Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing in the New Year ... Literally

Like many folks my age, I am blessed with tinnitus, so I ring in every day at varying decibel levels.  It's not so bad really, in fact it's pretty much background noise unless I focus on it (which I'm doing now, unfortunately.)  Maybe it's actually a sign of creativity, a kind of signal from my inner ear that my muse is calling me to write something.

That must be it.  After all, one of the most bizarrely creative writers of the nineteenth century, Edgar Allan Poe, surely had it.  You doubt me?  Who else but someone intimately familiar with this incessant ringing could have crafted The Bells, a magnificent poem around the word, tintinnabulation?  I rest my case.

There's an intriguing phrase, "I rest my case."  It bears some research ... Okay, I'm back.  After one minute of exhaustive Googling, I've concluded that all discussions concerning its origin beg the question (research that phrase yourself, if you care,) so I've formed my own conclusion.
Since the earliest days of the British legal system, briefs were prepared by a solicitor then delivered to a barrister, in a case - a briefcase.  It follows that, since the barrister had little time prior to arguing at trial to examine the stuff, he invariably chose to carry the briefcase while arguing for the prosecution or defense.   This enabled him to extract and refer to the contents without needing to return to his chair, thereby interrupting the drama building in the courtroom.  When the presentation of evidence concluded, he returned to his chair and rested his case on the table or floor.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

BTW The brief was probably so called from its first being only a copy of the original writ. [from Wikipedia on Brief (law)]

While musing about this, I found myself visualizing a barrister being handed a case that actually contained tighty-whities.  Couldn't get the image out of my head  for a while - must be the tinnitus.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chaos Theory and My Office

My understanding of Chaos Theory (which is at best, minimal) is that, even though the possible outcomes of a process are known given specific starting conditions, which of those outcomes will actually result is unpredictable.  I beg to differ.

  • Given: my office is always in chaos, and I need to find something.  
  • Process: hunt through the mess for hours.  
  • Result: go out and purchase the item, only to return and find its mate clearly visible.  

So you see that, in my case at least, the result is always predictable.

I mention the above only because I've promised myself to get my office straightened up, neat and orderly as  my wife's.  Those of you who know me, please stop laughing; I really mean it this time.  This is not a New Year's Resolution, which I never make, because I started it on December 27th.  I have gone so far as to bring a cardboard box up from the basement and toss in all the papers that I will shred, someday.  I also had a two-by-two foot section of my desktop cleared as of yesterday afternoon.  I say "had" because this morning I found several sheets of paper, two business cards, and three checkbooks nestled in that space.  I have no idea how that happened.

Perhaps one of our sneaky, disruptive cats, who frequent my chaotic cave, are responsible - all three are here now just waiting for me to leave so they can mess things up.   Hmm ... I could avoid any future cleanup then they would be discouraged from their mischief.

I'll have to think about that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Light in all its Variations

There are many ways to stop cursing the darkness and instead find your own light.  Be it Christmas trees, menorahs, diyas, bonfires, or whatever is significant to you, the essence of it all is shedding light on the hours of darkness.  Our  bodies need light to survive both physically and emotionally; we are not made for dark.  Our eyes, our primary means of sensing danger, are unsuited to night, so we have developed light sources to combat it.  It sets me to wondering whether fire, in our ancestors' earliest experiences, found its first use as a means of seeing better.

Think about how many rituals involve candlelight, how many involve bonfires, fireworks.  We crave light.

Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, whichever you celebrate, or take both in equal measure if you wish.  Better yet become your own light.

This is what happens when I start musing late at night.  Deal with it.  I'm a big fan of moonlight myself.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Levis conundrum - 501 or 505

It started in middle school in Bayport Long Island, my love of Levis 501 jeans.  You probably know them -  button-fly, shrink-to-fit, blue jeans - worn in Bayport at least, by the JD's(Juvenile Delinquents), the guys with DA (Duck's Ass) hairdos, who sported leather jackets and engineer boots.  One of them, my girlfriend Joan's older brother, Donny, told me he bought them two sizes too large and shrunk them to fit perfectly.  When I asked how to shrink them, he said, "Fill the tub with hot water and get in with the jeans on, then wear them till they dry."

I saved money from my paper route delivering the Long Island Daily Press, until I finally was able to purchase a pair.  I had to ask my mother what size I was, since she bought all my clothes.  She told me and asked why I wanted to know; I told her I'd saved up for a pair of jeans.   It took the next half hour to convince her I wouldn't become a JD just because I wore the same jeans - though I secretly admired their lifestyle.  On Saturday, I road my bike to Patchogue, the town with the nearest department store that carried the beloved 501's, and bought the dark blue, two sizes too large jeans.  Back home, mom inspected my purchase and declared them too large.  When I explained that they shrink a lot she just shook her head, mumbling something about a waste of good money and went outside with a pitcher of Kool-aid to sit with Dad and our next door neighbors.

I headed for the bathroom with my purchase, took off my dungarees (now more popularly known as carpenter jeans) and donned the new Levis while the tub was filling, carefully folding the pantlegs two times each to shorten them.  I climbed into the tub, easing myself into the water.  After soaking for what I deemed an appropriate interval, I stood up and pulled the plug to let the water drain.  Then it occurred to me - How was I going to get out of the tub without dripping water all over the floor?  I stood in the tub, dripping, holding the too-big jeans up with both hands, and pondered my predicament for several minutes. I had decided to stay where I was until they stopped dripping when my mother, pregnant with my youngest sister, knocked on the door.

"Tommy?  I need to use the toilet, hurry up."
"Ma ... I..." She must have heard the desperation in my voice, because she opened the door and rushed in.

Even now the range of emotions that crossed her face are vivid in my memory. Horror, concern, anger, humor, all contended for dominance.  "Take them off in the tub," she ordered, "And put on dry underpants before you get dressed."  She picked up my T-shirt and dungarees, handed them to me as I stepped from the tub, and pushed me out the door.  In the room I shared with my brother, I dressed quickly then hurried back to wait by the bathroom.  When she emerged wet Levis in hand, I tried to explain about needing to wear them until they dried, but she rejected my pleas.  Back in my bedroom,  I watched out the window while she unfolded the pantlegs and hung the jeans on the clothesline in our back yard.  I stared at those jeans, willing them to remember my body shape and size while they dried.  Though I couldn't hear the conversation when Mom joined Dad and their friends in the yard, their laughter pretty much told me the topic.

Back to my conundrum - I love 501 jeans, (which now come preshrunk, though the shrink-to-fit originals are still available) but the last time I tried on a pair I had great difficulty buttoning the fly.  When I finally got it buttoned, I realized that my aging plumbing might not be able to hold off emptying itself while I unbuttoned it.  With great sadness, I opted for the zippered fly Levis 505's.  They are adequate, but that's it.  No love there.

Last night I decided to fight back and ordered two pair of 501's.

And, no, that first pair never did look quite right.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thinking about implements, utensils, weapons.

A few days ago I had occasion to listen to a man go on about the second amendment at some length.  Since he was sitting in a friend's living room wearing a ball cap with the NRA Golden Eagle logo emblazoned on it, I wasn't surprised.  What did startle me however was, when someone asked if he carried a weapon, he said, "A gun is not a weapon; it is an implement, just like a knife or fork."  Since I was the one who posed the initial question, I was about to ask if he ate with a gun, but it struck me that anyone who considers a rifle or sidearm anything but a weapon, should probably not be confronted about it.

This person also quoted some numbers to support his contention that carrying a concealed weapon (he did call it a weapon then) was a crime deterrent, basing it on a Texas law allowing concealment and the resulting drop in muggings, assaults, etc.   I have to be suspicious of any stats coming from a state that prides itself on the number of executions it performs, and tends to elect governors with an IQ equivalent to pocket lint.

For the record, though I do not currently own a firearm, I am not opposed to possession of same.  I have owned several in the past and may own one again.  I do, however, believe that every one of them should be registered in some central database.  They are not, I repeat not, implements in any but the most general definition of the term.  They have only one function and that is to kill.  They are weapons.