July 29, 2005

Photo Friday: Somber.

Photo Friday: Somber. A dead pencil sharpener in the basement of Morris Library, whose six upper-most floors are closing Monday for several years of re-building. I think that the idea of being able to only use two musty floors of the library during the rest of my graduate program is even sadder than this decayed piece of machinery. I spent a few hours there the other night taking photos, since I might not ever get a chance to go up there again.

July 28, 2005

Leave it to Chris.

(Chris, taking photos from the top of a limestone bluff. Stone Fort trail, Giant City State Park.) I've been on several photo missions and hikes lately, hence the lack of posts. I've also been trying the whole waking up before nine or ten in the morning thing. I'm moderately appalled at my caffeine addiction, though I have no plans to do anything about it in the near future. Getting that afternoon cup too late means a headache. I have one now from being less than an hour late. That's bad. Oh well. At least I quit smoking three years ago and only have one addiction now.

July 26, 2005

Too hot to bike, Chris.

It's so hot that, as I've said probably a thousand times today, I'm waiting for birds to catch on fire. If you have been watching the news, then you know that the weather story of the moment is the heat in the Heartland. Rather, was. Now it's the big storms that the Ohio Valley is going to get tonight and tomorrow. I'm glad. Damned glad. Some nice water to put out this inferno, and if a tree falls on my little car, so be it. There are two (and a half) freezing-cold bottles of vodka, a new pound of Guatemala Antigua (that's coffee, not weed, lol), lots of food and books and DVDs and such. Being stuck here from some storms is Okay. I really want it to cool down so that we can go hiking. That will be swell. You know you want to see photos of Giant City State Park this week. You know it. Join me in a rain dance. Seven tonight (Central US time), outside, wherever you can go. I'll be there, as naked as is legal, praying to the sky for some respite from the heat. Unless it's already raining, in which case, go dance in the rain, and take some photos. Then send them to me so that I can put them on this blog. That will be nice. Muddy hippies. Cool. Come on. I'll post photos of myself wading in the mud, too. Promise. [No, that's not me on the bike. As if you can't tell. I'm too wussy for that. Far too wussy.]

July 24, 2005

Here comes Chris.

My friend Chris is coming to visit us this week, to arrive tomorrow. We had some short adventures last summer when he came out to visit. We'll get to have some longer ones this time, with more photos, including Chris on his stunt bike. Chris is coming tomorrow from his father's home around Charleston, West Virginia. I definitely envy that he gets to have a nice drive through the mountains tomorrow, through Northern Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois, while I have to study and read all day. However, with the "heat advisory" that we have going on (heat indexes to be 110-115 degrees), I'm not really that sad that I have to stay in the air conditioning all day. I'm not even going to my office; my bamboo will have to live on what water is in it. My citronella candle on the balconly/deck melted today, sans flame of any kind. That's not nice weather. My other blogging project is going surprisingly well. I even took the domain/host plunge with it today. Thanks are due to the person who's been so helpful and supportive. With Chris visiting and my up-coming prelims, these are going to be some extremely busy weeks. But I promise to do my best to post no less here, even if posts just get kinda "What's Johnny up to today?". I've been blogging more and enjoying blogging more lately, and that's always a good experience to have. And I sure don't want to lose it anytime soon.

July 22, 2005

Photo Friday: Attractive.

For Photo Friday: Attractive. I was just going to post a photo of my beautiful wife and thereby have the best Photo Friday entry to this week. However, I think she'd get miffed, and our couch is not as comfy as the bed. So that's just not going to happen. Sorry. You're really missing out. But here is one of the two Greeter Gnomes outside of our front door. Meet Welcome Willy, with a post-thunderstorm sunset behind him. He's not as gorgeous as my soulmate, but he'll have to do today.

July 21, 2005

Pencil Revolution.

Self-promotion, but without shame. I have been kicking around the idea of starting a blog devoted to pencils for a few months now, since at least last autumn. It never happened, though, for several reasons. For one thing, I'm lazy, and getting it started would require me to do something. That took a while. Plus, I was and am afraid of being accused of copying Moleskinerie in style, format, etc. I certainly don't want to do that. I have seen a few blogs that tried to do just that. They're not great. A hobby of mine has been, for a long time, to try out different kinds of pencils. You think pens are different! You should try different kinds of pencils! You'd be surprised how different a Dixon Ticonderoga Black Millennium is from a Faber-Castell Grip 2001, and not just because one is proudly American, while one is historically German. I'm not necessarily in search of the perfect pencil, but I certainly enjoy looking anyway. So I emailed Forest Choice out of the blue last week to ask how much shipping they would charge to send me a dozen of their unfinished cedar pencils to review for such a pencil blog, should I get off my butt and do it. I made a deal with myself that, if they wrote back at all, I would get on with this blog. I didn't hear anything from them for nearly a week. But I received an email from them today stating that they would send me one gross of their pencils to review, via 2-Day FedEx, and they sent them today already. Now, that's just the kick in the pants I needed. So, without any shame, I am plugging my own blog: Pencil Revolution. It will feature pencil-related bits, product reviews (pencils, sharpeners, etc.), quotations and the pencil philosophy -- not the least tenet of which is never to write with something that doesn't smell good.

July 19, 2005


I've been called brutish, boorish, bookish and bothersome. I know that I don't hold my fork properly, and I don't always stand when a lady enters a room. I've been known to swear constantly and to walk around the department sans footwear, not to mention my liberal use of the horn while driving. My parents taught me certain manners that I still try to practice. I'm only 25, so this can't be some super old-fashioned thing. I cannot accept that the fact that I say please and thank you and good morning is some antediluvian pseudo-chivalry. Or that expecting other people to do the same is being snobbish. I've blogged about people's manners before, and I know that there have been some recent stories in the news saying that uber-busy families take classes now to learn manners. So forgive me for not being comprehensive, comprehensible or compliant. One of the first things that struck me when I moved to the "Heartland" is how nice people here can be, despite their questionable manners. In Boston, I was moved by people's generally good manners, but chilly dispositions. I know it's unfair to make such generalizations, since two or three Bostonians took their noses out of their books on the subway to chat with a Southerner on occasion during my two-year sojourn in Beantown. And I know that some nice gentlemen around here have been more than polite to me on numerous occasions. I'm just saying is all. Like I said, despite the fact that people around here will cut you off in traffic and butt in front of you at Panera Bread, they are nice. And they do display the most basic manners at times. When I hold the door for someone at Panera Bread, they do thank me before they cut in front of me in line two minutes later, lol. Small kids say excuse me and thank you all the time around here. I think the lapses in manners come from self-absorption, rather than selfishness. So what kind of scummy, bratty, selfish, jackass of a person does it take to have the worse manners a person can have? I mean, when someone shares something with you that was shared with them, through taking the time to do what it takes to transmit this information, what do you do? When they give it to you, do you say nothing, "Good," or "Thank you"? Come on. When you leave a room that contains people you know, you say "Bye" when you leave. Why is this not obvious? When you enter a room with someone you know, you say "Hello" or some such. I should prove what an ass you are and not say "Howdy" to you next time you come into the room. I'll bet you won't greet me or anyone else. Better yet. Don't come around. Now that I think of it, your specific brand of rudeness comes not from a lack of manners but from a lapse of human decency. Lacking the basics like greetings and thank you's is beyond a matter of manners and is an indication of a deeper flaw. You are indecent. I said it. But you don't read this blog, so I'm typing into space. Because you don't how to get to this blog. Because, although I try hard all the time to like you, I don't really like you that much, and I never told you the address, even though you've asked me for it several times. Because you're not as smart as you want us all to think you are and cannot find it on your own. Because your rudeness comes from a sour core that I can't do anything about and really don't feel like dealing with anymore.

July 18, 2005


This is a praying mantis that stayed still long enough for me to get a group of close-up shots of it, on my balcony/deck, Sunday morning. It's so humid in Southern Illinois these days that my lens fogged up like my glasses do when I went outside. But that big ole' bug stood there and waited. It even turned around to face me and to strike a pose for several shots. I like this black and white one, but in the color ones, you can see the color of the mantis: tan. I've never seen one that was not green, and this one had white eyes. (I should look this up.) I like to think that the mantis is praying to its mantis god that I pass my prelims in four weeks.

July 16, 2005


Back in the fall, an old family friend passed away. She was an independent woman, especially considered where and when she lived. I really wish that I had gotten to know her more while she was alive; I've had dreams about that several times since her passing. The truth is that I didn't even know her well enough to know that she was a philosopher! A trip to her house to document her possessions, via digital camera, for some legal purposes that I don't understand (I just shot the photos) in November is worth its own post, to be sure. But tonight I just want to post this scan from the vintage portable Olympia typewriter that I have inherited from her. I think she would have liked blogging. We know that she learned to use the internet and used computers at her local library, despite writing her book on her manual typewriter. So this is M.T.'s introduction to the blogging community.

July 15, 2005

Photo Friday: Silky.

A spider spinning a web out back of my apartment one night last week, after a thunderstorm took his old one down. The web and the spider are gone, now, though. A new family of birds moved into my birdhouse, and I'm pretty sure they ate Mr. Spider here. At least, his web is gone, and he's nowhere in sight.

July 14, 2005


After a much-needed thunderstorm on the 4th of July last week, there was a giant rainbow over our part of Southern Illinois. I watched it for a good five or ten minutes myself. If not for some of my redneck neighbors setting off an hour and a half of their own wannabe fireworks, I never would have looked out the window and noticed the rainbow. Thanks, Cletus.

July 13, 2005


Nilometer. Noun. 1)An instrument for measuring the flooding of the Nile. 2) Word that has twice popped up in reading today, once in Thoreau and once online. Is this portentous, given the constant rain this week? I'd best practice my backstroke.

July 12, 2005

Pilot G2.

You know, I spend too much time, energy, thought and money on pens and pencils. I've literally stayed up at night thinking about them. Woken up from dreams about them. Spaced out while driving thinking about them. I generally try to keep that off of this blog because, well, no one likes people to think they're crazy. I've failed to be silent about it in the past, and I fear that the present is no exception. For no reason, really, I picked up my stash of Pilot G2s today. Well, there was a reason. Using a wooden pencil to take notes in the margins of my LOA Thoreau books we getting on my nerves, regardless of my love for cedar pencils. The G2 pencils are the best mechanical pencils I've ever personally used, and they always lead me back to what I love about G2s. Too many greater minds and superior writers have written about the glories of the G2 online for me to really have the need or the desire to insert my own two cents into the search results via Google, for the like-minded folks who might want to know who uses G2s, and what they do with them. The never-ending rain slowed down for a bit early this afternoon, so I popped out to get a pack of the new G2 colors, mostly just to get the dark red to write with in the autumn, which seems like forever away. We don't have the blue/black in the US, I've been told. Dang. Not only that, but we don't get the new G2 Pixie/XS anytime that I can find out (if you know, please tell me). I had hoped to see them in the US early this year, but Pilot must not like us very much in the states. The only place I can find that will sell these online that looks reputable enough to buy from won't ship outside of the UK. Double dang. It's no secret that an alarmingly high percentage of Moleskiners have a thing for G2s. A little crush. So it's not like I'm being original. I don't know why I felt like I had to ramble on about this today. Isn't posting about useless stuff just to post something akin to a deadly sin of blogging? And isn't it also a Thoreavian's sin to put down a wooden pencil on Thoreau's birthday? (Let alone being obsessed with stupid pens on Henry's birthday.) Goodness. I need to read some Thoreau and Hemingway tonight to convince myself that I'm more than the pens and pencils I own, though that amount is considerable and daunting.

July 10, 2005

Hurricane Dennis.

So Hurricane Dennis, the first major storm of the 2005 season, has hit land and is pounding where my dear friend lives in Florida. If you're the praying sort, please remember him. If not, hope or wish or something. The panhandle was not as unlucky as with 2004's Ivan, but reports are saying that they still got it pretty badly this time, too. While there are a few annoying things about the natural wonders of Southern Illinois, I didn't think hurricanes could affect us. I mean, we're often in line for the scattered tornado and severe storm and flood, so I hoped that hurricanes would not be something we'd have to worry about around here. I mean, these crazy bugs are enough to deal with in the summer, not to mention the man-eating spiders that live outside each of my doors, looming over my head like zig-zagging helicopters. While Dennis will downgrade himself to a tropical storm by the time it gets here, we're going to get dumped on. That sumbitch is going to stop here and rain on us for a few days and flood the rivers, etc. Carbondale is several miles from the nearest river, and I live on the second floor of my building. Anything that happens to Snowball II can be fixed, even him floating away and getting eaten by a new cougar in Shawnee. But I am at least moderately afraid for my fellow Carbondalies and Southern Illinoisans. We've been having a pretty serious drought, but this is a little bit...much. How do I know if my neighbors can swim? My CPR and First Aid certifications have been expired for a few years, so I can't really do anything officially. It's got me extremely frustrated, enough that I cussed at my brother today over an online game and burnt my broccoli for dinner. I don't burn veggies. I saute' some mean fresh greens, lemme tell ya. I think our prelims study group is effectively cancelled for today. At least one person is coming from the next town and doesn't feel safe being out and about, and I sure wouldn't want to have to try to study being afraid that I'd have to swim home, so I'm happy to stay home and work while the world ends. At least, that's how our weather-people are saying it's looking. :^) If you live in Carbondale and are scared of your first-floor apartment, look me up. My apartment is not very large, but we have 100 DVDs, a few pounds of coffee, terrific AC and at least 1000 books. We'll be fine here. Come on over.

July 08, 2005

Photo Friday: Candid.

Man With Bike.
For Photo Friday: Candid.
I have thousands (literally) of candid photos (obviously), but I want to get one on quickly before bed. This is an elderly man with his bike in Paducah, Kentuchy, at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. April 2004. He looked even more relaxed in person. I just really like the vibe surrounding him and had to take a photo.

July 06, 2005

Moleskine proselytizing.

I think that it's moderately natural for a person to spread the means for happiness when one finds it. How many of us have found a book, a film, a song, a spiritual message or even a rice sidedish that we love so much and find so much happiness in that we just have to share it with those closest to us? I found a great line of cleaning products called Method, and the first thing that I did after cleaning my bathroom with a cucumber-scented spray was to call some family members back to Maryland to urge them to get theirselves to Target for some of these heavenly cleaning products.
It's even greater for less...mundane things. There was a time when I was into meditation. A family member called me in Boston one night and was having a hard time with another family member. I promptly ordered some books on meditation on Amazon.com and had them sent to this family member, to spread the little happiness I found in meditation at the time. I would like to think that people spread happiness out of some kind of goodness, though I'm sure that this is not always the case. If for no other reason, I suspect that we do this because it's difficult to remain happy around unhappy people. If we can make those around us happy, we gain two benefits. One, we get to make other people happy. Two, we get to keep our own happiness. I've found that Moleskines are one of the things that people share with one another on a very extensive level. I have bought Moleskines as gifts for several of my friends and a few family members. And what even the person who I bought it for doesn't know, is that the first Moleskine that I ever bought was not even for me. It was a birthday gift for my friend Chris in 2002. I've been trying to get my wife to try the diaries for well over two years. Finally, her academic planner ran out, and I found one place that still had some 2005 diaries for sale -- and on sale at that. I was also able to replace my pocket daily diary for a pocket weekly diary (at about half price), which hopefully will not similary pull my pants down from the weight of 380 pages, like the daily version tended to do. That fat little book doesn't like pockets, no matter how small it is. With my wife and Moleskines, t's like throwing a baby into a pool and watching this little baby do a prodigious backstroke. It's like she's been an M-person all along but never actually owned one. She is actually a reporter, so I suspect the purchase of a reporter notebook is not far off. There are already seasonal stickers in her new diary, and a nice gerbera daisy sticker on the cover. Wait, I don't mean to imply that my wife is childish, lest I find myself on the couch this week. You get what I mean. But why did I feel this over-whelming urge to spread around a little notebook? I did the same thing with Space Pens. I'm at the point now where literally everyone that I could buy a Space Pen for (those who would like and use it) already have one. Hell, the gentleman at the store sent me a free bullet pen and some refills when I ordered two engraved pens for my mother (who's always wanted one) and my mother-in-law this past Mothers' Day, since I've ordered so many. Why the need to share our little gadgets/tricks/sources? I think it's a good thing, but I don't understand it. And I don't understand why this need so often manifests itself via the Moleskine notebook. [Apologies at the poor image quality. Something's up with Blogger, so I'll fix the photos later.]

July 03, 2005

Selfishly sad.

I hope it's Okay with the blogosphere if I confess a little. I'm selfishly sad tonight because I miss my friends. Brian and Carrie are in Portland, Oregon. They just moved there. Brian was my college roommate and co-hort in philosophical mayhem. They are starting a new life together there, and it's good for them. They live together now, and I know how wonderful living with your soulmate is. Still, I'm sad. Listening to the new Coldplay, a band Brian always liked. I was selfishly sad when Chris left for the Navy when we were very young. I was depressed for a long while about it, but I never told him. I know it's selfish to want your friends to stay where they are, just so you can see them. But I can't help it.

July 01, 2005

Photo Friday: Used.

For this week's challenge, Used. This is really a re-posted photo. It's a kitty sleeping on a very very hot summer day last year, on the Boardwalk in Makanda, Illinois -- on a very old, used bench. I am not particularly fond of felines, but this one caught my eye. He looked so peaceful and serene and remarkably cool for the 105 degree heat index that day -- and all that fur. I was hoping he would wake up so that I could get him ice-cream from the Makanda Country Store on the Boardwalk, but he was dosing away a half hour after this photo, though more on his back then.