Old Dogs, Oblivion, Turkey Broth, Puppy Mills

Dear Diary, I’m not typing these words with anything resembling energy. That’s just how it is somedays, everything is stuck, including my thoughts.

We have an old dog who appears to be entering his final phase. With dogs you get an accelerated preview of what your own downward slope to oblivion might look like. It’s not always pretty. Today I gave him a bath in the utility sink, which worked well. I was able to clean off his old dog smell for at least a few days. I’m keeping his appetite up with home-made turkey stock mixed in his kibble. A little canned pumpkin helps keep diarrhea away.

He is supposed to be a Yorkie/Chihuahua mix. He’s definitely a puppy mill dog. My wife picked him up for too much money in 2003 when we moved to Juneau, Alaska. We named him Pico because of his small size, though like many hybrids he grew to be larger than expected (18 lbs or so). He spent the prime of his life with a great back yard, going on hikes in the woods, and running on various beaches. Juneau was a mostly off-leash sort of town, so he was able to run free much of the time.

Here he is in better times:

Getting the Tree, Transmission Fluid, Atheist Christians

Dear Diary, Jake and Elia came with me to get the Christmas tree today, before they drove home to Minneapolis. As usual (our third tree here) there was a guy in an old trailer (maybe 1960’s style) with twenty or so Balsam Firs lined up in the Mount Royal Grocery Store parking lot. They all appeared a little ragged, but we bought the best looking one and secured it to the car roof with twine.

The guy running the place said to make it out to ATF, initials for the farm, and I asked him if he got many Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms jokes. He said yes, along with Automatic Transmission Fluid jokes.

The tree is waiting now for us to decorate it. Like many atheists, we celebrate Christmas and don’t give it a second thought. To us it’s a family and community celebration, less a religious one. We put all the religious Christmas music on the stereo just like real, live Christians do. It’s the music we grew up with.

It might sound strange, but you could say we are atheist Christians in the same way some Jewish people are atheist and Jewish.  Oh, and I have no problem saying merry Christmas, yet I also say happy holidays if the mood strikes.


Genetics, Eugenics, Getting to Sleep, Siddhartha Mukherjee

Dear Diary, I keep a book on my bed stand to read myself to sleep. This works as long as the book is at least a little difficult to read, but not so difficult that I never want to pick it up. Science books do the trick, as do some history books. Novels can work, but they can also keep me up if I get caught in the story and the language isn’t a struggle.

This past week I’ve used The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It works well, I usually last from two to ten pages before dozing off, but the early sections lead me on a tour of our eugenic house of horrors. Actually, he only touches on some of it in his overview. There are other authors who have written books on many of the particulars in much more depth. But it’s an interesting overview. America is a “can do” nation, and at one time in the early part of the twentieth century our elites decided it was okay to start a mass sterilization program in an effort to weed out the “worst” ten percent of the population. If you were poor, pregnant, single, Jewish, an immigrant, in trouble with the law, mentally ill, disabled, a person of color, or just an odd duck, watch out. The government had its knives out, literally.


This was a vile mixture of white supremacy, class elitism, and absolute ignorance, but you can see the same thinking that led to these atrocities are still with us today. We have a kind of willful ignorance when it comes to history, and many of us refuse to connect the injustices and inequalities of today with the injustices of yesterday.

So, it’s recommended reading, as both a sleeping aid and an historical wake-up.

Olav Hauge, Knausgaard, Diaries, Norway

Dear Diary, I ordered a Diary today, or a collection of poems that includes selected parts of a diary, culled from the 4000 page behemoth by Olav H. Hauge. This book is called Luminous Spaces. His diary, only available in Norwegian, is called Diaries: 1924-1994.

Luminous Spaces: click through to Amazon in you are interested…


Another long-form writer, novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, recommended Hauge. I can recommend Knausgaard. His English language readers await the final book to his six part, autobiographical novel, My Struggle, translated (co-translated this time) by Don Bartlett.

Knausgaard draws me into his world completely, which is one of the primary pleasures of novels, total immersion. But he's not for everyone. Some  people tire of his cataloging of mundane details. Some struggle with the struggle. It's largely a huge novel about becoming a writer and writing a huge novel, the very one you hold, so you are immersed in the narration in an unusual way that feels extra alive at times. I like it.

Rodrigo Duterte, Feeding Monsters, The Happy Philippines, Facebook

Dear Diary I shared an article on Facebook today that seemed important to share. The reportedly popular thug of a president in the Philippines keeps killing suspected drug dealers and drug users. It’s a slaughter.

I immediately received a comment from someone who explained how happy so many people in the Philippines are with President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, that they feel safe in the streets. I couldn’t resist reminding him that Hitler was quite popular with the German people as well, and could have listed any number of fascist pricks who killed indiscriminately in the name of “law and order,” which not incidentally was one of Trump’s platforms. Trump is said to endorse Duterte’s methods.

Beware of monsters who promise that they will only eat those who deserve to be eaten. They stay hungry no matter what you feed them.

Vegan Cooking, Homeless Bill of Rights, City Council

Dear Diary, I’m not sure why I started this “diary” conceit, but it does put me into a more relaxed, informal mood where I don’t feel the need to pontificate to the masses quite as much. Just write and see what comes.

Wild rice and mushrooms for dinner tonight, along with baked squash. Very seasonal. Back to eating mostly vegan, at least until Christmas gets closer. I have no problem eating vegan, but switching back and forth is not easy and if I want to ensure a good result, it requires a good recipe. Vegan cooking takes more work, at least if you want it to taste good. There’s no real vegan equivalent to roast chicken.

Last night Mary and I attended a City Council meeting in support of a homeless bill of rights. They are mostly in favor. One councilor even said that a homeless person had been living on the roof of his house (he lives in a flat-roofed building). He also said that he helped another person build a structure under a nearby freeway. They all agreed that the bill of rights was just a start to what is needed, namely a comprehensive plan to eliminate homelessness.

Here's a photo I happen to have of City Hall, on the left, behind the tree...

In other news, well, I’m not going to write about other news. Sometimes it feels worth it, sometimes not.

AICHO, Standing Rock, Tischer Creek and Old Houses

Dear Diary, My chair keeps rolling away from the desk. Our house is old and the floors sag a little in from the rim joists, hence the rolling. So I need to buy a rug.

Mary had wanted us to go to Standing Rock on the 17th  to bring supplies and maybe offer medical support, but now we are waiting to see what happens. The Army Corp of Engineers just denied the permit to dig under the river. Everything is still very much up in the air, especially with a Trump presidency looming and the possibility of executive orders.

Elia and Jake will be here on the 9th for an Art sale in Support of Standing Rock, at AICHO. Jake will play guitar for the event, which should be crowded.

Yesterday we awoke to fresh fluffy snow coming down, so I took the camera on a walk up by Tischer Creek, not far from the house…

And then on the way back,...

Christmas Fairs, Noam Chomsky, Fantastic, Chris Monroe

Dear Diary, Today I braved the Duluth Christmas fair circuit and followed Mary to the Peace church, The Knife River Christmas village, and the Glensheen Mansion Christmas village. The Villages were both over-crowded and dull. The Peace Church event had some half way decent art, along with the usual little seasonal homemade things that hurt to look at after a few minutes. Fortunately they had a comfy couch upstairs so I could drink coffee and stare at my phone while Mary finished up.

I did meet someone interesting, a children’s book author and illustrator, a successful one, Chris Monroe. It’s easy to assume she was just there selling some self-published stacks of books like many of the other authors at craft fairs, but I learned that not only  has she been reviewed in the New York Times, one of her books has been optioned by Disney. If my daughter wasn’t nineteen I might be familiar with her work. We bought some of her art, but I can't say which one, just in case my daughter reads this, however unlikely.

In other news, there’s not much to report. I need to do some cleaning to get ready for a Noam Chomsky birthday party we are having on the 7th, inspired by the movie Captain Fantastic (worth seeing). Last night we saw the latest J.K. Rowling movie and were pleasantly entertained. The baker was a little over the top in places, but oh well.