others probably had to wait a long time to get out.

I didn’t think to get any video proof of the excitement.

The only thing I was thinking was, “I hope we don’t have another accident in the parking lot!”

It’s Such a Beautiful Day

I learned about a film by director Don Hertzfeldt, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” Online descriptions of it are very glowing. It’s available on the Criterion Channel but I haven’t watched it yet.

I checked my library and their consortium doesn’t have that movie available, so I searched for Don Hertzfeldt and found the disks “The Animation Show” volume 1 and 2 coming from a touring show of animations from 2003-2008.

One of the animations is directed by Corky Quakenbush about the character Ricardo. Ricardo is about 4 and describes a few humorous events. He finds a pornographic coffee table book about Madonna (Madama) and ties up the cat like he saw in the book. Of course, his mom was not amused; she washed his mouth out with soap when he described the book. He describes a few more episodes in the brief animation. A YouTube copy of video The Adventures of Ricardo. As a four year old, he doesn’t understand everything but he’s really enthusiastic. The animation isn’t very sophisticated but it makes up for that with charm.

There’s also a trilogy of shorts by Adam Elliot on The Animation Show: “Brother,” “Uncle” and “Cousin.” They’re available on the Adam Elliot website. These have a droll description of a child’s relatives. Each of the trilogy features a pet graveyard and the observations that a child might make. Very matter-of-fact and to the point.

Another entertaining short from the collection is Rockfish directed by Tim Miller about a fishing trip of subterranean “fish” that take the protagonist on a ride, pulling him across the desert like a shark or whale might in the ocean.

One of the directors in the video is PES. He has a short film Fireworks that is an animation of a candy fireworks show. PES has an additional animation, Kaboom! that is presented as an extra feature on Animation Show 2. The Kaboom! short is about a war climaxing with an nuclear attack on a city. The city and all of the items in the video are created from different antique household objects. YouTube has other videos by PES that I had watched years ago but didn’t know the connection. PES has an account on YouTube and his website is pesfilm.com

There are additional disks, Animation Show 3 (2007) and Animation Show 4 (2008).

Gardening philosophy

My mom suggests that giving garden plants a lot of water in the early summer keep them from developing a sturdy root system and that will hurt the plants later in the year.

My philosophy is that by watering them more, they are strengthened and grow bigger faster so that they are more productive in the harvest season. My plants will be lusher and have more foliage to grow produce with.

The trade-off is that I may need to continue watering more, but the resulting plants will be more robust and more productive

I have experience with that for several years with tomatoes. I go out and water them almost every day unless it had just rained. I joke that I go out to water them when the forecast is uncertain to help make sure it rains.

My tomatoes last year were so much more successful than what other people had reported. That is true again this year. Now my pepper plants are growing strong as well. I have a more and bigger bell peppers than in the past. This year’s jalapenos are also very successful.

While it isn’t proof that watering them is a win, the extra effort stemming from my watering philosophy seems reliable: it yields more produce.

It was like a whole library burned down

Laurie Anderson on the album Bright Red sings that when her father died, it was like a whole library had burned down.

When a library burns, it is a loss for the whole community. The Eckhart Public Library was burned by an arsonist in 2017. It had an awesome collection of resources that were gone overnight. At first, the hope was that some of the more valuable books could be cleaned and rescued but that wasn’t practical. The books are gone, rare edition or paperback novel, popular or ignored.

When someone in my family passes on, their stories and wisdom are gone. My grandpa’s knowledge of hatcheries and business management is unavailable. His stories of being a manager at Coca-Cola during WW II and helping neighbors exceed their sugar quota are just memories now. I can’t ask him what he saw when he visited China in 1978. My nephews and nieces’ kids won’t hear his stories, sense of humor and love of snowmobiles. Others in my family have also died. Their libraries were also burned down by cancer or old age.

The past two years, so many libraries have burned. So many people suddenly gone.

On a personal level, grandchildren may never learn from their grandparents. Children are without a parent to share love and hope with. Marriages have been violently torn apart by a virus. Parents who won’t be able to see their child graduate from college, get married and start a career.

On an economic level there are skills and expertise that can’t be replaced. The future cannot benefit from over 600,000 people’s insights and knowledge; they’re gone. The cost is inestimable.

If someone was carrying a torch into a library, they would be stopped at the door. The freedom to carry a torch is not of a higher order than the need to prevent arson.

With an infectious disease, carrying a viral torch can start many fires. No one can know who is in danger, but it’s society’s prerogative to protect libraries. It is civilization’s duty to keep them safe.

Although the analogy isn’t perfect, wearing a mask and getting vaccinated are how I can avoid carrying a torch. They also help me not ignite others torches. Some libraries are more flammable than others, requiring more caution. When the winds are strong, it may take more effort to protect libraries than on a calm day.

I don’t want any more libraries to burn. Libertarian logic is incompatible with public health. It ignores how past disease outbreaks are defeated. Polio and smallpox were conquered because the needs of the community exceeded personal preference.

Some restrictions can be an affront to personal liberty but there is no right to carry a torch into a library.