To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a server

If you can’t read this, it’s because my host is being hit pretty hard by spammers right now.


As you know, I live deep inside a mountain and influence events from a distance. I had been postponing our harp trip to France due to storms, blizzards, avalanche warnings, flood warnings and more storms until I realized that I was causing these problems by not going. I figured next on the list is volcanoes, seismic activity and swarms of winged vermin so we went and now flowers are blooming everywhere.

But this is not enough for me. I will stop at nothing until world domination is achieved and I can play Scrabble with their teeth. They know who they are. And my agents are everywhere.

Stipo and Paco

There is this story I am trying to write and there are these two characters, killers, who want to be in it. They have nothing to do with the story, but they are killers and they are desperate, so desperate that they have taken to harassing me in real life. They blocked my way in the aisle on the train Alpha and I took through Austria on our recent trip to France, you may have heard about it.

On my way back to our compartment (I am thinking the sleeping compartments on this train were designed by a small Swiss architect with a deep feeling of aggression towards everyone over five feet tall; as I have said, it was the size of an economy class toilet on a 767, with bunkbeds; we were served breakfast, which we ate scrunched over sitting on the bottom bunk, teeny breakfast trays on teeny fold-out tables as we said to each other, Isn’t this nice? Isn’t this the nicest trip ever?) from a visit to the restroom (large and clean and, this time, unflooded) I espied two men standing in the aisle discussing something with the steward, who was below them, on the stairs leading down to our compartment, where he had been examining our tickets or bringing us candy bars and kiwi fruit or something.

Stipo and Paco I recognized immediately, which blurred the boundaries between reality and imagination to a rather dangerous degree, seeing as how these two resembled nothing more strongly than hitmen. Paco, the tall one, the brains of the bunch, the one with hair, longish and brown, the color of his longish brown coat, was talking to the steward. Paco had the air of someone not that smart to begin with who pretended to be even dopier for the edge it gave him; an air of larceny as pungent as a truffle. He was explaining to the steward that they were looking for empty seats, and the steward was explaining to them that in this sleeping car everything was reserved, and I was thinking, these guys are casing the car.

Stipo, on the other hand, and this is why I say “dangerously blurred the boundaries between imagination and reality,” was a couple inches shorter than I am, making him five eight or five nine. His head was shaved, and somehow the surreal feeling of the encounter led me to continue onward until I could count the very follicles in his pink scalp (306 per square centimeter, just short of average for males). I got a closeup view of his golden earring and the nails on the fingers on the very tough-looking hands holding the black travel bag over the shoulder of his long, black coat were thick and yellowish-white, and although it was eleven at night he wore dark glasses. He looked prison-gym strong and his aura, in contrast to Paco’s larceny, was pure violence. Paco finally accepted the steward’s explanation and Stipo grunted and I realized I was way too close and got out of the way and let them past.

So this is what sleeping-car thieves look like, I thought, and descended the stairs to our compartment. I ate a candybar with Alpha, and we peeled kiwis. I locked the door before we went to bed, and wedged a suitcase in front of it, which wasn’t unusual, because in the compartment, pretty much everything was wedged in one way or another.

Probably the two guys were social studies teachers on holiday.

Julian Merrow-Smith

Two of what I assume are several differences between Ruth Philips and myself: she is a cellist and lives in a farmhouse in France.

And her hub paints. Every day.


If there is anything nicer than seeing your kid with a big grin on her face, then I would have to say it’s seeing your kid with a big grin on her face as she leans out the window of a 200-year-old French farmhouse.

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I hear they call it travail

Now that the snows have stopped, we leave in a few hours to deliver a harp to France.

Amidst flood and avalanche warnings.


Child: I’m bored. What should I draw.
Father: Draw a parasite.
Child: Yuck.
Father: Seriously. There are so many kinds. Draw what you think a parasite looks like.
Child: Okay. [Makes single dot on paper with tip of pen.] Now what should I draw?

When I was a kid and asked my father that question, he suggested one of three things: flies, a bucket of water, or a bath.

I don’t know how many buckets of water I drew as a kid.