Monthly Archives: May 2014

I’ve been having a recurring dream for at least 20 years. I’m riding in a bus, which makes a stop somewhere to let some passengers off and others on. The driver sets the brake and gets out of the bus to use a bathroom or something. A minute or so later, the bus starts to move. It takes a few moments for those of us on the bus to realize that there is no one in the driver’s seat.

There is a bit of a panic. And because this is a dream, even though just a minute before the bus may have been sitting at a bus stop I recognize somewhere in Seattle, now we’re on a long, winding road going down an unfamiliar mountain.
Continue reading Control

Friday Links!
It’s Friday again! It’s already June!?!?! Here’s a collection of news and other things that struck me as worthy of being shared:

Balcony Burglar Bolts for Bay. The people who write for the Seattle PD Blotter blog & twitter stream trying to keep it fun.

Catholic Church Ordained Women Before, Can Do it Again. An essay ignored by the Vatican since the ’70s, translated into English for the first time, shows that the Catholic Church has ordained women in the past, and could do so again.

Visual gags in comedies: US vs UK. This is a very thoughtful, entertaining, and short meditation on how all films can be improved.

Jackson Hole is first Wyoming city to pass LGBT nondiscrimination protections. (I only lived in Wyoming for a few months during third grade, but I’m always happy when something good happens there)

The mammoth that trampled on the history of mankind.

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism.

Stormé DeLarverie, “Rosa Parks” Of The Gay Rights Movement, Dies At 93.

Physicists Prove Surprising Rule of Threes.

Pluto’s big comeback: Why it could be reclassified as a planet.

When the Earth Had Two Moons.

Derpitude: Open Carry Group in Texas sues because they can’t approach motorists while fully armed.

An ancient battle: A 900-pound croc takes on a 58-foot snake.

In Your Face, With Cake.

Eli Lieb – Young Love (Official Music Video):

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Sam Smith – Leave Your Lover:

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Maya Angelou on Sesame Street – My Name:

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A thoughtful commentary on the history of the words trans, tranny, and the current controversy:

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“Man up” (really?):

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Old family picture.
I and my cousin as babies, being held by our moms, with our great-grandma in the middle, our grandma in the back left, and my paternal grandma in the back right.
My almost-twin cousin spent an incredible amount of time a couple years ago going through all of our grandmother’s photo albums. She scanned in every picture, transcribed notes on the photos or on the album pages themselves. She tried to track down people who could identify unnamed people in pictures, and so on. She burned discs with all the pictures and sent one to everyone in the family for a Christmas present.
Continue reading Relativity

Lavender ice

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
The mini fridge in our hotel room was a bit cooler than it needed to be. Froze one of my Lavender Dry sodas!
For many years when we visit Longview, the town where I attended high school, I’ve been renting rooms at one particular Red Lion hotel that’s just a few miles from my Grandma’s house. The hotel isn’t in Longview, it’s technically in the neighboring town of Kelso. But it’s a nice hotel, and the two towns literally run into each other. The fastest route from the hotel to my Grandma’s house includes driving up a road on the boundary. Buildings on one side of the road are in Kelso, those on the other side are in Longview.

Once, only once, I got a room in a different place, a motel even closer to Grandma’s. It cost just as much as a night at the Red Lion, but the rooms were tinier, and everything in the hotel was cheaper looking/feeling.
Continue reading Lavender ice

Memorial, part 2

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
Flowers for Grandma’s grave.
Grandma always called it by the older name, Decoration Day. As I’ve written before, the original holiday was celebrated in many states as a day to gather at the grave sites of your parents, grandparents, et cetera, to honor the memory of their lives. It was often a time of picnics and family reunions. At least as much a celebration of their lives as a time of mourning. The connection to military deaths didn’t happen until 1866, and particularly in the south, was often seen as a pro-Union, pro-war, anti-southern celebration.

I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.

Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would begin calling distant relatives and old family friends. Grandma knew where just about every person descended from her own grandparents was buried, and she made certain that someone who lived nearby was putting flowers on the graves of those relatives by Memorial Day. She took care of all the family members buried within a couple hours drive of her home in southwest Washington.

She was putting flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud (Grandma’s sister-in-law) seven years ago on the Friday before Memorial Day when she died. My step-grandfather said he was getting in position to take a picture of her beside the grave and the flowers (there are hundreds and hundreds of photos of Grandma beside graves with flowers on them in her photo albums) when she suddenly looked up, said, “I don’t feel good!” and pitched over.

One weekend she had blown out the candles on the cake celebrating her 84th birthday. The following Friday, while putting flowers on Great-aunt Maud’s grave, she died. And one week after that a bunch of us were standing at her graveside. It was just down to a few family members, and we were at that stage where you’re commenting on how pretty the flowers that so-and-so that no one had heard from in years were, when someone asked, “Isn’t grandpa’s grave nearby?”

Grandpa had died 23 years earlier, and was buried in one of a pair of plots he and Grandma had bought many years before. And after Grandma re-married, she and our step-grandfather had bought two more plots close by.

Anyway, as soon as someone asked that, my step-grandfather’s eyes bugged out, he went white as a sheet, and said, “Oh, no!” He was obviously very distressed as he hurried toward his car. Several of us followed, worried that he was having some sort of medical issue.

Nope. He and Grandma had been driving to various cemeteries all week long before her death, putting silk-bouquets that Grandma had made on each relative’s grave. Aunt Maud’s was meant to be the next-to-the-last stop on their journey. Grandpa’s silk flower bouquet was still in the trunk of the car. My step-grandfather was beside himself. He’d cried so much that week, you wouldn’t have thought he could cry any more, but there he was, apologizing to Grandma’s spirit for forgetting about the last batch of flowers, and not finishing her chore—for not getting flowers on Grandpa George’s grave by Memorial Day.

The next year, several of us had the realization that without Grandma around, none of us knew who to call to get flowers put on Great-grandma and Great-grandpa’s graves back in Colorado. None of us were sure in which Missouri town Great-great-aunt Pearl was buried, let alone who Grandma called every year to arrange for the flowers. Just as we weren’t certain whether Great-great-aunt Lou was buried in Kansas or was it Missouri? And so on, and so on. One of my cousins had to track down the incident report filed by the paramedics who responded to our step-grandfather’s 9-1-1 call just to find out which cemetery Great-aunt Maud was in.

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
Flowers from us, Mom, and my Aunt Silly on Grandpa’s grave.
Mom and her sister have been putting flowers on Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves since. Our step-grandfather passed away three years after Grandma, and he was buried beside her.

Some years before her death, Grandma had transferred the ownership of the plot next to Grandpa to Mom. So Mom’s going to be buried beside her dad. Mom mentions it whenever we visit the graves, and I don’t know if she realizes how much it chokes me up to think about it.

We had put the flowers in place. We had both taken pictures. Mom always worries that she won’t remember where Grandpa’s grave is (it’s seared in my head: two rows down from Grandma, four stones to the south). Michael helped Mom take a wide shot picture that has both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s spots in it.

I thought we were going to get away with both of us only getting a little teary-eyeed a few times, but as we were getting back into the car, Mom started crying. Which meant that I lost it.

Grandma’s been gone for seven years, now. But every time we drive down to visit Mom, there is a moment on the drive when my mind is wandering, and I’ll wonder what Grandma will be doing when we get there. And then I remember I won’t be seeing her. It took me about a dozen years to stop having those lapses about Grandpa. I suspect it will be longer for Grandma. After all, she’s the one who taught me the importance of Those Who Matter

Friday Links! (for a 3-day weekend!)
It’s Friday!
It’s Friday again! Here’s a collection of news and other things that struck me as worthy of being shared:

New York roomies return $41,000 found in thrift-store couch.

Curbing Online Abuse Isn’t Impossible. Here’s Where We Start. How one enormous gaming community actually reduced online harassment.

The Art of the Title: Rockford Files. A nice look at the design of an awesome title sequence.

Artifact of the month: Disk of Enheduanna. Part of the Ur Digitization Project.

Americans Claim to Attend Church Much More Than They Do.

Maine: State ethics investigators recommend national anti-gay-marriage group be fined $50,250. They broke the law in ’09 by not registering as a political group and then spent at least $2,000,000 on the campaign. They refused to disclose their donors, also as required by law. They lost every appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and have missed multiple deadlines to file tax information. Yet they still insist that theirs is the moral high ground?

400-plus years for gang rape of targeted lesbian. A good, long time…

Twitter joke took five years to pull off — but totally worth it for Rocky Horror fans.

Found: the dinosaur that survived a mass extinction.

Uncovered Papers Show Past Government Efforts to Drive Gays From Jobs
. What’s kind of surprising about this article is 1) how recent some of this is, and 2) just how casually they hurl around blatantly awful ideas in these official memos.

Maine report suggests NOM violated laws in other states, lied to government authorities. As Gomer would say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”

Yu recites oath, becomes first openly gay justice on Wash. state Supreme Court

Strange Findings on Comb Jellies Uproot Animal Family Tree.

Sailor Neptune and Uranus Come Out of the Fictional Closet. The gay content isn’t news to Anime fans, but the new English releases that no longer hide is are welcome.

I Don’t Want to Die Alone. It’s not just tuxes and cakes…

Why Chess Will Destroy Your Mind. This article from an 1859 Scientific American may surprise you.

Local Lawmaker Compares Gays To Nazi Youth.

Snake Species That Went Missing For 78 Years Is Found.

92-year-old Texas woman denied photo ID to vote: “Not to be able to vote breaks my heart”.

House Science Committee Asked Some Very Non-Scientific Questions at the Astrobiology Hearing.

Yay for same-sex marriage, but ….

‘You guys are HUSBANDS?’: Boy’s incredulous (but adorable) reaction to meeting a gay couple for the first time.

I wrote about a sort of recent historic event: “…that mountain top is sure to blow!”.

Arcade Fire – We Exist (and who knew Andrew Garfield would make a hot transgirl?_:

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KOGA “Lucky Man” Directed By Emile Hirsch:

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Pentatonix – Love Again [Official Video]:

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I remember thinking about it

Lynx looking for something in the grass.
“I left it hear somewhere…” (photo from
I was reading something. Probably on my computer—although it could easily have been my phone or iPad. Whatever I was reading made me think that I really needed to update my Twitter profile. Specifically, I needed to change my name. And I had a really good reason why I needed to do it and why I wanted to make sure that I remembered to do it.

I have remembered all of that, most particularly the part about thinking, quite firmly to myself, that I need to remember this.

But I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was I needed to change my Twitter name to, nor why I wanted to do it, nor why I thought it was so important to remember to change it.

Continue reading I remember thinking about it

It may not seem like news…
And it happens again.
In a short segment on her MSNBC show last night, Rachel Maddow commented that this is the 13th state in a row to have a judge rule this way, and it’s almost reached the point where no one thinks it’s news anymore. She talked a little bit about how, for many years, almost every time the question came up, the forces of equality lost, and how now things seemed to have turned the other way.

But there is a difference with Oregon. There is a reason that none of the previous federal rulings have caused places such as Wikipedia or GLAAD or any other place that is covering his phenomenon to count those states as one that now allows marriage equality.

Oregon is the first state with one of these cases where not a single state or county official argued in favor of keeping the ban.

And that has important legal implications… Continue reading It may not seem like news…

Cure worse than the malady

Kitten in a blanket.
I just want to stay under the covers.
Once again, because the pollen counts have been high, and some new species had begun releasing pollen, I hoped that the really awful symptoms that started last Tuesday was just really bad hay fever.

One of the last tattered shreds of my denial was stripped away when I started coughing at the office Thursday. Since a lot of other people were coughing that day, at least I can’t be solely to blame if a bunch of people are out sick, again.

Thursday evening my left ear clogged. By Friday morning I had a slight ear ache, a sore (rather than merely scratchy) throat, a cough the woke me up several times, and had been sweating all night, again.

Friday is normally a work from home day for me. The doctor was able to work me in fairly quickly. While the physician’s assistant said I had no fever (98.4 is a fever for me), when the doctor check later, she said, “98.4! That’s a fever for you!” because she’s seen how when I’m not sick I often had a temperature of 95 or lower.

She is fairly certain that I don’t have a bacterial infection in the ear and sinuses. She told me to avoid being around people until my fever was totally gone, as I was not just certainly contagions, by certainly very contagious.

Because of the cough, she was going to prescribe the usual codeine cough syrup, but while she was pulling the information up on the computer to send the prescription to my pharmacy, she noticed that my insurance now considers that a mid-level drug with the higher co-pay, but there’s a fancier version of the codeine cough syrup, that’s timed-released, and has antihistamines in addition to the cough suppressant, which is in the lowest tier for my insurance.

She said this stuff is more reliable for keeping the cough and other symptoms down long enough to get a good night’s sleep, and the only thing I would need to remember is that I shouldn’t take anything else that has antihistamines in it while I’m on the syrup.

Seemed like a good idea to me.

I’ve been having nightmares since I got on the stuff. Each time I took a nap Friday, and throughout Friday night, I had nightmares. One of them so disturbing that, even though I’m not normally a superstitious person, I can’t make myself say what it was for fear it might come true.

I re-read up on the side effects, and they did mention that hallucinations is a very rare side effect, but the old codeine cough syrup I’ve been on before lists that, as well. So I wasn’t complete sure it was the cough syrup that was doing it.

The doctor had told me I only needed to use it at night, but could use it in the day if the cough was bothering me. So I experimented not taking it in the daytime. I’ve been having to stop and nap every three or four hours since Friday morning, so I slept a couple times where none of the stuff was in my system.

No nightmares.

Late Saturday night I was coughing and had the sore itchy eyes, so I took a spoonful before going back to bed.

No coughing fits woke me in the middle of the night. But two different nightmares did.

So, I’m not sure that the benefit of no coughing fits waking me up is worth the downside of the nightmares. Admittedly, the night I was last coughing, I was woke up far more than two times with the coughing, sore throat, et cetera. I suppose that’s an improvement.

I think next I will trying taking only half a spoonful at bedtime?

“…that mountain top is sure to blow!”
Public domain photo from the USGS of the big eruption on May 18, 1980.

“The year was 1980,
May 18th, you’ll recall,
When daytime turned to nighttime,
In the town of Yakima…”

I never lived in Yakima, but Longview, were I was living and attending school in 1980, was in one of the flood plains that was in danger of major flooding when Mt. St. Helens began erupting in 1980. The Oregonian recently acquired some photos that were taken by a pilot that day, that have never before been published. They’re pretty awesome. Go take a look.

We were lucky on May 18, because the wind was blowing away from us. So while three of the rivers that converge there at the towns of Longview and Kelso rose so high that they almost overtopped the dikes, daytime did not turn to nighttime for us, and our houses, cars, and yards weren’t covered with muddy ash.

Than happened exactly one week later, on May 25, when the mountain had another really big eruption and the wind was blowing our way.

She had lots of little eruptions before and after. I took some really eery pictures one sunny afternoon of the mushroom-cloud shaped plume of ash rising up behind our house. I should find those pictures and scan them in. It did look scary having our house in the foreground and that cloud rising behind it.

Some time after that big eruptions, I heard one of many songs entitled “The Ballad of Harry Truman” that were written that year. The opening lines to one of them I’ve quote above. I’ve found a recording of that version, but there are several other good ones.

They are not about the former U.S. President, but about a cantankerous old man who refused to be evacuated from his home on the mountain. He had various responses to people asking him why he wouldn’t move. Usually he mentioned his secret cave, where he had a barrel of whisky stashed to “sit out the trouble.” He had other more colorful replies, including skepticism that it would be that dangerous.

Of course, not only was Harry’s home destroyed, but the entire lake it was near and hundreds of acres around it was disintegrated. Not just buried in mud, or lava, blown out as thousands of particles of gunk.

I understood, even though I agreed he was crazy. He’d buried a lot of friends and his wife on that mountain. He was 84 years old and had lived on the mountain most of his life. He didn’t want to live or die anywhere else.

Every year at this time I spent a while searching the net hoping to find a copy of the song whose opening lines I always remember. That version’s chorus called for us to raise a glass for Harry, and hope that he’s got his cats and whisky, still hiding in his cave. As I said, a lot of folk singers wrote songs about him. Of the ones I have found, I think Neal Woodall’s may be my second favorite:

When people ask, ‘Why don’t you go?
That mountaintop is sure to blow,’
And Harry says, ‘That may be so,
But it sure as hell beats dyin’ slow…'”