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Reverted to Type

(The following was first posted on partner blogs
Ink-Stained Wretches and Austin Mystery Writers.
I wrote it, but, due to technical difficulties,
couldn’t reblog it here.
Had to post the whole shebang again.)

When I opened my personal blog, back in the Dark Ages, I titled it To Write Is to Write Is to Write. I intended to tell everything I know about writing.

Everything I knew filled roughly 2.5 posts.

Now I write about what I don’t know about writing and leave giving advice to those who know what they’re doing.

Reverting to my old librarian persona, I also write about blogs by writers who aren’t anywhere near running out of material. Here’s a short list.

Friday Fictioneers

Each Friday, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields invites readers to compose 100-word stories based on a photo prompt. Writers post stories on their own blogs and then link to an inLinkz list to share with other Fictioneers and with the public. It’s fun. Specific rules are found here.

Sammi Cox

Sammi Cox posts a weekend word prompt: The rules: “Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.” Participants are free to link their efforts in the comments.

Chris the Story Reading Ape

TSRA introduces readers to authors, gives authors a platform, and provides information for writers aspiring to be published.

—from Uninspired Writers“Writer’s Block? Relax! Do Something Else”

—from Jami Gold: “Tips for Creating the Right Impression of Our Characters”

—from Lucy Mitchell: “Why Some Stories Are Like Bridges to Other Stories” 

—from Anne R. Allen’s Blog  . . . with Ruth Harris: “Freewrite: How to Write About Traumatic Events Without Adding More Trauma” by Marlene Cullen

TSRA also promotes—and thank goodness, considering how much writers need it—”FUN and an OASIS OF CALM and Font of useful Knowledge andTips for Indies (please do NOT feed my naughty chimps or they may follow you home) from the woes and stresses of the real world”—such as,

“LOLs Courtesy of BlueBird.”

Kate Shrewsday

Kate was on a bit of a hiatus for a while but is back now with “Social Distancing for Dogs.” She’s posted a lot of dog stories—my favorites are about the dear (and sometimes smelly) Macaulay, the dog with the Neville Chamberlain mustache, including

“The Miasmatron: Or Never Feed Steak to a Dog”

“The Terrier’s Apprentice”

“The Day the Dog Did What He Was Told” [with video]

Rummage through her blog. You’ll find many more gems on many more subjects.

Hugh’s News and Views

Hugh posts about “this, that, and everything else,” but my favorite posts are the Blogging Tips, such as,

“7 Things To Lookout For Before Following A Blog”

“How to Use Excerpts to Get More Visitors to Read Your Blog”

and one treasure for WordPress users:

“How to Backup Your WordPress Blog to Prevent Losing All Its Contents”

A Pondering Mind

A Pondering Mind posts words of wisdom,

Old wisdom:

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” ~ Rene Descartes

New wisdom:

“We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.” ~ Stephen Hawking

And—again, thank goodness—amusing wisdom:

“Do you know how helpless you feel if you have a full cup of coffee in your hand and you start to sneeze?” ~ Jean Kerr

*

I could go on—my first draft is twice as long as this one—but the deadline loomed hours ago. I hope you’ll check out some of these blogs. And I hope you enjoy them and return for more.

And—do you have any blogs you’d like to share? Including your own. Record them in a comment.

***

Image  of New York City Public Library lion by Chinem McCollum from Pixabay

Image of apes and books by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

Image of cowboy reading by mosla99 from Pixabay

***

My blog’s original title, To Write Is to Write Is to Write, is a fragment of a quotation from Gertrude Stein, who knew how to write and who told Ernest Hemingway how to write.

The current title comes from the first chapter of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain knew all about writing. Ernest Hemingway said so.

Reception Invitation–Please Share

Coy and Susan are getting married at Alien Resort, and you’re invited to the reception on Zoom. Sign the wedding guest book (link in this post)–a link to your site will be displayed, and you’ll receive the link to the reception.

Alien Resort

I’m Plucky, a spaceship captain and the ranking officer at Alien Resort island. I’m proud to be a friend of both Coy, the founder of Alien Resort, and my roommate Susan, who lived with her parents in the island’s mountains for thousands of years. We hope you’ll join in their good fortune by adding your link to the wedding guest book. And  watch for details about the costume (optional) Zoom reception–everyone’s invited. I asked Deadpan if he was going to pick out a goose; he said he might take a gander.

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Some Wallers

 

 

Joe Waller, Rob Waller, Graham Waller, Bill Waller, Donald Waller, ca. 1980.

Bill, fourth from the left, is my father. Joe, Graham, and Donald are my uncles. Collectively, they were known as “the Waller boys.” There were a number of other Waller boys in town, but these four, along with their brother Maurice, who died in 1952, were the.

Rob is their first cousin.

The snapshot was taken at the Fentress United Methodist Church homecoming, ca. 1980. That was the last time they were all together.

Vida Woodward Waller (my grandmother) & Jessie Waller, ca. 1910

 

Frank Waller (Dad), ca. 1952
Billie Waller, ca. 1920
Billie Waller, ca. 1943, while stationed in Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happens

Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

— Langston Hughes, 1951

***

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/LangstonHughes.jpg
Langston Hughes, 1936, by Carl Van Vechten. Public domain.

Learning Stuff

I am learning to use the WordPress Block Editor.

First task: insert images, one from WordPress free photo library and one from my computer.

Two Cats

Photo by kendra coupland on Pexels.com
Photo by kathy waller

Second task: Insert a gallery

More cats

Third task: Resize and align an image

One Tee-shirt

Resized and aligned center

Fourth task: insert verse

William Bit Me

William bit me at the vet,
Didn't like the aide's assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I'm teary, say I'm mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm's inflamed, and add,
William bit me.

***

That’s all I intend to learn today.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: X Is for ‘Xcitement, Too Much, Too Soon

 

I woke late this morning. The day was overcast, blinds were drawn, room was dim.

On the wall to my right, I saw a thing.

It was a brown, elongated thing, about four inches from on end to the other, two-thirds of the way up the wall, behind the cedar chest, pointing toward the ceiling.

I couldn’t remember any light switches or thermostats in the vicinity. I sat  up, squinted. Squinted some more.

Got up, tiptoed—why?—to lamp on left side of the room, turned it on, advanced a half-step toward the unidentified object.

Saw little horns sticking out of the end at the top.

Called for David. “Now!”

He came. “A slug!”

He picked up a shoe.

“Noooooooo.”

He ran for a paper towel.

The camera was in the living room. “Should we take a picture first?” I stepped toward the door.

“It might get away.” Paper towel in hand, David pounced, then ran.

There went my chance for authentic photo on my blog post.

He returned. “I relocated it.”

And all was well.

But questions remain:

Where did he come from? How did he get in? Where had he been hiding?

How long did it take him to crawl up that wall? I mean, he’s a slug. Sluggish. Did he cover all that territory while I slumbered only inches away?

What if he had turned toward the bed instead of away from it? Would I have opened my eyes and found myself nose to nose with him?

And, more to the point—

Was he alone? Or did he have company? Are there more? His spouse? His children? His sisters and his cousins and his aunts?

His sisters and his cousins,
Whom he reckons up by dozens,
And his aunts!

***

Image by ariesa66 from Pixabay

#AtoZChallenge 2020: W Is for What (a Fun Read)

Jack Cowherd (NOT Cow-erd) has just been elected Governor of Texas when he learns that Texas is no longer part of the United States—it happened fast, and not the way you think—and he’s actually President of the brand new Second Republic of Texas.  After a ceremony at the State Capitol, Jack, his wife Nadine (well endowed, but not with brains), his chief of staff Tasha Longoria (overqualified in both brains and common sense), newly dug-up chauffeur Rusty. and “fuzzy-cheeked” aide Shane arrive Austin’s Camp Mabry to inspect the Texas Freedom Militia. When you don’t have an official military, you go with what you’ve got.

*

They arrived at Camp Mabry, once home to the Texas National Guard; now occupied by the Texas Freedom Militia. Rusty slowed the Lincoln and turned into the main entry drive. Two camo-clad militia members immediately stepped out of a small booth in front of the gate. One held up his hand. Rusty braked to a stop.

The militiaman with his hand up ambled over to the driver’s window. Rusty lowered it and stuck his head out. “We’re here for the inspection,” he said.

The militiaman said, “May I see your papers, please?”

“We don’t have any papers,” said Rusty. “We’re not with the militia.”

“I know that, sir. That’s why I need to see some identification.”

Rusty smiled. “Oh, why didn’t you say so?” He handed over a card from his wallet.

The militiaman scrutinized the plastic card. “This is your Costco membership, sir. I need your driver’s license.”

“Uh, the thing is, I don’t have it on me.”

“What?” said Tasha. “You’re the driver and you don’t have a license?”

“I have a license. I just don’t have it here, is all.”

“Well, where is it?”

Rusty furrowed his brow. “You know, I think I left it at the bowling alley last night when I rented these shoes.” He pulled a foot onto the seat to show Shane. “See, I’m still wearing them.”

Shane said, “He’s right, ma’am. Those are bowling shoes.”

The militiaman leaned in toward Rusty. “I can’t let you in wearing bowling shoes, sir.”

“What difference does it make what shoes I’m wearing?”

“What I mean is, you can’t come in without identification.”

Tasha opened her door and stepped out of the car. The second militiaman jumped back, whipped out a Glock pistol, and pointed it at her. “Get back in the car right now!”

Tasha glared at him. “Or what, you’ll shoot the president’s chief of staff?”

Camp Mabry Howitzer. By Leonardocognoscenti, CC BY-SA 4.0. Via Wikipedia.

The militiaman lowered the gun in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Look in the back seat. That’s Jack Cowherd, president of the Republic of Texas.”

The man peered into the car. “Shit, Lonnie, she’s right. They could have told us.”

“Well I’ll be goddamned,” said the man called Lonnie. “What brings you to Camp Mabry, sir?”

Jack got out of the car. “General Cummings invited me to inspect the troops You boys don’t want to keep him waiting, do you?”

“No, sir!” said Lonnie, saluting. “Nate, put that gun away.”

Nate quickly holstered the pistol. “Sorry, sir . . . ma’am. Just trying to be safe, you know. Just last week they caught a Muslim terrorist over in Copperas Cove.”

“That wasn’t no terrorist,” said Lonnie. “That was a Mexican woman at the swimming pool with a towel on her head.”

“Yeah, but they didn’t know that until they pulled it off and she yelled something in Spanish.”

Tasha said, “I’ll bet it was ‘Give me my towel back, you idiot.”

“No, I think it had more cuss words.”

“Excuse me, boys,” said Jack, “y’all are doing a fine job but I wonder if we could go meet the general now.”

“Yes, sir!” the militiamen shouted in unison. They stepped away from the car and raised the gate.

Jack and Tasha got back in the Lincoln. As the car rolled trough the gate Tasha noticed both guards snapping iPhone pictures of the vehicle. Rusty said, “Damn, I’ll sleep better tonight knowing they caught that Isis woman in Copperas Cove.”

***

Jeffrey Kerr. The Republic of Jack

Says the author, “The Republic of Jack is a whimsical imagining of a world in which modern Texas secessionists get their way, only to learn that Aesop was right so many years when he wrote, ‘Be careful what you wish for.'”

#AtoZChallenge 2020: V Is for Vision, Victims, & Videos

Regarding vision: I need new glasses.

I purchased the ones I’m wearing three years ago, about a year after completing several months of chemotherapy. I’m not surprised that my vision has changed since then. I am surprised that distance vision has improved.

I take my glasses off when I drive, a no-no in the sight of the law. If the DMV ever opens again, I’m going to run right down, take the test, and get the corrective lenses restriction taken off my license.

If the ophthalomologist ever opens again, I’m going to run right down and get a new prescription—clear glass (polycarbonate?), with a near vision bifocal.

Although, who knows? Given enough time, maybe the near vision will straighten itself out, too.

Regarding victims: I’m not one.

I’m sitting in my living room with husband and cats, a view of trees and grass, occasionally a dog leashed to its walker, squirrels skittering by. TV, laptop, e-reader, wi-fi. Food on the shelf and on order, retailers ready to ship or deliver. Taking care of myself, being taken care of.

I’m not having the time of my life. I miss sitting in a coffee shop with my critique group, attending Sisters in Crime meetings, wandering through bookstores, going to movies, doing what I want, when I want. I need a haircut and some new clothes, or I would need new clothes if I were going anywhere.

I’m classed as high-risk, so venturing out can be scary. I’m sad. I’m worried. Some days I’m depressed. I can’t imagine a future any different from today.

I’m angry at government corruption and mismanagement and negligence in the face of the pandemic. I’m angry at ignorance and stupidity and selfishness and cruelty displayed by people old enough and smart enough to do better. I’m angry at the arrogance of Rugged Individualists who proclaim that the government has no responsibility at all in this crisis, that each person is responsible for his own survival, period.

In fact, I’m a lot of things.

But so what?

I haven’t lost my job. I’m not waiting for an overdue unemployment check  or worrying that my business will fail. I’m not a single parent homeschooling my children while working from home, or while not working at all.

I’m not a doctor or nurse or respiratory therapist. I don’t clean hospital rooms or keep the A/C operating. I don’t do other essential work and wonder if my mask and gloves are protecting me, and whom I need protection against.

A friend’s mother has died of COVID-19. A former student, now a medical doctor, has COVID. A cousin can’t visit her husband at the nursing home where he lives; they’ve been married more than sixty years, and she can’t visit him.

I haven’t lost someone I love. I haven’t been barred from seeing someone I love.

My husband is here with me and he’s well.

I’m bored, and I need a haircut.

If I want to be a victim, I’ll have to come up with a lot better excuse than that.

Regarding videos: Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it’s good for the immune system and the emotions and can be an effective painkiller, and a movie that makes you laugh is a joy forever.

My favorite old joys forever:

The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

My Fellow Americans

And a favorite new joy, The Imposters. It’s so funny, it ought to be old.*

*The Imposters was released in 1998, but I didn’t hear about it for a long time.

My Fellow Americans was released in 1996, so maybe it’s new.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: U Is for Upside Down & Boring

 

I went in for a regular infusion appointment today. In place of a purse, I took a large zip-lock bag containing driver’s license, insurance cards, phone, cash, two pens, three sheets of copy paper (used to be typing paper), a package of Kleenex, keys, and hand sanitizer; and a blue pillowcase containing Chromebook, mouse, and Kindle.

The zip-lock bag is my new washable purse. The pillowcase is my new washable tote. They make me feel a bit like Little Orphan Annie.

I also took my cane. Just in case.

After passing the temperature check in the foyer, I tripped over my cane three times getting to the waiting room fifteen feet away, signed in, sat down, and put the zip-lock bag into the pillowcase. It’s easier not to trip over your cane when possessions are consolidated into one faux handbag.

Three hours later, back at home, I tossed my clothes and the pillowcase into the washer and myself into the shower. I used an alcohol wipe on Chromebook, Kindle, mouse, phone, Kleenex, keys, pens, zip-lock bag, and hand sanitizer. I trashed the copy paper. I disinfected cane, door knobs, light switches, and bathroom. I dumped driver’s license, insurance cards, and cash into a drawer rarely opened, where they’ll be quarantined until I need them, probably three weeks from today, when I go back for another round of drugs.

Here’s the thing:

It’s like, once upon a time, people took a shower and then went to the doctor.

Now, they take a shower and go to the doctor, and then go home and take a shower.

Everything is upside down. And boring.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: T Is for Time & Temper Fit

 

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
~ William Shakespeare,
Hamlet,
Act I. scene v.

Today I had a temper fit.

It had been building. In fact, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose my equanimity months ago.

The catalyst: I read a bit of non-faux journalism that suggests certain of the Powers That Be don’t think I’m—how shall I put it?—too big to fail.

And it didn’t set well. Hence the fit.

Let me be clear: It was not a major fit. No yelling, no screeching, no smashing of Waterford or Royal Doulton with Hand-painted Periwinkles.

CBS TV. Public domain.

Lobbing china at the hearth might be therapetic, as Barney Fife used to say, but it also ends with a lot of sweeping and mopping, and, if the S&M aren’t done properly, the tweezing of tiny participles* out of the soles of one’s feet.

I’m more of a venter than a lobber. The disadvantage of venting is that ventees think I’m either (a) complaining (not so, just saying how it is), or (b) wanting them to fix it (not so, just saying how it is).

But today venting seemed appropriate, so I engineered a venting fit. First, I cooled down. Active anger results in tangled thoughts and words. So I centered.

Then I emailed two of my elected representatives, stated my concern, and asked what they think about the issue. Next, I told them what I think and, in measured but no uncertain terms, advised them they’d better agree with me and act accordingly.

I do not expect them to agree or to act accordingly.

I do expect to receive, via email, replies so patronizingly and condescendingly irritating that I’ll be tempted to lob hand-painted periwinkles at the hearth.

But I shall not lob. I shall engineer another venting fit.

I do not expect to set everything right—after all, if Hamlet, who was a lot savvier than I, was unsuccessful at rooting out corruption in government, I doubt my paltry efforts would have much effect.

But I will use my time wisely. I will exercise my Constitutional right of Freedom of Speech.

I will email the Powers That Be.

And if the PTB find those emails patronizing, condescending, and irritating, I’ll have done what I set out to do.

***

*As my great-aunt Vara’s odd-job man used to say.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: Somnia, In & Socks

 

A Facebook friend asks what we’ve accomplished during this week of sheltering in place.

On Sunday, I wore matching socks.

Things have gone downhill since.

Sleep deprivation takes its toll. Reasons are varied and fixes limited. And unpleasant. I don’t mind meditating, but I do mind turning off screens an hour before bedtime so my “overly sensitive” pineal glad isn’t exposed to too much blue light.

I also mind not being able to write at night, which is my most creative time.

I’ll do what I’m supposed to, but I won’t like it.

Last night, dead tired after three wakeful nights, I fell into bed, certain I would immediately pass out. Instead, before Morpheus overtook me, I thought about Donny. He’s a fifteen-year-old boy, lives on a South Texas ranch, and has raised a Brahman bull from an orphan calf. He’s having trouble letting go of his friend, and more trouble avoiding a no-account ranch hand who’s taken a dislike to them both.

Donny is a sweet boy. I’ve known him since I created him four years ago. Our relationship was difficult at times until I backed off and let him figure out how to solve his own problems. But he’s done well. Now it’s my turn.

Consequently, he’s been on my mind a lot lately, and last night when the thought of him floated through, my brain switched on, and the revising began: In the first scene, Donny says this—should he say that instead? Or should he say nothing at all?

And so it went, and so it goes.

Again, night has fallen, and after a day of feeling ratty from lack of sleep, I’ve suddenly revived. I want to write.

I’ve yielded to temptation: The laptop should have been turned off three hours ago, but I’m still writing. I feel better now than I did when I began this post, right after dinner. Chances are when I get to bed, I’ll still be thinking about Donny.

This has to stop. When I don’t get enough sleep at night, I can’t work during the day. I must write.

Donny told me his story, but only I can write it.

***

Image by Wimpie Van Heerden from Pixabay

#AtoZChallenge 2020: R Is for Romeo, et al.

One play. Twenty years. 

***

When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before;
you see more in you than was there before. 
~ Clifton Fadiman

 

The first years I studied Romeo and Juliet with my high school freshmen, when I was in my early twenties, I followed the Star-Cross’d Lovers school of literary criticism: Romeo and Juliet, two innocents, their eyes meeting across a crowded room, she teaches the torches to burn bright, he’s the god of her idolatry, he wants to be a glove upon her hand, she wants to cut him out in little stars—but the cruel world conspires to bring them down.

The way Juliet’s father tells her to thank him no thankings nor proud him no prouds but get to that church on Thursday and marry Paris or he’ll drag her thither on a hurdle—what kind of father says that to a thirteen-year-old girl? Parents don’t understand. They don’t listen.

The kids might be a little quick to act, and goodness knows Romeo should have waited to talk to Friar Laurence before buying that poison. But who can expect patience of teenagers in love? 

When I hit thirty, and had several years of teaching under my belt, I shifted to the What Can You Expect When Teenagers Behave Like Brats? philosophy: Romeo and Juliet, a couple of kids in a hurry. He doesn’t even bother to drop in on his family, just runs off to crash Capulet’s party, proposes to a girl before the first date, insists on a jumped-up wedding, then gets himself kicked out of the city, and he still hasn’t been home for dinner.

She mouths off to her father, tells him what she will and will not do, and he’s just told her what a nice husband he’s picked out for her. It’s no wonder he tells her to fettle her fine joints or he’ll drag her to church on a hurdle. I mean, if you were a parent and your daughter spoke to you in that tone of voice, would you pat her hand and ask what’s wrong, or would you remind her who’s boss here?

If Romeo had just gone home in the first place, like any decent boy would, instead of running off with his friends, this mess wouldn’t have occurred.

In fact, since Old Montague and Old Capulet had that very afternoon been sworn to keep the peace, they might have arranged a marriage between Romeo and Juliet—formed an alliance that way—and the whole of Verona would have lived happily ever after, and Montague would have been spared the expense of a gold Juliet statue. Paris might have been a little put out at being jilted, but he’d have gotten over it. Kids! They don’t think.

When I hit forty, however, I developed the dogma of the Meddlesome Priest. Friar Laurence has no business performing a secret marriage between two minors without parental consent. He says he wants to promote peace, but he isn’t a diplomat. His field is pharmacology.

Furthermore, when Juliet informs him she’s about to acquire an extra husband, why doesn’t he go right then to her father and tell the man she’s married? Capulet wouldn’t have been pleased, but he’d have gotten over it.

Instead, the Friar gives Juliet a sedative and stuffs her into a tomb with a passel of her relatives in varying stages of disrepair.

The man appears to mean well, but it’s also possible he intends to take credit for being the brains behind the peace accords.

Bunglesome or corrupt—the end is the same. With role models like this, are we surprised that children run amok?

Soon after the last epiphany, I ended my stint as a classroom teacher. I’ve wondered what would have happened if I’d continued studying Romeo and Juliet with students year after year.

Would I have had new insights? Developed new interpretations? Uncovered new layers of meaning?

How much more would I have shared with my students? Would I have continued to teach them respect and reverence? Would I have led them down the primrose path of dalliance and left them mired in levity?

How much more would I have seen in myself?

###

This post first appeared on Telling the Truth, Mainly on April 22, 2019, under the title “T Is for Time: #atozchallenge.” 

Remarkable how a stolid, stick-like, straightforward

can, in a only a year, evolve into a curving, curling, growling dog’s name.***

 

###

 

***Nurse.
Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?

Romeo.
Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R.

Nurse.
Ah, mocker! that’s the dog’s name. R is for the dog: no; I
know it begins with some other letter:–and she hath the
prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would
do you good to hear it.

~ Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene iv

###

Find more #AtoZChallenge posts here.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: Q Is for Quotation and a Queen

 

From William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene iv

 

MERCUTIO: O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine’s wat’ry beams;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as ‘a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she!

 

#AtoZChallenge 2020: P Is for Poem and the Prefrontal Cortex

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.Steven Wright

My random brain, which seems to be in the ascendency where the A to Z is concerned, thought first of the dictionary again today. The first word that jumped out was

  • pachmann, who turned out to be a Russian pianist, not a computer game

followed by, among others,

which sounds like something I might have ended up with when I disinfected my eye

and

  • pachycephalosaurus – A large herbivorous dinosaur of the genus Pachycephalosaurus of the late Cretaceous Period. It grew to about 7.6 m (25 ft) long and had a domed skull up to 25.4 cm (10 inches) thick that was lined with small bumps and spikes. The thick skull may have been used for head-butting during mating displays
  • pachychromatic – having coarse chromatin threads [not thick musical scales]
  • pachydactylyabnormal enlargement of fingers and toes

Restoration of a specimen with a cranial lesion. By Ryan Steiskal. CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic.

I figured out pachycephalosaurus and pachydactyly before looking them up, I’m pleased to say, since it means I haven’t forgotten all my Greek roots.

I then thought about random thought, and so googled “random brain,” and found an article (Cosmos, May 18 2017) describing a study in which

Neuroscientists at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU) in Lisbon, Portugal, reveal the unexpected finding in a report that aims to unpack how humans and other animals decide how and when to act.

Neuroscientists have long accepted that even in strictly controlled laboratory conditions, the exact moment when a subject will decide to act is impossible to predict.

In short, the scientists found that “‘[t]he brain’s prefrontal cortex – the seat of decision-making – has no input into the timing of random actions,'” but that

“‘[t]he medial prefrontal cortex appears to keep track of the ideal waiting time based on experience. The secondary motor cortex also keeps track of the ideal timing but in addition shows variability that renders individual decisions unpredictable.'”

The researchers were surprised at discovering the “‘not-well-appreciated “separation of powers” within the brain.'”

Human brain. Via Wikipedia. Public domain.

Personal observation underscores the finding: It’s four p.m., and William and Ernest are lying in the kitchen, watching David prepare their dinner and insulin injections. Several times a day they watch David go to the kitchen but at four o’clock they follow him. Their actions must be based on experience; hence the medial prefrontal cortex determines their action, and David’s as well. Human experience shows that if dinnertime is random, cats chew the carpet, a consummation devoutly not to be wished.

In the course of my mental ramblings, I thought of other things: Miss Petunia, an old neighbor well worth two or three posts, and more appropriate to the day, but better left to my putative novel.

Then there was my misuse of since in the paragraph following pachydactyly, because since means because, which I just used properly.

I also thought of stories about Mr. F., Mr. J., and Miss Fl., also not the best post material. To get them out of my system, I just put them in an email to a friend who has long suffered random thoughts I can’t make post-public.

I thought about changing the appearance of my blog, because I’m tired of looking at it, but how would I display my photographs so prominently?

Gorilla in San Francisco Zoo. By Brocken Inaglory. CC BY-SA 3.0

Continue reading “#AtoZChallenge 2020: P Is for Poem and the Prefrontal Cortex”

#AtoZChallenge 2020: O Is for Obligate

Again I am reduced to browsing through the Os in the dictionary to come up with a topic. Maybe it’s isolation, maybe it’s inactivity, maybe it’s too much original Law & Order, maybe it’s general cussedness, but whatever it is—I will not dignify it by calling it writer’s block—I’m grateful to Dr. Samuel Johnson and his literary descendants for aiding in the A to Z endeavor.

Disclaimer: Anything in this post that sounds like science only scratches the surface. Don’t believe it.

The first thing that jumps out on the O page is names:

The second thing that jumps out is that although the lexicographer included the name of a Supreme Court justice, an artist, a playwright, and a fictional character, he didn’t include Peter O’Toole. That’s a great failing. Surely Peter O’Toole deserves as much attention as Scarlett O’Hara.

The third thing that jumps out is

The phrase has been stuck in my brain since 1976, when I took a summer course in microbiology. I’d gotten my degree three years before but thought spending several hours a day in lecture and lab, growing and observing little dots under a microscope for five weeks, would be fun. That says something about my concept of fun.

Obligate parasite stands out because of the professor’s indignation over the misuse of the word mildew—in TV commercials, for example, advertising detergent to wash mildew out of clothing.

“It’s not mildew,” he said. “It’s mold. Mildew is an obligate parasite!” He said it several times during the semester.

Since 1976, every time I’ve come across the word mildew, I’ve thought obligate parasite.

Wandering around the ‘net, I came across claims that mildew can grow on some natural fabrics, such as cotton. I’m not qualified to speak to that. I’ll stick with what I learned in the micro course, most of which wasn’t about mold and mildew. I also noticed authors often use mildew and mold interchangeably.

I’ve always wondered, though, about the phrase obligate parasite. It sounds redundant. Doesn’t the word parasite mean that it’s obligated to a host?

With the world at my fingertips, I googled and discovered that there’s also a facultative parasite.

Obligate parasites can survive only with the presence of a host. Facultative parasites can pass important stages of their lives without a host.

A virus is an obligate parasite.

Which brings us back to where we’d rather not go but can’t get away from.

Oh, well.

I looked at pictures of parasites but decided to post one of Peter O’Toole instead.

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The microbiology course was fun.

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Image of Peter O’Toole via Wikipedia. Public domain.