Annotated images of hedgehogs

[Please note: the following images contain profanity.]

It is hedgehog season again. Someone dear to me sent me cute pictures of adorable hedgehogs. This motivated me, since I’ve been short on inspiration lately, or at least looking the wrong way when it tries to get my attention, to find some cute pictures online and add my own texts. None of the images I used belong to me, and my apologies to whoever owns any of them. If you are the owner and want me to take one down, just let me know.


Reading music

Girl: “Dad are you just lying there on the sofa reading music?”

Man: “Mm-hm.”

Girl: [Shakes head]

The kind person who helped me shop for cello music had to sing the music to me to give me an impression of what it sounded like, because I had been convinced it was impossible for me to, you know, just look at it and know what it sounded like. But then, as she sang it, I tried to sing along (very quietly) and it actually worked, somewhat.

And I remembered how Beta would 1.)sit down and read a new piece of music and then 2.) play it on the harp, more or less just like that. I had been impressed by how she could read a piece of music the way you might read a story.

So there I was with a bunch of new music, so I decided to try that myself. I curled up on the sofa with Gabrielli‘s Ricercari. I read the accompanying foreword and I hummed along with the music the way a child sounds out the words as he or she learns to read. It was a start. I guess a phobia of one kind or another had prevented me from trying that before. Or a failure to imagine that it might be possible.

Gabrielli’s Ricercari (I haven’t tried to play them yet) are interesting because they are among the first tunes composed for solo cello. According to the second article linked above, these compositions were also influenced by the recent (at that time – late 1600s) invention of wire-wrapped strings which made them more responsive and enabled cellists to play faster, more or less.

I can’t wait to try it. But right now I’m working on “Impromptu” by Alexander Arutunian. It has sort of this Armenian folky feel to it which is kind of neat. So far so good.


I don’t want to jinx anything, but I have been somewhat happy lately. The German word for happiness is the same as that for luck: Glück. That feels right.

Not sure why. Maybe I’m sleeping better.

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon. Austrians are strongly affected by lunar phases. The moon is currently full, and the road to work was full of crazy asshats this morning. Either the full moon turns about 25% of Austrians into really bad drivers, or it makes me cranky, impatient and hypercritical.

I think it’s sleep, though. I have a phobia of going senile. After observing the process in two relatives, I have the feeling that there are aspects of the onset of senility that one notices about oneself and either accepts or denies, and there are (and this is maybe worse) aspects that one does not perceive. And I have noticed myself forgetting words and names. I tell myself that I have done this all my life and it is just the fact that I am 50 that I connect it with senile dementia, but one still worries. And I did get all flustered at the music store recently and buy a stack of sheet music that I had eliminated, and neglected to buy the notes I wanted, and had to go back the next day and exchange, but that can happen to anyone, right?

And now that I am sleeping, I feel less confused. So there’s that. And there is also the thought that maybe part of my problem is that I’m surrounded by so many sharp people. There are all you smart people reading this. There are all my smart friends. Many of you belong to both groups, of course. There are the women in my family who have been kicking ass lately. Gamma, who turns 13 in a few days, was at the doctor recently for a checkup with her sister and her mother, where the following conversation ensued:

Doctor: Und was hast du für Beschwerden, Gamma? (What complaints (symptoms) do you have, Gamma?)

Gamma: Ich kriege viel zu wenig Taschengeld! (My allowance is way too low!)

Anyhow. Maybe I need to watch Fox News for awhile until I start feeling smarter.

Eyjafjallajökull top ten significant things

  1. Looks awesome
  2. Reduces emissions (assuming this is accurate)
  3. Red sunsets (allegedly – it’s been cloudy  here evenings, and the one evening it wasn’t, I forgot and watched TV)
  4. A sky without airplanes is weirdly cool
  5. Hasn’t killed too many people yet, as I understand
  6. Not as scary as Katla.
  7. Fun to watch news announcers say, “Icelandic volcano” instead of trying to say the name.
  8. Has trapped my wife in Japan for at least another week.
  9. Makes me feel old when I talk about “the eruption of Mt. St. Helens back in 1980″
  10. Makes Reykjavik look easy to spell.

Careers in science: Balneology

The balneologist doesn’t fill the tub too full, in case he falls asleep.

Someone is dictating things to the balneologist.

And we create, sometimes in hopes of praise,
Sometimes as an act of love,
The way a mermaid sings
Or a child plucks an insect’s wings.

An old red cat sits on the balneologist’s lap and purrs and purrs. The balneologist taught the cat to eat when it was little, and that made the balneologist the cat’s hero. The cat is crazy about the balneologist.

When people tell the balneologist he is more exceptional than he gives himself credit for, he thinks, maybe. Maybe Dunning-Kruger is to blame. But what, exactly, is he supposed to be so good at?

He can’t remember.

The balneologist floats there in the tub, soaking, not drowning. When the water gets cold, turn the hot tap back on with your toes for a while.

So what is up with this hollowness at the center of our complex existence, balneologist? As if our lives were bells, except bells are neither complex nor hollow, they are open and this complexity doesn’t make music that the balneologist can hear.

More like as if life were cheap Easter chocolates.

It’s hard to sit there and be negative when a red cat worships you, or a kid puts her head on your shoulder while you’re watching TV, or calls you just to check on you.

The dictating voice says,

You are blessed as are we all. Come down out of your crazy tree of grief and accept your blessing of mortality and life, if only to watch the world go by and report on the craziness, or just to watch, or listen to the sounds. Come down out of your crazy tree and hold my hand or water all your pots of herbs and hold close your children while they grow, they need your warmth and the heroic reflection in your eyes. Come down and have a bite to eat and drink a glass of wine and sleep and dream. This is your lot, humanity, and no blessing is greater than for a human to be human, it is the only blessing. Come down out of your tree and forgive yourself, forget your aspirations and have a look around.

To be blessed, to be blessed, the balneologist thinks.

Come down out of your crazy tree and sit by me and hold my hand, I am just as scared as you.

Coincidentally, it was the 20th anniversary of Twin Peaks

What is this all over my bag? [tastetaste]

Hm. Pizza sauce. The miniature pizzas I packed for lunch a few days ago were insufficiently wrapped, it seems. Packaging is important. Life reminds us of this occasionally.

So anyway there we were at our friend’s place. Being terrible guests. Late. Lost. But finally there. I was exhausted and could barely stay awake. My wife was making up for it. I felt terrible, though, our friend was running back and forth between the dining table and the kitchen and we just sat there watching.

She brought in food. The musician said something about the spinach when she brought that in, because he didn’t like spinach.

Then she brought in the main course. It looked interesting. It looked like a little alien, skinned and roasted amidst root vegetables. They conversed about it. Apparently it was rabbit, and our hostess was surprised that none of us were into rabbit. Except as pets.

I stared it down. If it moves, I thought, the night will be perfect. If it moves, it will be Eraserhead, I thought.

Come on, move.

But it didn’t move, as far as I could see. We ate it. One friend pleaded vegetarian and just ate vegetables and spinach. Her husband the musician took some rabbit, but just had a taste. He may have had some vegetables. No spinach, though.

Alpha had spinach and vegetables. She took some bunny rabbit, but ate none, not even a taste, maybe because I mentioned that her piece was ear-shaped. I had rabbit and spinach. The spinach was great. I neglected to take other vegetables because I was busy waiting for the pieces of rabbit in the pan to move. A roast rabbit puppet, I thought, would be awesome. You could really have fun with guests. “Here, have some rabbit!” and they stick their fork in, and the rabbit goes “Squeeeee!”

Rabbit is kind of chewy. I suppose because it is a wild animal. If you imagine you are starving in a post-apocalyptic scenario, like The Road, for example, it’s mouth-wateringly delicious. If you imagine you’re sitting around a dining table with friends trying to stay awake, it’s okay, except that it’s rabbit.

If it’s beef, you think the cow doesn’t die so you can eat it? So what’s the difference? Logic, I regret, does not change the fact that it’s rabbit.

Anyway. Staying awake was so hard. The cats had gotten me up at 3:30 that morning, I kept looking at the sofa and wondering if it would be weird if I lay down for a brief nap.

No one else was helping carry dishes back into the kitchen so I helped a little, but I got a late start and it didn’t help much, it sort of just emphasized that no one else had been helping.

Panna cotta. Panna cotta was dessert. One of the guests made a joke about how it resembled raw tofu, but I found it tasty. Is panna cotta complicated to make? I bet it is.

“Would you like coffee?” our hostess asked me, as I sat at the table, eyes narrowed to slits, having a particularly vivid dream while still endeavouring to follow the conversation around me.

“Yes, please,” I said.

Shit and gadgets (more on escatology)

The Shadow is wary. There is a hobo spider somewhere on his desk, and yesterday three people tried to kill him on his way into work, within a space of five minutes:

A white compact car, an orange garbage truck, and a large multi-colored delivery van.

An animal, a vegetable and a mineral.

Bill Gates, the Pope and Bob Barker.

The Shadow says, go fuck yourself.

It’s a Shadow, what were you expecting, good advice?

It is not a question of anything, the Shadow says.

It is a  question of stripping naked, the Shadow says. Stripping naked out in the desert while a hot wind blows. Stripping naked in your back yard while the neighbors call the cops or post videos to Youtube.

It is not a question of getting more shit and gadgets.

Shit and gadgets. Shit and gadgets. Shit and gadgets.

Says the Shadow.

Welcome to the 21st century, the century of shit and gadgets.

Shit and gadgets will set you free.

I may be drunk, madam, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you’ll still be shit and gadgets.

Shit and gadgets. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask for shit and gadgets.

I have a dream of shit and gadgets.

Shit and gadgets.

Four score and twenty years ago, our forefathers had shit, but no gadgets yet.

The quick brown fox jumped over shit and gadgets.

I kid you not, the Shadow says.

Now, come out, little spider. Wherever you are.