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BY Michael

12/01 Direct Link
The coffee is strong this morning. I took it before its time, so it is my own fault. This is more important to me than it once was. When I drank five or six pots of coffee a day, it didn’t matter so much whether it was strong or weak, because it all averaged out in the end. When I drank it because I was hungry and I could get coffee for free with all the cream and sugar I wanted, the strength of the coffee was not quite so important either. Now, at two cups a day, it matters.
12/02 Direct Link
They are having a funeral today. Over the past year I have encountered three of them personally, and no two funerals seem quite the same. I knew all three of the persons fairly well. Two of them were social affairs. At one, it seemed, no one quite knew what to do. The other, a Catholic remembrance, left no doubts as to what to do. The third was a surprise waiting for me inside a church, a ghost I couldn’t see with a terrible weapon that cut me repeatedly in ways I couldn’t see until it drove me away in tears.
12/03 Direct Link
It is cold this morning, 23 degrees, and I find myself standing in the east window soaking up sun to get warm. It is December, I tell myself. It is time for the cold, of the frost and snow and night, because these are some of the things that cold means to me. It is jumbled memories of frostbit hands cradling a shotgun, of endless fields of frozen stubble, of trees blasted with ice. Cold as far as I remember is not a festive thing, but a thing that causes pain, a thing you rarely remember to dress properly for.
12/04 Direct Link
Last night they had the Christmas parade, closing off the streets, and routing the endless column of floats, fire trucks and marching groups into and around the tiny town. The temperature had taken an unexpected drop and even the most daring baton twirlers had opted for the layered flannel look. Church groups wandered through the crows handing out popcorn and candy attached to pamphlets, while children threw toys and candy from floats decorated as giant tractors and an occasional steam engine. They even had boy scouts and girl scouts and I thought those species had been extinct for years now.
12/05 Direct Link
I remember the political donation roles after the last presidential election, and right there at the top for both parties was AT&T. It was a little chilling to consider. Now, when someone mentions that nothing will ever topple Microsoft, and I see phone companies giving away laptops to people who sign up for two year plans, I have to wonder. It seems the old ploy of give away the camera and sell the film is still with us. Who needs to sell a phone or a laptop when they can charge a monthly fee equal to their cost in perpetuity?
12/06 Direct Link
I wasn’t feeling right this afternoon, and I decided to take a nap. A Sunday afternoon nap is an honorable tradition. It seemed to take no time at all. I wasn’t sure I even fell asleep, but when I checked my timer, I had been out for 57 minutes. I had missed a phone call too. Tom had called to say while he had enjoyed the first season of Stargate Atlantis, he didn’t care for the cliffhanger ending. I smiled to myself and shot him a message. Would he need season 2? If it weren’t too much trouble, he replied.
12/07 Direct Link
I have an unusual Kleenex dispenser my daughter made in ceramics class. It is about eight inches high, a bug-eyed round thing squatting with over-sized orange eyebrows. It looks like the flu bug itself and the Kleenex comes out of its nose. The Kleenex to be dispensed actually is its nose. The remaining ones settle in its round body. As cute as it is, it doesn’t work very well because the rough clay edges catch on the tissues and tear them as you pull them out. Still, it holds a place of honor on the shelf in my work room.
12/08 Direct Link
Maybe the temperature has risen, but I cannot tell because the data is unavailable for this Zip Code. In any case, a thick fog has rolled down the streets and crept between the houses, covering the damp sheen of the asphalt between them. It is a dry fog for this wet weather, and it moves in this place or that, each place independent of one another. It gathers about a lamp post, and climbs a nearby fir tree forty feet into the air. The fog makes strange clicking noises. It steps up to my window and taps on the glass.
12/09 Direct Link
I got a better look at the snow blower today. I knew it had been damaged in my absence, but it was far worse than I had thought. Not only was the navigation system gone, but the shields were down to 20 percent. The hyper drive was shot, and weapons were out. It was a sitting duck. I looked at the dumpster sitting nearby and considered a trip to Home Depot. It would take a miracle to fix it. Still, that was what I had thought about the lawn mower when I dug it out of the shed this spring.
12/10 Direct Link
I have problems with those new spiralized efficient light bulbs. They cost too much, and what’s in them to pollute the environment when we toss them? They don’t fit many of my fixtures. They have oversized ceramic bases, and a three-way sticks out of the top of a lamp. Sometimes you screw them in only to find the contacts don’t reach. And the light. Once they come on, they are blinding, but you cannot see anything. They don’t light up a room like a normal bulb. I hope they will improve, but right now they aren’t such a bright idea.
12/11 Direct Link
Dallas is coming to visit me for the holidays. The closest thing I have to a grandson, Dallas is a Golden Retriever. My daughter Amanda is going to OZ for Christmas and is leaving him with me for three weeks. An older dog, he is a well-behaved gentleman. As pushy as he will get is lay his head on your lap waiting to be petted. Although he is 13, he is still a favorite with the younger children. Point your finger and say "Bang!" and Dallas rolls over and plays dead. "Go get me some clean socks Dallas"....No, Dallas...Clean Socks.”
12/12 Direct Link
Imagine my surprise when my Squeezebox Duet remote controller started working! I have been an early adopter for these things, starting generations ago with the Netgear music boxes. They work with your home computer network to transmit music wirelessly from multiple sources to whatever device you wish to use. For example, you can play Pandora on your main stereo. The Squeezebox 2 came with a beautiful remote including a small LCD screen that displayed album art. It also had a headphone jack. Two years later, I install a software update, enable a beta program, and the headphone jack began working.
12/13 Direct Link
At the risk of sounding like ad copy for these things, I’m going to tell you more about my Squeezeboxes. There are other brands, but these are the ones I have been playing with lately. They offer a user-friendly interface with Pandora, Rhapsody, and a number of music providers. They will also access music stored on your own computer whether it is mp3 or cd-quality. They will of course also access gazillions of radio programs. The Duet remote not only controls your stereo, but the headphone jack makes it the worlds most versatile IPOD, as long as you stay home.
12/14 Direct Link
Ok the ten-year-old program I had for my Palm doesn’t work in the new phone version. I was delighted to stumble across it in an old backup. It was the Big Clock program and what I liked about it best was it offered four timers with LOUD alarms and easy programming. It appeared to work on my Palm phone at first, but the phone lock also locks the alarm, so that the alarm won’t go off until I unlock my Palm. This is an ongoing problem with the Palm. It’s a compromise at being both a Palm and a Phone.
12/15 Direct Link
The snow has thickened and slowed this afternoon. I have gotten a water hose out to the koi pond to give it some water. This spring I have to decide whether to keep the damn thing or to fill it in. I am reluctant to fill it in. It has become a balanced ecosystem for a large number of life forms. In the summer, at night the waterfall sings me to sleep. Year round it is visited by deer, fox, groundhogs, cranes, hawks, raccoons, and of course the local cats and dogs. The house would be too quiet without it.
12/16 Direct Link
I set my humidifier up today. I had a decision to make, whether to use the console from the apartment or the one I had installed on the furnace six years ago when I lived here before. The one on the furnace was top of the line, self-cleaning and all that jazz, but when I pulled the cover off and checked the element, it had mold growing on it and needed to be replaced. I removed it from the furnace and elected to go with the console. I just don’t want that kind of stuff in my air handling system.
12/17 Direct Link
I brought Dallas home tonight. Daughter is getting ready to leave, so I made the drive to Lansing to pick up Dallas and his things. There were three boxes of things. Dallas does not pack lightly. We also exchanged Christmas gifts, and Dallas hopped in the back of my car for the 45-minute ride home. When we arrived, he got out, stretched, surveyed the property, and trotted inside the house. There he found the red oriental in the foyer that he has always claimed and lay down for a nap while I unpacked his things. Apparently he remembers being here before.
12/18 Direct Link
Amanda called this afternoon. I thought she was checking up on Dallas, and she did ask how things were going. I looked over at the oriental where he was napping in front of the heat register. He seemed comfortable. The real reason, or at least another reason she called was that they needed a ride home from the airport when they returned. Her boyfriend’s car died, apparently today. She described transmission problems and such that amounted to a thousand dollars. I told her to send me an email with the flight and time when she was ready to come home.
12/19 Direct Link
The snow blower works. It shouldn’t. Like the lawn mower, it appeared to be missing parts required for operation. I plugged it in and headed out into the driveway. It instantly plugged up with the wet snow near the garage door. Then I remembered that that is what snow blowers do. They are not water blowers. I unclogged it and headed for the real snow and it started working, and continued working, clearing my entire driveway. It was a sorry, beat-up piece of crap. It was a wonder. No, Virginia, I don’t have to buy a snow blower this Christmas.
12/20 Direct Link
I am going to Japan. Having never been to Japan before, I am somewhat excited by the idea. Mia was the one who suggested the idea. Her ceramics teacher was from Japan and Mia and her husband had convinced him to act as a tour guide for a small group. Would I be interested in joining them? No. I said no. I said no violently, but I wanted to do it. Some part of me really wanted to do this, and Mia knew it, so it did not take her long to talk me into it. We leave in September.
12/21 Direct Link
I’ve taken a new job. I’ve volunteered to work at the local food bank, Gleaners I think they are called. A friend has urged me to do this for years, and realizing I was at loose ends currently and without an excuse, I dialed up the appropriate web page and turned myself in. It took them two days to call me. I am to report next Wednesday for orientation and an initial assignment of stocking shelves. The shifts appear to be two-hours, once a week, which seems hardly worth the trip, but I assume they know what they are doing.
12/22 Direct Link
Things aren’t going well for my son Tom. His fiancé has left him. This was uncertain at first. There were far too many days of, “Has she gone? Is she coming back? Is she OK?” Too often, people end relationships without giving their partners the benefit of closure. This creates emotional ghosts; haunts with broken hearts. Don’t do this. He got his closure today. She came to pick up her stuff and pocketed both his and her rings on the way out. Now his heart is broken cleanly. He can begin to sort through the long twist to the surface.
12/23 Direct Link
I have much to learn about texting. I had texted Michael Junior yesterday saying I had a Christmas present for him. Today he texted me asking if it was ok to come over. I replied “Y”. Yes, it is ok. He replied that I had said I had something for him. I replied “Y”. He replied that I had said I had something for him. I replied “Yes.” He asked if he could come over. I replied “Yes.” It then occurred to me that he was interpreting my “Y’” as “Why?” I sent a quick message saying “Y” meant “Yes.”
12/24 Direct Link
Today I took Dallas to the groomer. He had gotten into the basement and had come back smelling like dog. This would have been ok, but I planned to go to Ohio tomorrow morning for Christmas to visit my family and did not want to take a stinky dog with me. This was a new experience for me, but apparently not for Dallas. He put the brakes on at the door and had to be carried into the work area. He was very apprehensive. It reminded me of taking the children to the doctor for shots when they were little.
12/25 Direct Link
I have been thinking in a small clear place in my mind. Somehow, I have cleared a small space. This space is not enough for processing larger questions, but it does allow clear thinking. I have noticed within this space the idea that a particular life is, among other things, the sum of a number of decisions an individual makes. All other things being equal, it becomes that. I think some of my decisions have not been well-informed. Of course, we are all both handicapped and gifted in various ways at the start. But then we begin to make decisions.
12/26 Direct Link
I read the first paragraph, of the book I have picked at random from the library, and I feel brain pieces rearranging to couple in different ways. It is not an ordinary book. Of course. It is Margaret Atwood. She does not write ordinary books. I recognize the name on the shelf, but not distinctly. It is the prose I recognize as distinctly as the smell of cherry, or walnut. It strikes a particular pleasure and order center in my mind. How does she write like that? But I have never taken the time to analyze, always under the spell.
12/27 Direct Link
When I picked up Dallas for his holiday visit, daughter Amanda had given him a large rawhide bone to bring. The thing was as large as he was. “Don’t let him eat it all at once,” she cautioned. But after a couple weeks I understand that he cannot eat it. I think if she had been giving him bones this large, her other dogs must have been eating them. He does parade around with it when anyone comes to visit, showing it off, knocking over exotic speakers and so on. He is very proud of it; just can’t eat it.
12/28 Direct Link
Canoeing in The Snow

Remembering the heavy color of the water
The steamy ~posttchhh~~as each flake hit the lake.
My daughter looking back as she ripped
A paddle from a wave.
Frail Flakes of snow in her hair.

Now, seeping in the silence of the lake,
How cold the sky reached down
As drifting I watch the rush
Of white crystals to the warm
Belly of the Water below.

And I have heard these flakes are crystals
Each one a pretty poem softly dissolving unseen
Flung to earth in an endless density,
Each one unique--
Swallowing the dark water below.
12/29 Direct Link
Dallas comes in with snow on his feet. I rub the side of his head to remind him why he wants to come back in when I call him. It is fourteen degrees or something like that out there. I am not sure. I remember the number splashing in my face when I turned on my computer this morning, but I no longer remember exactly what it was, just that it was too cold. The robe my son gave me for Christmas is unusually warm. Except for my feet. I need shoes to go with it now. Or socks perhaps.
12/30 Direct Link
I decided to put some more water in the koi pond today. Seven degrees presents some special problems. The waterfall has not frozen, but the ice around it does pump some of the water out of the pond. This is good, I think, changing the water. My first problem was that the outside faucet was frozen solid. So I went to the basement to the laundry tub, where the short hose connected there was frozen with rust. Find the pipe wrench. That took thirty minutes. Bypass the softener. Out the window with the hose. Pour some coffee. Miles Davis time.
12/31 Direct Link
I am a fan of the TV/Movie website Hulu. I particularly the TV series I never saw when they were on cable which I don’t have. One I recently discovered was Firefly, a sci-fi series which is not bad, but which ran for less than a season. There is something not quite right with it though. It has a cowboy/country-western thread running through it. The music is country guitar. The hero is a cowboy. I suspect the audience it was aimed at does not exist. The CW and Sci-Fi crowds are separate species. I don’t think they can even mate.