Have You Seen My Castanets?

A good friend stopped by the other day and as we were sharing opinions about the weather I realized that the two of us were clearly not of one mind on the subject. She was bemoaning the fact that we have had very little snow so far this year, and that the days had been too warm for what snow did fall to last long enough to be enjoyed. As for myself, I was glad that this winter has been a mild one, with few of winter’s inconveniences.

For most of my life I lived in parts of the US where dealing with the harsher aspects of winter was just a part of the deal. Minnesota was my training ground for thirty years, with enough nasty temperatures and precipitation to make the sport of ice skating in cars a regular happening from December through March.

We did all sorts of things to keep the insides of our car motors warm enough to permit starting in the morning – plugging in heaters of various sorts to keep the engine oil or the radiator coolant warm. In the bitterest weather I recall carrying a spray can of ether for use when and if the carburetor “iced up” while I was driving to work or school. The scenario then was to pop the hood, take off the air cleaner, and spray this explosive material into the yawning mouth of the carb and then try to restart the vehicle. I should add that this playlet was often enacted in the middle of intersections and other highly inconvenient locations.

The high point with regard to snow was during my six years living in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During that period the area set its local record for snowfall … 360 inches. What this translates into is that by the month of February the following had happened:

  • The snow surrounded our one-story house to a depth where when you looked out any of the windows, it was all you saw.
  • Leaving home through the front door you walked through a narrow snow canyon that you had created, to get to the driveway
  • The roof had to be shoveled off regularly so that the outside would not one day fall through to the inside of our home. By February, in the rear of the house, when you did that shoveling you were standing on the roof and throwing the snow UP onto a pile that was now taller than the building
  • The city and country would plow the streets and local highways only once a day, and that was early in the morning. After that, you were on your own until the next day, no matter how much snow had fallen. This meant that while you might get to work fairly easily, getting back home was another matter. This led to the purchase of my first four-wheel drive vehicle, which was a Jeep Wagoneer. I remember the salesman’s comment just before I drove that beast away from the dealership: “Now you can get stuck in places you couldn’t even get to before.”

Here is an Upper Peninsula gallery, just to see what I might be talking about.

Perhaps one high/low point of winter nastiness arrived one day when Robin and I were driving in southern Minnesota when the air temperature was well below zero. Something occurred that frigid day that I would have believed impossible until that morning – it rained. The rain, of course turned to ice the moment it hit the car, and the window defrosters could not keep up with the icing while you were driving. So every few hundred yards or so you and every other driver on that road would pull over to the side and sit there until the ice melted from the windshield. Then you would get back on the highway which was now one big hockey rink and try to proceed slowly in a straight line until finally you couldn’t see any more, whereupon you would pull over and repeat the ritual. This went on for perhaps an hour and a half.

So when my friend was wishing for a more vigorous winter I nodded in agreement. I get it. But for me the charm of living here in Paradise is that while the snow is typically scanty in the valley, within twenty minutes I can drive to where it is plentiful. I can have my snowcake without having to eat it every day.


From The New Yorker


On some of my trips to the recreation center I have the opportunity to observe people playing something called pickleball. Nearly all of the players are elderly, some are past the point where swift movement is a possibility … and yet they can all play and seem to be enjoying it.

I admit that when I first heard the name of the game, it sounded way too stupid for someone as cool as I am. But watching these people I find myself thinking that I might just give it a try. If you don’t know what it is, the game is like the offspring of a ping-pong father and a badminton mother. The paddles are similar to those used in table tennis and what you hit is a clone of a wiffle ball, so you don’t have to chase it very far if you miss a return.

It seems a simple enough game that a person with my athletic talents has a chance of succeeding (at a low level), all you need being a paddle, a ball, and a net. As usual, this being America and all, an industry has spring up to sell us stuff beyond the necessaries. The photograph below was provided by a company that sells attire deemed suitable for female players.

I hasten to add that none of these twenty-somethings are to be found on the courts at our recreation center. There is not a single varicose vein in this photograph. Our local afficionados, male and female, tend toward a more seasoned variety of beautiful.


From The New Yorker


Robin and I are mining the past for some of our TV watching this winter. As a pilot project we have taken up NYPD Blue. As a cop show it is as good as we remembered, and a couple of levels above many of the present-day similar series. I do recall that one of its controversial hallmarks when it ran back in the years 1993-2005 was some freeness with nudity, and so we have had the chance to see the backs and butts of many of the principal players already. These are of varying degrees of comeliness, just like in real life.

The show is set in one of the non-glittering areas of New York City, and each episode has several story lines running simultaneously. All in all it’s a good watch, with a broad slice of human behavior on display.


An oversimplified but reasonably accurate summary of my political feelings at this moment in time.

Synonyms for disgusting

abhorrent, abominable, appalling, awful, distasteful, dreadful, nauseous, evil, foul, fulsome, gross, hideous, horrendous, horrid, loathsome, nasty, nauseating, noxious, obscene, odious, offensive, rancid, repellant, republican party leadership,repugnant, revolting, scandalous, shocking, sickening, ugly

Synonyms for feckless

abortive, bootless, counterproductive, democratic party leadership, fruitless, futile, ineffective, unproductive, unsuccessful, pointless, unavailing, plotless


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