All posts by Lars Walker

Island thoughts

Anthony Esolen, in a post at Touchstone Magazine, shares a poem that contains these lines:

When your mother has grown older,

And you have grown older,

When what used to be easy and effortless

Now becomes a burden,

When her dear loyal eyes

Do not look out into life as before,

When her legs have grown tired

And do not want to carry her any more–

Then give her your arm for support…

It was written by a very famous man. Read the article and be troubled.

Christians, I think, have a leg up in thinking about things like this, because we believe in Original Sin. If you aren’t a Christian and don’t understand what I mean, feel free to ask.

In the room where I slept during my sleep study they had a TV with cable. I hadn’t watched cable in a while. I clicked through the stations, and noticed there was a show about fishermen, and I gathered from the narration that it had to do with crab fishing in the Bering Sea.

This caught my interest, for reasons I’ll explain, but I decided not to watch it because I assumed it wouldn’t relate much to my own experiences.

How wrong I was.

The latest issue of the Sons of Norway’s magazine, Viking, carries an article about that series (“The Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel), and it connects to me in a couple ways.

First of all, the featured fishermen, Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen of Seattle, are Norwegian-Americans. Not only that, but their parents and two of the brothers’ wives (one is single) were born on Karmøy Island, the birthplace of my great-grandfather Walker and one of my favorite places in the world.

Secondly, I spent a summer of my own life processing Bering Sea crab. I wasn’t doing the dangerous work, fishing with a crew, but it was a memorable experience.

My musical group (we spent nine years together) were still in college when our leader said “My cousin just spent this past summer working at a crab meat packing plant in Alaska. He put in a lot of overtime and came home with a pile of money. I think we should do the same thing, and finance a concert tour.”

Although the thought of lots of overtime gave me pause, I went along with the plan. The idea of going to Alaska sounded adventurous (and indeed I’ve found it one of my few sure-fire conversation sparks ever since). So we bought tickets to Anchorage, and from there we took a bush air service to Sand Point (that’s on Popof Island in the Shumagins. The Hansens sail out of Dutch Harbor, which is in the same general area [we touched down there on the flight]. I understand the plant where we worked was closed down long ago).

Popof Island is less than 40 square miles and had, at the time. about three miles of gravel road. It was a frontier place, and we learned something about frontier living. The most important thing about frontier living is that it’s generally, really, really boring. There’s nothing to do when you’re not working your glutes off, which helps explain the popularity of drinking and fighting in such places. Once a month we had to help unload the supply freighter, and the largest single commodity we moved was alcohol. Never was so much booze consumed by so few.

We lived in a “dormitory,” a large house that had once been a hospital, located at the top of a hill. I forget the precise number of steps that went up to it, but I believe it was closer to 100 than fifty.

On Fourth of July morning (a day off, of course) we found a drunk passed out in the basement.

He had a cast on his leg.

Somehow he’d scaled all those steps with his leg in a cast.

There was a desperate emptiness in the place, a feeling of being at the end of the world in a couple senses. Nowhere to go from here. If things don’t work here, drown in the sea or drink yourself to death.

We had a short summer in Sand Point. The crab fishermen went on strike and we didn’t get the expected overtime. We went home earlier than planned, with some money but less than we’d hoped.

I’ve never read a Western quite the same way since then.

Hewitt? I barely know it!

I’m lost without Hugh Hewitt.

He’s on vacation right now, as many of you are aware, and while he’s gone this time he’s chosen to set aside his usual practice of bringing in guest hosts. Instead, he’s replaying a rogue’s gallery of his least pleasant, most hostile interviews. Harsh words are spoken, cutting remarks made. In a few notable cases, people hang up on him.

In other words, he’s turned his show into Michael Medved’s.

Believe me—the last thing I need after three hours of Medved on Disagreement Day is three more hours of Medved.

(Please understand, I like Michael Medved personally, so far as I can determine from listening to his program. I’d very much enjoy having dinner with him, or making small talk over cigars at Lileks’ place [hint, hint]. But only as long as there wasn’t an argument going on.)

I hate arguments. I am to arguments what John Murtha is to any conceivable use of American military force.

Bring back the guest hosts, Hugh! If you can’t find enough people willing to do your show, I’ll take a day. I’ve done radio. I’m a famous pundit.

Just as long as I don’t have to argue with anybody, of course.

Report on my first night with CPAP (for those who care): It went OK. I managed to keep the thing on all night, which many people can’t do at first. I did wake up more often than usual, probably because of the succubus on my face, but I always went back to sleep quickly, which is a rare pleasure of late.

I overslept, having forgotten to set my alarm clock in my concern to set up the CPAP right.

But my energy was good. Better, I think, than it’s been for a while. I ran out of gas in the early afternoon, but one can’t expect miracles right away.

Or maybe it’s all the placebo effect.

What’s that, Phil? You think I should blog about something the readers are actually interested in, now and then?

Hm. That’s a challenge. Vikings? Hats? Sissel Kyrkjebø?

Phil! Where did you learn words like that?

Well, somebody hath murdered sleep

First of all, welcome to any new readers who may have come in by way of the link at The American Spectator. I promise you that I don’t always blog about my physical health.

Sometimes, for variety, I blog about my emotional health.

“How did my sleep study go?” a breathless nation asks. Well, it was different from what I expected in terms of details, but pretty much exactly what I expected in the essentials.

The ambiance was less clinical than I had foreseen, and the bed in the room they gave me (furnished to look like a small motel room) was more comfortable than I expected.

That benefit is lost, though, when you’re trying to sleep with two straps fastened around your body and you have to lie on top of various tubes and wires. For a guy who can be kept awake at night by the sound of a fly walking on the ceiling, it wasn’t promising (by the way, they tell you that the gunk they use to stick the electrodes on in your hair shampoos right out. Consumer report: No. No, it doesn’t).

According to their records, I slept more than I thought I did, but their definition of sleep and mine aren’t entirely congruent. I did get into deep sleep (REM sleep) for a couple of periods. And I had some incidences of apnea (where your throat closes up and you stop breathing).

The thing is, I’m apparently on the low end of the apnea scale. This is a fact that speaks to the paranoid in me. They gave me a CPAP machine and sent me home with it, with the idea that I’d go back to see them in a month and we’d decide whether I’d stay with it or not. However, the doctor also told me it might take six weeks or longer to really see much benefit.

So I can’t help suspecting that my own doctor (who’s actually just a Physician’s Assistant) is getting a kickback from the clinic for sending anybody who remotely resembles a sleep apnea patient to them. And they, in turn, prescribe the machines to anybody who snorts a few times a night.

On the other hand, I do feel tired a lot, and I’d like to have more energy and a better attitude. They tell me this might help.

I have no idea what to do about it.

I went back in to work for the afternoon half-day. I had plenty on my desk, but I took time to give blood at the annual blood drive, because it’s not like they’ll be back next month.

You know that informational notice they make you read beforehand? The one that started out as one sheet, then became two, then three pages? It’s about eight pages now.

I worry that the blood bank people (who do a fine work) are getting safety measured out business.

Imagine giving blood ten years from now. It will probably involve reading 300 pages of closely spaced information and informed consent contracts. It will require taking a whole day off from work and submitting to a strip search, a CAT scan and a rectal examination. You’ll have to fill out a form detailing whom you’ve had sexual relations with, whom you’ve had lunch with, and whom you’ve stood next to in the Men’s Room, along with the social security numbers and sexual histories of all such persons.

And I can see the story on the TV news. “Blood stocks are down again, for the eightieth month in a row. Officials are at a loss to account for the drop in volunteer blood donors.”

And that will be before the HIV activists win the court case recognizing their constitutional right to donate infected blood without being discriminated against.

Knitting up the ravel’d sleeve of care

Tonight I shall not sleep in my own bed. I shall sleep in a bed in a sleep center, with electrodes stuck to my skull, to see if a CPAP machine will improve what is laughingly known as my quality of life.

Knowing me as well as you do by now, you understand that I’m worried about this. I have a hard time getting to sleep most nights in my own familiar bed, even if I’m tired. How I’ll sleep in a strange bed with an electronic snood hooked up to me I can’t quite comprehend.

I figure the technicians will wait in the next room behind a two-way mirror, cracking jokes about me in low voices, a green light from the control panel illuminating their pasty complexions (sleep technicians never see the light of day, after all). One of them—the muscular broad with the shaved head and the tattoos, will keep saying, “I hate this guy. Look at him. What a lump. What a loser.”

And the other one will say, “If he’d just fall asleep, we could catch that late movie on Lifetime.”

And the M.B. will say, “This one? He’s never gonna fall asleep. He’s gonna lie there all night, like the loser he is.”

And the other one will say, “Well, we could always use the Sleep Inducer.”

And the M.B. will say, “Sure. If any moron ever deserved the Sleep Inducer, it’s this creep.”

So she sneaks into the room very quietly, holding a great big mallet behind her back, and she smashes me over the head with it like Bugs Bunny in a cartoon.

And in the morning they’ll ask me how I slept, and I’ll say, “Great. I’m really surprised. But I’ve got this awful headache.”

And the doctor will nod and say, “That’s a common side effect.”

I, pundit

Lars Walker futures took a sudden surge upward today, still down from their 1996 highs but well above their recent bargain basement valuation.

Investor interest rose on news of Walker’s sale of an opinion piece to The American Spectator website. The essay, reported to be a humorous attack on the fashion habits of American seniors, is expected to appear on the magazine’s online service some time this week….

Thanks are due to Hunter Baker, a TAS writer and a frequent commenter here, for badgering me into trying something I’d never done before in a paying market, something I was quite certain I couldn’t carry off. Ben Stein writes for the Spectator site, for Pete’s sake. Who am I?

But man, acceptance feels good.

It’s really pathetic, you know, how much I require tangible validation, how needy I am for credentials. Paul Johnson, in his wicked, marvelous book Intellectuals, tells how Henrik Ibsen (one of my least favorite Norwegians, right down there with Vidkun L. J. Quisling) used to petition the Swedish crown (Sweden ruled Norway in those days) whenever he heard about a medal he hadn’t been awarded yet. And then he’d wear his whole collection on his suit—not just the ribbons but the actual “gongs”—whenever he went out, jingling down the street like a horse with bells on.

I understand why he did that. If I had a medal I’d be tempted to do the same thing. Because I feel inferior to every human being I’ve ever met, including criminals and the mentally disabled. Credentials give me something to wave—“See! See! I’m somebody too!”

Sad as it is, that’s how I am, and that makes today a pretty good day.

In other positive news, I found out Saturday that Sissel will be doing two concerts at the Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota in October. This means, it goes without saying, that I’ll have to make that ten-hour drive in the fall. It also means that I’ll have to try to do both that and the Norway trip I’m trying to arrange, which means I need more money, and I don’t think the Spectator gig will pay that well. Gotta get that renter in the spare room.

I learned about the Sissel concert in Hutchinson, Minnesota, where I drove for a Viking Age Society event. We did live steel in an empty store in a mall there. Every time I have a sword fight, I think it adds an hour to my life. Sold several copies of my books, too, in spite of the low turnout due to weather.

The weather sucked. The blizzard had ended, and the sky was clear, but there was a stiff wind out of—I actually don’t recall where it was coming from. But it was cold. And Highway 7 from Minneapolis to Hutchinson was coated with about a 75% covering of ice. The county, in its wisdom, had apparently elected not to waste any of the taxpayers’ money on fripperies like sand and salt.

So by the time I got to Hutchinson (Sissel playing on the CD player, of course), I was ready to hit something with a sword. Hard.

Technical note: This entire post was written in a reverse chronological order. That’s the kind of textural richness that makes my writing so much in demand among the more discerning of the online media outlets.

At least my carbon footprint is small

I am the man. I’m half horse and half alligator. When I roar, mighty beasts flee.

After a white collar guy like me does a job of work like I did today (and last night), he’s entitled to beat his chest a bit, I think. Because that’s all the reward he’s likely to get.

Picking up last night’s enthralling narrative, not long after I posted yesterday evening I got a call from the school’s dean, saying they were canceling classes tomorrow (that is, today) due to the snow.

I went to bed earlier than usual, needing the rest pretty badly. I didn’t set my alarm clock.

I got up around 7:30, ate my breakfast, and went out to face the day and the evil thereof.

We’d had more snow overnight, and high winds as well, so there was a lot of drifting. I was tempted to think that all my work of the previous night had been wasted, but I think it would have been harder without it.

I had the idea that if I set up my rope-tourniquet differently, I could get a tighter hold and hold a seal on the snowblower tire.

I found that my rope wasn’t strong enough to do what I wanted it to do. It snapped.

So I reverted to Plan B, and took up the shovel again.

Briefly put, it took a long time. I rested frequently, and more often as time went on.

My neighbor’s wife came back from work around 10:00, because her office had closed too. She joined me when I was about half way down the driveway, and together we finished it up.

This is how it looks in my back yard today:

Snow2

It’s snowed some more since, but I don’t think it’s going to interfere with me when I drive to Hutchinson for a Viking Age Society event tomorrow. It’ll be indoors, in a mall, but we’ll do live steel, so I’ll be able to try out my new shield(s):

Shields3

I apologize for the egregious ugliness of the rawhide edging on the finished shield in the picture. It was the first time I’d worked with rawhide, and I went far astray.

I made a point of showing the back of one shield so you could see the handle. This handle construction is (I believe) my own invention, and I predict it will be a major success with live steel fighters, bringing me… nothing at all.

Archaeology tells us that Viking shields (which were made out of boards laid side-by-side, not plywood like these fakes) usually had handles made of wood. But sometimes the wood handles were covered by a gutter-shaped iron covering, making them stronger.

When I bought the wood molding (it has a precise name, but I’ve forgotten it) for my handles, I worried that it wouldn’t be sturdy enough. Finally I decided to buy some thin steel bar stock in a 1” width. I drilled holes for my fastening bolts through both steel and wood, and came up with a fairly light, pretty strong handle, based on the Viking principle.

I’ll see how it works tomorrow.

If I’m able to move after all this shoveling.

I hate honest toil

I never stop to wonder why I left the farm. I left the farm for many reasons, all of which I remember vividly.

But if I had forgotten why I became an urban drone, dwelling in a ticky-tacky house, this evening would have reminded me.

The storm we’d been told to expect began as promised, and it ain’t over yet. It started last night. I was worried that I’d need to dig out before going to work, but it had only snowed a couple inches, and I drove out. Then I spent all day at work worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get back home.

I did get in, though, and then I set to work with my master plan to get my neighbor’s snowblower (which, as you know if you’ve been following the last few episodes, he keeps in my garage in return for clearing the shared driveway) going. As you doubtless recall, a tire on the blower was flat last weekend, when he tried to use it. He took it someplace and got some kind of wrench that allows you to squoosh the tire down so that the bead seals, so you can pump it up again. He refilled the tire, but it went flat again. Probably a puncture.

And then he left town on business.

But I figured I could do the same squooshing thing with a length of rope and a tourniquet. And I have an air compressor of my own.

Story in short—it was tougher than I thought. I gave up at last. I took up my shovel and went to work. It took two hours, but I got it done.

And the snow was already beginning to accumulate behind me.

But I hope I can get out to go to work tomorrow, and then I’ll have the evening to repeat the process. We’re supposed to get up to ten inches more before it finally relents sometime tomorrow.

I could have taken a picture while the light lasted, to show you how much deeper the snow is, but I wanted to get to work before I lost the light.

I was also going to share a picture of my completed shield, which I finished last night, but Photobucket is down.

So you’ll have to settle for this.

It’s winter. We all have to make sacrifices.

Or if you don’t, I want you to feel guilty.

Smoking or non-smoking?

In my ongoing effort to demonstrate my spiritual superiority and make most of you feel guilty, I’m going to talk about my morning devotional.

(I was pretty guilty about it myself, by the way, until recently. I finally found a way to make my devotions fairly regular. I spend fifteen minutes with the Bible during my first coffee break each day at work. This isn’t a live option for lots of people, I understand, but since I’m the boss, and I can’t leave the office during that time period anyway, it works for me.)

I was in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 this morning. I was using the ESV at work, but I don’t have a copy here at home, so I’ll transcribe verses 11-15 from the NIV:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames.

Occasionally I’ve heard the question asked, “Will Christians go through the Last Judgment?” It seems to me the answer is right here. Christians will be judged, but only in terms of rewards, not punishment.

Paul imagines—or perhaps he once observed—a man going through the ruins of his house after it has burned down. The man sifts through the ashes, recognizing charred scraps of clothing or sticks of furniture, ruined forever.

But in the cinders he touches something heavy and solid. He lifts it up. It’s his savings—a bag of coins. The bag itself has burned up, but the money comes up all together in a lump, because it’s gold and silver. It’s melted together, but it’s all there, and just as valuable as it was before the fire. Because gold and silver are invulnerable to flames.

That’s how it will be at the Last Judgment, Paul is saying. It won’t be like the Muslim Last Judgment. Muslims believe that everyone—Muslim and infidel—will stand before the same court. There will be a balance scale there. On one side of the balance, all the person’s good deeds will be placed. On the other side all his sins will go. If the good is heavier than the bad, the person goes to Paradise. If the evil weighs more, he goes to Hell. Thus no Muslim is ever entirely sure of salvation (unless he’s a martyr, of course).

I suspect a lot of people who think they’re Christians are actually Muslims, at least in this doctrine.

But Paul says that as long as you stand on the Foundation—that is, Jesus Christ—you can’t be condemned in the Judgment. Your deeds, though—all the stuff you bring with you from your life—your achievements and piety—all that will go through the fire. When the fire has had its way, you’ll see (and I’ll see) how much of that was gold, how much was kindling.

A comforting thought, and a troubling one, all at once.

I should practice sleeping out of doors, I think.

Cryptic post

A lot of people have a lot invested in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a great human teacher, about whom fantastic but fictitious tales were spread after his death. This view permits such people to consider themselves “Christians” in the sense of being followers of “the real Jesus” (about whom, according to this theory, we really can say nothing for sure, but they’re sure they know what He truly meant anyway, and—what do you know? It’s precisely what they already think!). Most importantly it avoids the whole scandal of the Cross thing, which is so tacky.

And that, in short, is what I think of James Cameron and his documentary on Jesus’ tomb. I move right past discussion of his claims and settle on an ad hominem attack.

But if you want a discussion of Cameron’s arguments, I recommend to you this post at Dennis Ingolfsland’s Recliner Commentaries blog, a blog that deserves to be better known than it is.

For a more sinister, humorous take I liked what Dirty Harry wrote yesterday at Libertas blog.

Land of 10,000 sore backs

Nice weekend, all in all. The predicted snow came, and for once we got as much as was promised. I think it was about fifteen inches, and this is how my back yard looks today:

Snowdrift

I got a call Saturday night that church would be cancelled. This did not break my heart, because (mea culpa) I go to church out of obligation, not desire. Suffering as I do from a psychological condition clinically known as “being nuts,” I don’t enjoy gathering with other people much. A guilt-free Sunday morning off does not cast down my heart.

I was in the basement Sunday morning when I noticed my neighbor’s wife through the window above, shoveling our shared driveway. This was curious, since my neighbor has a snow blower. He keeps it in my garage, and the deal is that in return for that accommodation he clears my side as well.

I could have pretended I hadn’t noticed, but I decided to pretend to be a responsible adult. I went out and grabbed my shovel. I found my neighbor out there too. He explained that the blower had a flat tire. So I pitched in and we managed to clear adequate paths. This is the kind of work where overweight, middle-aged men tend to fall over with heart attacks, but I dodged the bullet.

The snow in the picture, I can tell you with absolute moral authority, is wet and heavy. This was, in fact, the heaviest snowfall our metropolis has experienced in several years.

I think there’s a sense of satisfaction all over our fair state today, a grin behind the grumbling. With a few hiati, this winter has been pretty easy so far, and that’s bad for our self-image. Minnesotans think of themselves as the hardy folk who thrive in arctic conditions for half the year and like it—yes, like it, by golly! In our secret hearts, we think it makes us better than folks who live in easier climes. Now we’ve earned a little cred back, and we’re swaggering a bit.

I think I’ll swagger over to the thermostat and turn it up.

Last dispatch. Or not.

Sorry for the late posting. My wireless connection chose this evening to forget its way home, and all my blandishments and caresses were of no avail. Now suddenly, having come back upstairs from my shield project (of which more below) I find the necessary light back on again, and I’m able to resume communication with you, the Esteemed Reader.

I wanted to call Earthlink Customer Support about the problem, but I had to leave the phone line open, as a guy had made an appointment to come over and look at the room for rent tonight. Or rather, he was going to call to get directions tonight, and then come over. But so far, no action on that front. I have a suspicion he’s going to stand me up.

Which is only justice, in the greater scheme of things. I remember a couple times I did the very same thing to landlords, in my youth. When I’d decided not to check a place out, I never had the nerve to phone and tell the manager personally. Avoidant stuff.

But I was itching to finish painting my shields tonight, so I finally went down to the basement and worked on that, with the door open so I could hear the phone (haven’t got one down there).

I’d already done the blue base coat. Tonight I put on the decorations, and now they look like this:

Shields2

I’m not entirely happy. I’d like bolder colors—ideally I’d have preferred the bright red and yellow I usually paint my Viking stuff with. But I’m trying to conform to the general standards of the big-time re-enactors, and they prefer muted colors, because bright was hard (and expensive) to do a thousand years ago. So I took somebody’s advice and went to a paint store and looked for “mistints,” which sell cheap. These were the most interesting colors I could find, but the reddish thing is almost pink, and it underwhelms me.

I’ll live with it, though. Better this than have an English re-enactor (should I ever chance to encounter one) get in my face.

The design, by the way, is based on the heraldic device of the island of Karmøy, where my great-grandfather was born.

We’re supposed to get a big snowstorm tonight, which will continue on through Sunday. If you don’t hear from me again, it’s because I starved or froze.

Or because my wireless has gone out again.

Notes of an immune superman

I think I may have had the flu last night.

I’m not really sure. As I was IMing with someone last night, I began to feel tired and physically weak. I told my friend I thought I might be getting sick. Flu maybe.

This morning I got up and felt fine, but later in the morning I had a bout of what I’ll delicately call “intestinal distress.” But when that was done, it was over.

Maybe it was something I “et,” but I’ve noticed a pattern in the last few years. I’ll feel like I’m coming down with something in the evening, but after a good sleep I’m fine.

I’m coming to believe that I’ve developed a superhumanly strong immune system. When I was a kid I got sick a lot. When I grew a little older I got sick less often. Now that I’m entering my golden years, I don’t seem to ever get sick anymore.

I know a guy my age ought to get flu shots, but I’m kind of scared of upsetting this remarkable balance I seem to have achieved.

It’s a strange time in the library these days, for me. I’ve been given a new assistant, and I’m not sure how it’s going to go.

The new assistant is a short-term seminarian from Africa, an elderly pastor so far ahead of me spiritually I can barely make out his silhouette on the distant horizon.

We like to give our foreign students part-time jobs on campus, because they usually don’t have the option of driving. I imagine the Higher Powers decided to send this pastor to the library because they figured the library is a light job.

It’s light in terms of lifting (mostly), true enough. But I fear that this pastor may be finding it pretty heavy in emotional terms.

He has almost no experience with western technology. He’s never used a computer in his life. The control of a mouse is an extremely frustrating exercise for him, much as learning to operate a video game controller would probably be for me. Even the electronic typewriter we type check-out cards with frustrates him.

I hope it’s not keeping him awake at night or anything. I hope I’m a patient trainer.

Culture Shock is my middle name. Or middle names.

Meme break

Another beautiful day, the last for a while. Tomorrow will be colder, and there may be snow over the weekend.

Hope I can finish this and get it posted before I leave for church. I’m reading Scripture tonight, and that’s one of the few things I’ll confess to being good at.

Will Duquette of View From the Foothills sent me the following meme. Memes are easier than thinking of something to write about.

1. What is your occupation? Librarian/Bookstore Manager.

2. What color are your socks right now? Black.

3. What are you listening to right now? Hugh Hewitt on the radio.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? A Banquet turkey TV dinner.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? I’d be tan, but I’d wish I were red.

7. The last person you spoke to on the phone? A woman who’d called about my room to rent for herself and her husband (I told her I thought it would be a little crowded).

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? So far as I know him online.

9. How old are you today? 56.

10. Favorite drink? Diet Orange Sunkist soda.

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? Live steel combat (participation is better).

12. Pets? None.

13. Allergies? Adhesive bandage tape makes my skin turn red. Other than that, nothing.

14. Favorite foods? Roast turkey, pizza, steak, hamburgers. Chocolate.

15. What was the last movie you watched? Stranger Than Fiction.

16. What do you do to vent anger? I don’t. I stuff it.

17. What was your favorite toy as a child? Toy guns.

18. What is your favorite season fall or spring? Spring.

19. Hugs or kisses? I don’t get either.

20. Cherries or Blueberries? Cherries.

21. Do you want your family and friends to email you back? Does not apply.

22. Who is most likely to respond? DNA.

23. Who is least likely to respond? DNA.

24. Living arrangements? I live in a house by myself, until I get a renter.

25. When was the last time you cried? Don’t recall.

26. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes. Boxes. Dust.

27. What did you do last night? Walked, blogged, straightened the living room, worked on an opinion piece for Hunter Baker.

28. Favorite smells? The sea. Popcorn. Roasting meat.

29. What inspires you? Sublime music.

30. What are you (most) afraid of? Rejection and humiliation.

31. Favorite dog breed? Not sure. But something large.

32. Number of keys on your key ring? Eight on the main one.

33. Favorite day of the week? Sunday (specifically Sunday afternoons).

34. How many states have you lived in? Five. Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida.

35. Favorite holiday? Christmas.

36. Ever driven a motorcycle or heavy machinery? No. I tried a motorcycle once; nearly had an accident. In somebody’s yard.

37. Ever left the country? Yes. Mostly to Norway.

38. Favorite kind of music? British folk music, classical, Ennio Morricone spaghetti scores.

39. Last book you read? The Two Towers.

Freedom of speech, freedom of ostracism

The temperature was up around forty today. In Minnesota, in February, that counts as a beautiful day. The sun shone, and our thin snow cover faded like the new congress’s gravitas.

I even had time for a walk before sundown, though evening shadows were lengthening by the time I finished. As an added bonus, somebody had left a bookcase out in front of their house, with a “Free” sign taped to it. I jumped into Mrs. Hermanson, drove back and snagged it. It’s kind of beat up, granted, but I meant it for the basement. I can never have enough bookcases.

S. T. Karnick has been relentlessly asking hard questions about the Tim Hardaway controversy. I’m not sure I agree entirely with his position, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with my own either. Assuming I have one.

When I was young I came to embrace a passionate, Jeffersonian view of freedom of speech. I believed the American approach was essentially based in a Christian world view. If everybody, regardless of how outrageous his opinion, is permitted to make his case the best he can, the marketplace of ideas will make the truth evident to all, because there’s power in Truth.

However, there’s another way to look at it, also based in a Christian world view. That approach would say that, since human beings are sinful and essentially perverse, they will always choose the answers they find most convenient, flattering and profitable, regardless of the merits of the arguments.

When arguing with people about vulgar music and movies, whenever I’ve been subjected to the inevitable accusation that I’m in favor of censorship, my standard response has been to say, “No, I don’t want censorship. I want public opinion to shame these people into silence. I want to make publishers ashamed to produce this stuff.”

Which is precisely what the left is doing with Hardaway.

So I ought to be OK with that.

But I can’t dismiss Karnick’s argument that it’s pretty hypocritical for people to self-righteously pretend they don’t share Hardaway’s feelings to some extent, and to justify themselves by throwing stones at him.

I’ll let you know if I come to any conclusions.

First in war, with a shield

They tell me that, Dennis Prager’s curmudgeoning to the contrary, today is not legally President’s Day, but Washington’s Birthday. “Presidents Day” is just what the stores call it. I’m not sure why. “Washington’s” is twelve letters, if you count the apostrophe, and “Presidents” is ten letters (eleven if you add an apostrophe, which isn’t strictly necessary), and that’s not going to make much difference to your ad copy column inches costs.

Let’s see, what do I know about Washington that doesn’t call for a lot of research on a holiday that’s mostly already over as I write?

Washington’s ideal—the model that inspired him—was the farmer-statesmen of the Roman republic. Those guys who reluctantly left their fields to shoulder the burden of civic responsibility for a time, then joyfully laid it down again to go back to their real lives. You can see echoes of that pattern everywhere in the great man’s career.

Even the architecture at Mount Vernon was a statement of this ideal. In contrast to the Greek Revival architecture favored by Jefferson and his crowd, Mount Vernon is Roman to the foundations.

He wasn’t a fun guy, Mr. President Washington. He was “on” all the time, playing the role, conscious that he was setting a benchmark by which his successors would be expected to measure themselves.

It definitely helped.

For a while, anyway.

I spent my weekend working on my new Viking shields for live steel.

Here’s how far I got:

Shields: Stage 1

I’ve got three rounds like this now, and I drilled holes in the two bosses (the boss is the bowl-like metal thing there). One round will be a spare, for when one gets shattered (which will definitely happen).

The great challenge was getting a 4×8’ sheet of 3/8” plywood home from Home Depot. First I drove around trying to find an auto parts store that sold clamp-on car top carriers. Turns out nobody carries them anymore.

Then I figured, well, if you take an old blanket to protect Mrs. Hermanson’s roof, you can just buy some tie-downs at the store and strap ‘er on and drive home that way.

Which is what I did, but it took a while. We had a stiff wind (pretty cold too) that wanted to blow the blanket off, so I had to bungee that down first. Then I got the plywood sheet up and discovered that Mrs. Hermanson, being one of those SUV’s built without a top rack, is specially designed for the frou-frou set, having no projections or inlets of any kind to which a conventional tie-down may be attached. I finally got the tie-downs hooked into the window channels, but only in the same way that you can chin yourself up on the molding on your living room wall.

I was also concerned that the front of the panel would get lifted by the wind as I drove. I was just starting to unfasten everything and see if I couldn’t fit the thing inside Mrs. Hermanson, at an angle with a bend, when a Home Depot employee came to help me. The inside-the-vehicle experiment didn’t work, but he helped me load it back up on top, and suggested running a strap down the center in front, hooking it on the hood to hold the leading edge down. Wish I’d thought of that.

Wish I’d thought to tip him too.

Once at home I set to work with a keyhole hand saw (I don’t own an electric saw) and managed to get what you see done by Sunday night.

Next step: painting.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, when there is some more to report.

Because I know it matters to you.