Category Odds & Ends

The NIMBYism of Neighborhood Life

The house adjacent to our back fence was a stately old matron, the very first in our entire neighborhood, or so we have heard. I used to admire it from the street on my walks when we lived several blocks away, its deep frontage sporting the year-round, unirrigated green lawn common to this part of the world, with its more or less 12-month rains that seemed another world altogether for this California-reared boy, used to that state’s annual May through September drought cycle.

The home played host to a family for the first couple of years after my arrival, three tow-headed children chasing after their dad and the soccer ball he used to fake keeping away from them as they all flailed and flopped about the yard.

One of those terminally creaky patio swings suitable for young (or old) lovers or multiple small children was off to the side, and just under the porch awning, a rocking chair.

Also off to the side an...

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Notes on a Runner’s High

One of the paradoxes of our scientific age is that laypersons often take what scientists tell us as gospel, whereas scientists themselves mostly flee in horror from any such supposition.

In reality, science is only partly about a method to accrue verifiable knowledge, because, as every scientist knows and every educated layperson should appreciate, it is also a process that clearly implies flux, that remains tentative and contingent through open-ended phases of hypothesis, testing, collating results, questioning, challenging, retesting and reverifying results again.

None of which stands as the final word.

Instead, every piece of scientific literature includes an implicit, open invitation for other scientists to conduct their own research to disprove what previous science has held to be the latest knowledge in any given field.

Movement tends to beget continued movement, the familiar refrain of “Use it or lo...

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My War With Wisteria

Make no mistake: It’s war out there. Arduous, protracted war, in which prisoners are endured only if necessary, but their execution is preferred. In this witless zero sum game, sun and soil and water are the prizes, and brutal, single-minded purpose is the cost of pursuing them.

My name is Wisteria, and my goal is to cover every square inch of Earth.

Mind if I sidle in here underneath you for a spell?


Thankfully, wisteria won’t likely achieve its goal, but it will not be for lack of trying. To its no-doubt chagrin, it hasn’t (yet?) figured out how to survive and thrive in oceans or on tall chilly peaks, about which it remains ignorant. But here in the southeast, it knows all too much about surviving and thriving, having long since mastered the art of absorbing essential nutrients in great abundance after its major varieties were introduced as ornamental flowering vines from Asia in the early 1800s.


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How to Spend the Day When Your Laptop’s Gone Down the Highway in Your Pal’s Car

Sit down on convenient bench outside coffee shop where he dropped you.

Give 10 seconds to wailing and gnashing of teeth and cursing such absence of mind.

On 11th second, turn face up to sun.

Initiate multiple voluntary deep breaths.

Turn attention to coffee and cantaloupe slice you DID remember to remove from car.

Reach for phone to catch at least home page of New York Times.

Experience familiar exasperation of reading news shoved into hellishly cramped space that used to be your morning newspaper.

Think better of reading; cast face back to sun.

Espy actual, hard copy local weekly newspaper lying about on next bench.

Note cover story on aging.  (Synchronicity!) Decide to read it.

Note disappointment with story’s shallowness.

Vow to write something deep about aging one day.

Quickly acknowledge this will not be that day.

Climb on bike, which, unlike laptop, you had removed mindfully from rack at rear of ca...

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“Bill Russell: Legend”…The Title Says It All (Unfortunately)

I suspect all artists are as bedeviled by what to leave out of a work as by what to include. The canvas, score or page is only so large, and though one could theoretically keep writing a piece of music or prose without end (until death parts you from it), no sane person would try to keep listening or reading.

But truly, to begin a creative work is often to be overflowing with potential material and overwhelmed by how to shape and contain it.

You have to be careful it doesn’t sprawl all over whatever medium you’re using with either too much material or, in a slight twist on that theme, too much material of one kind at the expense of perhaps more relevant or interesting or even essential material of another kind.

It is the latter occurrence that can leave audience members with more questions at the end of a creative work than they had at the beginning...

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