Archive for the 'Nonclassified Nonsense' Category


31 August 2018 at 8:58 pm
by Jonah

The boss let us go home early today.  She likes to do that on Fridays before holiday weekends.

Berck was still busy at work, so I stopped by the grocery on the way home to pick up mushrooms and peppers.  Berck complains that he can’t cook ANYTHING if he doesn’t have mushrooms or peppers handy, so I try to have some in the fridge each weekend.  Then I toss them in the garbage in a week when they’ve gone bad.

Traffic was nuts, even at 2:00 p.m., so I decided to stop at the King Soopers on Uintah.  As I was walking up to the front door through the parking lot, I had to swing around the back of a giant, ancient, mustard yellow Oldsmobile Tornado, pulled all the way up to the handicapped sign.  (I now know it was an Oldsmobile because I eventually found it on Google.  Searching for “tornado” and “cars” on Google leads to a lot of photos of storm devastation, which was not helpful.)   They just don’t make cars like that anymore, with proud rear ends that announce themselves so loudly.

What kind of gas mileage does that get, I wondered.  I’m sure it was designed before the gas embargo.

As I walked by, I noticed the windows were down, and the driver was lounging in the front seat, undoubtedly waiting for his passenger to finish their shopping trip inside.

Then I caught the unmistakable whiff of cigar smoke.

Because if you’re gonna sit in your Tornado in a handicapped spot at the grocery, of course you’re gonna be smoking a stogie.





2 August 2018 at 8:15 pm
by Berck

I spent much of Sunday cutting down dead aspens. I wore shorts and boat shoes while operating a chainsaw which I know to be a bad idea. Fortunately, my chainsaw is small and underpowered, but I have to wonder if I’m actually a rational person. I wear a full suit, gloves and helmet while riding a motorcycle, but shorts while operating a chainsaw. Which is more risky? Is my behavior consistent? I don’t even know!

I was completely sore for two days later. It’s important that when you live a sedentary lifestyle that you commit to it fully, otherwise things hurt. Also, I’m apparently an old man.

Aspens are stupid. They grow for a few years, then die. They’re the only deciduous trees we have, and they can’t even be bothered to turn colors. Instead, they all turn exactly the same color at exactly the same time. People think it’s beautiful. I think they’ve never seen proper trees. Trees are maybe the only thing I miss about the south.

I sawed the wood into reasonable pieces, and Jonah stacked it on the edges of the property. I’ve been wondering how long I can reasonably wait to deal with it. If I leave it up to Jonah, the wood will still be there when she dies. Robert & Sarah might want it, but they have lots of wood, and moving it down there seems like work. I have a barbacoa pit, but using it didn’t go well last time, and I’m pretty sure aspen is exactly the wrong sort of wood for it anyway.

So at first I was glad to see that some old person left a note on our door asking if they could have the wood. Sure! Only, I had no idea who it was, and there was a phone number. I was definitely not calling a phone number. Fortunately, I’m married.

Unfortunately, I think we’re giving the wood to the neighbor who yells at me to slow down even when I’m driving well under the speed limit. Everytime I haven’t seen her in awhile, I hope maybe she’s dead, only to have my hopes crushed next time she yells at me.

Hare Krishna

11 March 2018 at 9:15 am
by Berck

The manager of one of the teams in Bangalore has insisted on showing us around this weekend. Yesterday, we went to the Veerabhadra Temple. I’m not sure what I imagined, but it didn’t really fit any idea of “temple” I had in my head.

I don’t understand any religion from a rational basis, but Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a common, familiar structure that I can understand to be comforting for some. Paganism is far removed but has, for me, a coherent literary structure and while I’ve never encountered contemporaneous practice, historical practice seems logical.

Hinduism, from my very first exposure has seemed nearly impenetrable. I suspect this is at least in part due to the lack of effort I’ve put into it, but even its practitioners come across to me as confused. The brief facts I know about Hinduism seem as though my childhood textbook writers picked arbitrary facts that were easy to convey with single words: polytheism, reincarnation, caste-system. None of which make any effort to get any core belief.

And maybe that’s because Hinduism isn’t actually a religion in the same sense of other religions I’m familiar with. From Wikipedia:

Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist. Because of the wide range of traditions and ideas covered by the term Hinduism, arriving at a comprehensive definition is difficult. The religion “defies our desire to define and categorize it”. Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and “a way of life”. From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism like other faiths is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the western term religion.

My notion of a temple is thus rooted in my experience with temples I’ve known thus far: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and quite a few pagan ruins.

The Veerabhadra Temple is an odd (to me, but common for India) architectural ruin and functioning temple. The outside is surrounded by engraved, well-worn columns, frescoed ceilings, dirt floors. The frescoes are fading or have disappeared and the figures in the columns are eroding. There is no apparent effort to preserve the 500-year-old structure. Visitors touch the columns. The place is dirty.

On the inside, there are several idols attended to by priests (?). Devotees provide a small donation, and are rewarded with some words, some color smeared in their foreheads, some coconut water, maybe some fruit. I don’t really understand the exchange of fruit, as it seems to go both ways. The atmosphere inside is loud and chaotic and dingy and doesn’t resemble any sort of religious practice as I know it.

The drive to the temple was several hours and it was several hours back. I requested that today we see things in vicinity of Bangalore since we only had one day and it seemed like a city of 12 million probably had some interesting attractions without driving far away.

We started today by visiting ISKCON temple in town, home of the Hare Krishnas. We drove for nearly an hour and got to the temple only to discover that our coworker-guide had blindly followed his GPS to a small subsidiary temple and not at all the large temple we were trying to visit. We removed our shoes and visited anyway. I was permitted to take photographs of the idols.

We then drove for a long while down unpaved “roads” as our guide relied on Google Maps directions to navigate back to the correct temple. Google maps has a very good idea of where there are gaps between the buildings in Bangalore. Unfortunately, it thinks all of them are passable roads, and that’s simply not the case.

We eventually made it back to some main roads, and then after another hour, reached the temple we’d set out to see. Unlike the ancient temple it was built relatively recently. I was not allowed in wearing my shorts and to rent a dhoti to cover my obscene white legs, which greatly amused my coworkers.

The time spent in the temple itself was about 10% of the time spent in the massive complex of gift shops that you must pass through in order to exit. My coworkers were awfully interested in the various tchotchkes, but the perfumes and incense were more than I could take. While waiting for them, various Indians came by and took selfies with me. I’m not sure if they were amused because I was white, wearing a dhoti with a t-shirt, have a large beard, or the maybe the entire package. In any case, I’m probably lighting up Indian instagram.

At first I was glad to be able to walk around barefoot, but India is hot and my poor feet have grown soft since my days of perpetual barefootedness. I’m pretty sure I have blisters on my feet.

After another hour of driving and some back and forth about lunch after I requested spicy goat biryani, we arrived here for lunch. It’s apparently somehow related to this guy. I think.

In any case, the food was served on banana leaves and was quite good. Sadly, the biryani was only available as “medium” spicy, but it was still quite good. Instead of plates, the food is served on banana leaves and no silverware was offered. I’m not good at eating rice with my hands. We had a half-dozen different things, and they were all quite tasty. It was spicy enough to make me sweat, which is a good sign, but then all of India is hot enough that I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped sweating.

The Mansion

28 January 2018 at 10:07 pm
by Jonah

When I was in grade school, we had a class where we’d write journal entries and our superintendent would have various students read aloud their entries to the rest of the school.  The favorites were the ones written by the older kids that were obvious rip-offs of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, substituting the names of their classmates.  We’d beg for the next installments to hear what happened.

No one ever asked for me to read my writing.

I wasn’t a very good writer and never had anything terribly interesting to write about. Also, I was a little kid.

One day on the way home from church, my dad made a right turn off our route home, then another right turn down a one-lane driveway.  “Let’s see where this goes!” he said.

Looking back, I’m sure my dad knew exactly where it went.

Dad knew things.  He knew that the tiny gas station with filthy restrooms halfway between our house and my grandparents’ house stocked Yoohoo.  He knew that the vending machine in the workshop of the construction company where he worked had grape Nihi, even though the button you had to mash to get one was just handwritten in.  He also knew that if you shimmied along between the side of the workshop and the fence separating the construction company’s lot to the next door neighbor, you’d come to an apple tree brimming with delicious apples with a branch than overhung the fence and you could pick all the apples you wanted at will.

He had  to know about the long driveway leading to the south with tree limbs overhanging, the weeds growing up tall between the tire tracks.  When you’re a kid and don’t know how to drive a car, if you think about it, a one-lane drive is treacherous.  What if a car comes up the other way?  Will you crash?  Will you come to a standstill?  Will one of the cars have to back up the whole way?  What if the driver isn’t that great at backing up?  Will you crash? Etc.

We drove what seemed like miles, the bright sun disappearing behind the thick canopy of live oak limbs overhead.  Finally, Dad stopped the car.

We got out and stepped into an overgrown garden.  A gigantic fountain lay dry in the center of the garden.  Horticulture and weeds jockeyed for position in the sun’s rays.  This garden had clearly once been splendid.

Beyond the garden was the most beautiful house I had ever seen.  It was tall, stately, ornate, and at the same time decrepit  and a little creepy.  It was huge.  Even in the bright southern sun, it seemed cold and foreboding.

“Let’s take a look around!” my dad said.  My mom, always game for a bit of adventure, began peeking in windows. It was no use. All we could see was darkness inside.

My parents chatted about how much the mansion was worth.  “How would you like to move into that?” my dad asked, obviously rhetorically.

No creatures emerged to assault us.  No ghosts appeared. Nothing bad happened.  When we had looked around at everything there was to see, we piled back in the car to continue our journey home.

Still, this was the most exciting thing that had happened to me in months.  I couldn’t wait to write about it in my writing class.  Maybe I’d even get called on to read it out loud.  I was contemplating the adjectives I’d use.  The house was just so beautiful.  I mentioned all of this out loud.

“Oh,” my dad said, “No, don’t tell anyone about this.”  While tramping around an abandoned out-of-the-way mansion wasn’t illegal, it isn’t the sort of thing you want to go around advertising.

That week I wrote about something else.  Mushrooms, maybe.  Or socks.

(I should probably point out to my parents that I am now publishing this story publicly.)

Operation Barbacoa

1 January 2018 at 3:02 pm
by Jonah

Operation barbacoa: two blisters and two bags of charcoal (to melt through the frost layer) and many hours later

Berck is exultant about his hole.  The leg of lamb is thawing in the laundry room and a stack of maguey leaves is waiting in the garage.  Berck has fashioned wire handles for the pot from Mexico.

We have test-fit the grate on the pot. We have firewood stock-piled next to the hole. We have a plywood cover and tarp ready for the hole. There are garbanzo beans soaking in water upstairs.

Tomorrow morning, we have to get up super early to make a fire.

Step one, giant fire in a giant hole early in the morning.

Roasting maguey.  On shelf support brackets, the Mexican way.

Lamb, wrapped in maguey, in the hole…

Now we spend the next 8 hours wondering if there is enough heat in there…

The moment of truth.

No go.  The meat is still raw.

Next day 2nd try.

Need more wood.  Doesn’t everyone do fire mitigation cutting down dead aspens on Christmas morning?

We have cooked meat! Second attempt much more like success. Wonderful rare roasted lamb, delicious chicken. Doesn’t taste anything like barbacoa, but still quite good.

Potatoes and beans did not cook.  Rice turned into mush.  But we have a hole ready for our next attempt!