Friday, December 12, 2014

You Go Right Ahead

Flannery O'Connor wrote to Cecil Dawkins on April 25, 1962:
[Eudora Welty] told a story about a beauty parlor operator in Jackson who writes novels about the Northwest Mounted Police. She sent one of her love scenes through the mail to Faulkner for criticism and when she didn't hear from him she called him up and said, "Mr. Faulkner, what did you think of that little love scene of mine?" He said, "Honey, it isn't the way I would do it, but you go right ahead, you go right ahead."
I have no aspirations to write fiction, let alone at the Faulknerian level. But I thought of this passage the other day when I was working my way through an ASP web page and the VB code behind it. Once I might have relished the challenge of rewriting the files. Now I murmur, "It's not the way I'd do it, but ... " and I make the fewest changes needed to accomplish my task.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

O Christmas Tree

My late mother-in-law had a neighbor with a number of quirks, one of which was the habit of setting up three Christmas trees every year. It took three trees to hold all the ornaments and lights his family had, I gather. I never saw them, but heard that there were two on the main floor, and one in the finished basement. Now and then I wonder whether we will end up like that family, for example when I find us putting fourteen strands of lights on the tree.

We drove out to River Road last Saturday afternoon to get our Christmas tree. I was interested--astonished--to see what some of the trees cost, and also to see the dump of trees in reserve from the display area. It appeared to me that reserve area was about fifteen yards each way, piled maybe six feet deep. Last Saturday we had drizzle and rain all day long, but while we examined trees, we were under a roof.

On the way back, K told me that I would probably not be able to get the tree into the house by myself, for it had taken two employees to lift it onto our car. Now, it seemed to me that this proved only so much. The store management might have set a two-employee policy to keep somebody from underestimating the difficulty and damaging a customer's car, say by snapping off a mirror. However, it turned out that the essential point, that the tree is heavy, was correct. Still, I lugged it onto the porch, and we got it set up.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Brand Names

In Rome, I was a little surprised to see someone in a Franklin & Marshall sweatshirt, and then astonished to see a storefront with the Franklin & Marshall name, which I knew only as the name of a well thought of college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The offspring explained that it is an Italian clothing company, the founder of which had discovered that the Franklin and Marshall name was not trademarked in the European Union. Apparently the clothiers pay an honorarium to the school, though not what a licensing agreement would bring in.

And then in Siena we saw a store called "Original Marines". Apart from an abstract Stars and Stripes in the sign, I saw nothing to call to mind the United States Marine Corps. The next day it occurred to me that this may be somebody's variation on the US brand "Old Navy".

Finally, at Schiphol, I found myself looking at a shelf of Penn State pretzels. Though I think of Pennsylvania State University in many connections, none directly has to do with pretzels. I suppose I could have bought a bag to find out whether they were up to Pennsylvanian standards, which are high.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Roman Signs

Out for a walk that took me along the Via Marmorata, I noticed first

and then

I wondered who the next type founder or printer might be, but it was on to electricians: Galvani and Volta.

This Wednesday, out for a walk, I noticed

And there was a Piazza Belli, with a statue of the poet, near where we stayed last week. I had heard of him through Anthony Burgess's novel Abba, Abba. I had a look at the shelves of a nearby English-language bookstore, but though they had a couple of Burgess's other novels, they did not have that one.

And finally, the assertion at St. John Lateran:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pulling a Punch Line

A store near the baggage claim are of the Rome airport has a handful of signs, about hip high, in the entrance, each with the image of some famous person and a quotation praising books. Some are to be expected, for example Thomas Jefferson's "I Cannot Live Without Books". One did surprise me:

I considered the reasons one might provide only half of the quip:
  1. Not enough space. But Oscar Wilde gets more words.
  2. "Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read" just doesn't work in Italian humor.
  3. The signs are there to encourage one to buy books, not to make one laugh
  4. "All'infuori di" has a logical meaning but not a spatial one, and so cannot be opposed by "dentro" as "outside of" is by "inside of".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


We are a bit touchy about squirrel sounds on the roof, having had to deal with a couple of intrusions. Several summers ago when one had dug at a window frame we trapped a couple of squirrels and exiled them to Arlington County. Since then, they have contented themselves with digging up the lawn to hide acorns, or digging out bulbs. But we remain on the watch.

This morning, K sent to me out to look for one on the front roof. He was there on the gutter. Presently, he clambered back up the slate at the southwest corner and disappeared over the roof. When I got to the back yard, he was in the holly tree at the northeast corner, about to head down.

For now, I assume that this squirrel is foraging for acorns that have fallen from a neighbor's tree into our gutters. I would find it more restful if he didn't, and perhaps once he satisfies himself that the acorns are gone, he won't. If he looks for storage or nesting space in the attic, he may find himself transported to Four Mile Run.

The other day I thought that I heard woodpeckers at our rake boards. This would have meant woodpecker damage to repair and bug infestation to deal with. Once I opened an attic window, I could hear that the hammering was from a crew down the alley.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Busy Neighborhood

For the last few days, a crew of masons has been replacing a neighbor's front steps and walk. Today I noticed also, on my way around the neighborhood,

  • a neighbor's porch ceiling being painted
  • a new driveway going in on Argyle Terrace near Varnum St.
  • a new front walk on Argyle Terrace near 17th St.
  • major work on a house (recently sold) at 17th and Varnum: new windows, new gutters, new floors at least
  • diagonally across the intersection, window replacement on somebody's addition
  • a new brick walk at 17th and Upshur
  • in the alley between Taylor and Upshur, a new fence going in
  • a neighbor's basement cleared out for renovation
Perhaps this work goes on all the time, but on weekdays when I'm at work.