Sunday Snippet, Poetry, Hacksaw by Bill Chance

I don’t know how to howl. I have lost that. I might suddenly start. But no cheap scheme can save me now.

—-Rudolph Wurlitzer

Petrified Wood Gas Station, Decatur, Texas


Have you ever used a hacksaw?
The harsh sound of metal rending, the hard push, vibration, thin blade, tiny hard teeth, little bits slicing through steel.

Have you ever used a circular saw?
The whir of the blade, the smell of sawdust, little bits of wood glancing off of goggles, pure power.

Have you ever used a power drill?
Long orange extension cord, the turn of the little key, forty-five degree gears, tightening, then turning, twisting, little spirals of wood coming out of the hole.

Do you own sawhorses?
Old two by fours, turned gray by the sun, metal brackets, galvanized screws, homebuilt, leans up against the house, waiting faithfully ’til they are needed.

Have you ever used a power screwdriver?
Torque, a twist into the wrist, whirring slowing into a deeper sound, Phillips bit into the screwhead, flights bite into the wood, around and down, tight, grinds to a halt.

Have you ever used a sabre saw?
Razor toothed tongue jabs in and out, head shaking vibration, bite a bit, then move on.

Do you use a tape measure?
Yellow stripe, black marks, little silver ear to hang on, a familiar rumble in the palm when the tape plays out, slight curve to hold horizontal for awhile, little lever on the bottom pulls the tape back in with a quick whiz.

Have you hammered a nail?
Pull back, fingers hold the nail, be careful, a mistake can hurt, first tentative strike, then pull back and pow pow pow.

Have you held a square?
A carpenter’s square, big hunk of steel, or a try square for things that need right angles, a combination square for forty-fives, an adjustable square for angles in-between, all are connections to geometry, to perfection, to things that fit.

Do you own a level?
That little bubble in the yellow liquid, the two black lines, the tube that knows where the earth is, which way it points.

These are his days, days of building, of sweat, of sawdust on his clothes, grease spots on his legs, that odd soreness that comes from real work.

More I learned this week, October 29, 2022

Creepy scene through a shop window, Denton, Texas

Lockdowns: The Great Gaslighting

More than two years since the lockdowns of 2020, the political mainstream, particularly on the left, is just beginning to realize that the response to Covid was an unprecedented catastrophe.

Fountainhead, Charles Long, Northpark Center Dallas, Texas

How the surging U.S. dollar is making it almost impossible to afford anything in countries around the world

I’m old – I remember all this from before. It does not end well.

St. George and the Dragon John Mills, Bronze, orig. Plaster Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans

How to Recover from a Toxic Job

A recent study conducted by MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that a toxic workplace culture is the number one reason people leave their jobs and is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to attrition than compensation.

I think it is important to point out that it isn’t that jobs are toxic – it’s that management is toxic.

Bacon Burger at Smoke.

We Tried 8 Methods of Cooking Bacon and Found an Absolute Winner


The Wave that Washes us all
The Wave that Washes us all

More Than a Feeling: 12 Stories About the Science of Anxiety

A deep dive into how and why we experience anxiety—as well as science-backed ways to ease the burden.

Musicians Have Split Reactions to UNT’s Jazz Radio Changing Formats

I am not happy that a local university radio station has given up its all-Jazz format. Luckily:

The Jazz version, for now, is still available online.

A friend of mine from high school is an avid cyclist in Santa Fe. His two cameras caught him involved in a “right hook” accident – a very common hazard for cyclists (probably second only to getting “doored”). Be careful out there folks.

This is three years old – but I came across it again – it’s one of my favorite on-air rants – for several reasons. “Living in Bananaland.” Hah.

What I learned this week, October 28, 2022

Belo Garden Park Dallas, Texas

How to change your self-limiting beliefs

Let Descartes, Kant and other philosophers help you view the world through a more positive filter and you’ll bloom

Ant Lion Pits

The Deadliest Animal in Each State in America

Texas – Fire Ants

Map of the Dallas Skyline Trail

California Entrepreneur Who Was Fined $1000 for Drawing Informal Maps without a License Takes Regulatory Board to Court

Ryan Crownholm’s story perfectly illustrates how occupational licensing laws stifle competition.

How truffles took root around the world

Has the American-Grown Truffle Finally Broken Through?

Lucadores, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas

The three strength exercises everyone should do

Even if you’re not trying to get swole, these movements will help you with everyday movements.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Conjoined, Roxy Paine

Phantom Forests: Why Ambitious Tree Planting Projects Are Failing

High-profile initiatives to plant millions of trees are being touted by governments around the world as major contributions to fighting climate change. But scientists say many of these projects are ill-conceived and poorly managed and often fail to grow any forests at all.

PC and Mac guy meet Linux Godzilla
PC and Mac guy meet Linux Godzilla

The Twisted Life of Clippy

In the ’90s, Microsoft created an annoying paperclip that it quickly retired. Its developers never imagined the virtual assistant would become a cultural icon.

On of my favorite local bands seems to be getting back together. Here’s an old video, I really like it.

Two Lost Cars

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake

I can rarely remember my dreams. There is little doubt that this is often due to my dreams being mostly dull, boring, repetitions of paltry daily frustrations. However, I do seem to have these recurring dreams, often bordering on nightmares, that can span years – or even decades – of time. Even these repetitive visions are hard for me to remember, but I sometimes have memories – memories of dreams or recalled dreams of thoughts about events.

One set of actions that happened in the dream world is the memory that I bought a couple of relatively inexpensive, used cars and then forgot about them, leaving them… somewhere. I mean I bought one car, needing it and being in financial distress – but finding something affordable… then driving it around for a few days but not being able to remember where it was parked. Then, a period of time later I did the same thing again with a different car. I remember what the second one looked like – a dark blue boxy asian sedan – not a thing of beauty but it ran surprisingly well.

Today I was out running errands and I thought of my two cars that I had paid for years ago and had abandoned, somewhere. I actually thought to myself, “I need to concentrate and figure out where at least one of those cars are, ride my bike over to it, and drive it home.” That was nuts… and, of course, it only took me a split second to realize it was nuts – that I never had bought and lost one, let alone two cars. So I went on with my errands relieved that I didn’t have to mess with these automobiles.

On the other hand, I was a little disappointed, I really liked that second car – it looked bad but ran really well – even if it didn’t exist.


“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons

Cityline, Richardson, Texas

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Hanging Chad by Bill Chance

“I think computer viruses should count as life … I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.”
― Stephen Hawking

Frisco, Texas

Hanging Chad

One of the tasks that Craig was assigned while he was back in his hometown for his father’s funeral was to “clean out” the old man’s computer – make sure there wasn’t anything important there. Before they threw it in the trash (although the ancient thing had cost a fortune new – it was beyond useless now).

The work was easy, nothing was password protected. Craig gave the digital collection a cursory once-over – it was obvious from the start there was nothing there that would be of any use or interest to anyone other than the now-forever-absent father.

Still, curiosity had him opening a few files, mostly plain text, just to see.

One small file was labeled mysearchterms.txt and was twenty years old.

It said:

Hanging Chad
Tura Satana
Monkey’s Paw
Power Washer
Leonid Shower
Apple Pectin
Bilbo Baggins
Power Forward
Daily Inventory
Letter of Intent
Echinacea and Goldenseal
Temperature Sensitive
Disodium Inosinate
Glycol Ethers
Alanna Urbach
Parker Posey
Anchovy Paste
New Yorker
Thyroid Diary
Corkscrew Willow
Bonded Filling
Alberti Bass
Oxford Comma
Reverse Calenture
Marfa Lights
Rigid PVC

What I learned this week, October 21, 2022

Turn your backyard into an awesome hangout for bats

Help a bat out, get some spooky cred in return.

Wind Turbines Blackwell, Oklahoma (click to enlarge)

3 strategies to disrupt yourself for greater success in changing times

Industrial designer Ayse Birsel explains the tactics to use based on lessons learned from older people who designed their lives.

The full mural (previous photo center bottom) – Ace Parking, Dallas, “The Storm” Art Mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street

To understand the woke, you have to understand The Culture of Narcissism

The nature of the Left in 2022 is rooted more in psychology than political science. Specifically, liberalism is suffering from narcissism.

Reclining Mother and Child, Henry Moore, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Leave them alone

Parenting advice from D H Lawrence: don’t smother your children with love. They are more sagacious than you think

Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Dear Vladimir Putin: If You’ve Read Dostoevsky, You’ve Tragically Misunderstood Him

Austin Ratner on Russian Imperialism and Misreading The Brothers Karamazov

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

How to get white noise, brown noise, or even pink noise playing on your phone

Let your devices help you relax or focus.

One of the cool things is that you could go down into a pit area and look at what was left of the vehicles after they ran their race. If their was enough left in one piece you could even sit in the driver’s seat and get your picture taken. Or you could talk to the drivers. For some reason this driver, from a cheese-wedge shaped car that made it down quickly in one piece, seemed very popular in the pits.

Unlock the secrets to speaking to anyone with ease

It’s not just a moment. If you have speaking anxiety, it can take up to 20 minutes for the parasympathetic system to intervene and return you to a state of calm. Here are some practical ways to tackle it before it gets the best of you.

The Benjy Section

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower bed. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.

—- William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, opening paragraph (Benjy Section)

The Difficult Reading Book Club – a group I belong to (we have read Gravity’s Rainbow, 1Q84, The Brother’s Karamazov, and Foucault’s Pendulum) – is now one week into Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. This week I read the infamous Benjy Section – the first part of the novel. Tonight we had a Zoom meeting to discuss (we will be meeting in person starting next week).

This is one of the most difficult hunks of text to read and understand. It is written in raw stream-of-consciousness from the mind of a severely mentally disabled man on his thirty third birthday. Benjy – is completely unable to understand the passage of time and his disjointed thoughts jump back and forth over a thirty-year span. It is amazingly difficult to figure out what is going one – Benjy knows what he sees – but he doesn’t know why. The text gives no context – you have to figure it out.

For example, read the opening paragraph above. How long did it take for you to realize Benjy is watching a group play golf through a fence?

I had an advantage, I have read the book before. It was almost fifty years ago – I was a mere teen – and had no idea of what was going on. However, I did understand what the structure of The Benjy Section was and, with that leg up, I was able to take notes and figure out most, or some, or a lot of what was actually happening.

The rest of the book is not as confusing and I look forward to reading it to understand more of what was presented. When I finish, I’m going to go back and re-read The Benjy Section with the knowledge gained in the others – it should make more sense then.

Oh, and The Sound and the Fury isn’t difficult enough for The Difficult Reading Book Club on its own – we will immediately jump into Absalom, Absalom!.

Flash Fiction of the day, General Consensus, by Matthew Pitt

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”
― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

M41 Walker Bulldog Liberty Park Plano, Texas

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Wednesday, February 12, 1997

Cold, hard, rain

Rain. Cold Rain. H2O, Dihydrogen Monoxide. Two little spheres stuck on a big one, not on opposite sides, but in a V shape, lopsided. Untold numbers of little tiny 3D Mickey Mouse heads, only Avogadro knows how many. Mickey and his two little ears, sharing electrons. The uneven charge, the Mickeys want to stick together in crystalline order and sure enough, lumps of ice are falling, mixed in.

The clouds disgorge their burden, called up from where? Where did this water pick up its heat? Its half a thousand or so calories for every little gram, leaving the warm languid sea to travel on the tradewinds. Cuba? The Caymans? Key West? The water vapor rising from the tropical ocean, born aloft in Barnard cells of air, driven by the sun’s starry furnace. Riding north only to meet a frigid army of the north. Air chilled in Minnesota, maybe in Fargo, moving south. The two clash over Texas, right over my head, and the tropical steam gives its borrowed heat back to the icy northern air. The moisture congeals and falls, falls and falls.

The streets are full, flowing rivers of muddy water. To my left there’s a waterfall, a torrent of muck flooding out of a lumberyard. The sky is gray, the mud is gray, all color sucked out, washed away, flowing downstream. The water is stealing the colors, it’ll all flow down the Trinity, down to Louisiana where it’ll slink between the cypress knees, between the mangrove roots out into the gulf, back to the tropics, where the colors will be traded for warmth, for heat, for another trip on the convection express.

Leaving work, I carry my possessions protected from the deluge in a plastic bag. Two and a half boxes of Girl Scout cookies and a quart of tequila. In school I remember napping on my cot on a male section of the dormitory. “Bill, get up!” someone cried, “Go buy some Girl Scout cookies.”
“Don’t ask why, go downstairs and buy some.”
I stumbled down the stairs to the lobby, only to find a long, snaking line of male undergraduates. At the head of the line was the oldest, most developed Girl Scout I’d ever seen, stuffed into a uniform about three sizes too small. She was selling a lot of cookies.

Nowadays, of course, I buy them from coworkers, hawking stuff for their kids. A couple days ago a fellow chemist announced he had to go see a customer in Harlingen. “Hop over the border and get me some tequila”, I joked. Days later he came back and said, “Got your tequila!” I didn’t think he’d really do it, but five bucks for a quart of Jose Cuervo Oro, I won’t complain. So I leave work with a bottle and two and a half boxes of cookies. Why two and a half? I have no willpower.

The family goes out for dinner. We run from the van through the icy deluge. Cars dart around the dark parking lot, no safe place for a little one so Lee rides on my shoulders. “I’ll keep you dry, daddy,” he says, and cradles my head in his firm little arms, covering me up, protecting me from the wet and the cold. and the darkness.

And today’s flash fiction – General Consensus, by Matthew Pitt

From Failbetter

Matthew Pitt Webpage