Honestly, That Wasnʼt Me

I have begun to realize the power of words in a new way recently. I have always (well, for a good long time now) understood that I could create characters for fiction and drama through language and stylistic choices. However, as a shy and generally unpopular person with no great reservoirs of impermeable self-confidence bloating my personality, I hadnʼt stopped to think about how my own choice of words makes me seem. And the choices can extend beyond just the words I select to use, including even the details or events I determine to mention or not. As I hope you may see for yourself…

…or Just Who Is Wakdjunkaga?

Although I have been unjustly praised for my “honesty” here on the blog (and many thanks, Ms. Jaia, for that compliment once upon a time), I have begun to find philosophical interest and amusement in recognizing the artificiality of the persona projected through my words (and my choice of just what and what not to talk about). There are innumerable topics I could and perhaps should have chosen to discuss here that might shed a very different light on me than the things I have decided to write about (and the ways in which I have chosen to write). For instance, although I never hesitated from revealing it to a classroom full of students, Iʼve never discussed my childhood penchant for theft (although those misadventures could provide some really fertile fodder for this forum, now that I think about it). More recently, and directly relevant, as an example, I was not historically or biographically honest in my most recent post about my new verb “transide.”* (And yes, that post was actually an attack on the subhumans who vilely have chosen to use “transition” for the verb that I would like now to invent.)

I really thought “transide” was a real, valid verb in English. Iʼve even used it before! My normal choice has been in the form of the present participle, “transiding,” which I may even have used here on the blog. (Wait. Let me check that with a quick search using that convenient little “Search Wakdjunkaga” entry box at the right. — Nope. Somehow I actually avoided that mistake. The only appearance for any form of “transide” was the post in question.) However, I did believe it was a genuine English verb; after all, that makes sense with a noun that should derive from just such a verb (that noun being “transition”). I was completely convinced, without foundation, that “transide” was good English usage. I took it for granted. And I was, without knowing it, wrong. Absolutely wrong. And as is nearly inevitable with those who are wrong, I had to get educated and discover for myself the truth.

In fact, on Thursday as I was writing that post in which I officially inaugurated my campaign to create the verb “transide,”* I was shocked — shocked! — to be unable to find said verb in the Apple Dictionary. That failure led me quickly to my browser to google the word throughout Internet, futilely, including the various dictionaries available. So I checked an old Student Websterʼs, which the publisher had sent me as a perusal copy decades ago, with equal lack of success. At last I dragged out my two-volume complete Oxford English Dictionary (even with my poor eyesight, I can make out those quarter-reduced pages when my nose is nearly pressed against the print), at which point I finally figured out my problem. The word didnʼt exist.

However, that unexpectedly educational search did not find its way into the blog post, nor did my previous belief that “transide” was already an extant verb. Instead I trumpeted my exhortation that “transide” should become a valid word (not quite the reverse of my actual, previous belief that it existed already). You learned nothing at all about my suddenly imposed awareness** that I had been wrong about the verb that “transition” did (not) come from. The absence of that information surely created an alternative, undoubtedly false impression, which this little post exists to undo.

I wonder what else about myself the texts of the blog have obscured or hidden. I wonder what unreal nonentity I have foisted on my readers without even realizing it…

That Wakdjunkaga, always the Trickster.

* And I still believe “transide” would be a very useful and appropriate neologism for everyone to adopt.

** I think that those three words might be a good definition of education.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

And Now, Letʼs “Transide”

Contemporary language use, I must admit, periodically annoys me. Janet and I enjoy mocking the newsreaders reporters and voiceover artists who insist on pronouncing the T in “often,” most of whom, I feel confident, would not so pronounce the word if it werenʼt on the Teleprompter, cue card or text in front of them. I have in fact heard some of our nearby newsreaders and reporters in person clearly, simply and correctly say, “offen.” A little quick, simple historical/etymological research reveals that troublesome T has been getting pronounced for some time (after all, thereʼs that antique root oft). However itʼs not general mispronunciation thatʼs on my mind today (besides, the secondary pronunciation with the offensive T is accepted in many dictionaries today).

With newsreaders in mind, let me begin with the modern novelty verb far too popular on TV and radio. The word is “transition.” Itʼs not a verb. Not, never, no-how. We have perfectly good verbs that mean what those know-nothings want — change, shift, move, for examples. But no, those single-syllable workhorses donʼt sound sufficiently, falsely elevated for the modern news writer or talking head. But transition, ah, thereʼs a multisyllabic impresser! Saying transition, when you mean change, makes a braindead ignoramus sound like s/he knows a thing or two! Who cares if itʼs a noun? Newsreaders must not know what a noun is. Or a verb for that matter. So poor transition, a harmless and effective noun, gets mauled into misuse as a verb.

Donʼt believe thatʼs abusing the poor word? (Iʼm sure a large number of halfwits who insist on making transition into a verb must not believe.) Let me demonstrate.

First, we should have already a perfectly good verb, “transide,” as the root from which transition derived and which should mean “to create a switch or shift, as between topics” or in other words “to make a transition.” Unfortunately, we donʼt have that verb, although I hereby decree its existence and assert all transitioners begin using transide instead. (I can only wish that neologist par excellence, William Shakespeare, had bothered to English the Latin verb transire, from which transition does derive, into its natural counterpart, transide. If he — influential inventor of so many hundreds of other now accepted widespread new words — had done so, we wouldnʼt be combating transition ignorance today.) According to the Oxford English Dictionary, transition does derive from the Latin verb transire through the intermediate Latin noun transition. And, as the OED and every other dictionary reveals, our English word is a noun, “a state of change.” Not a verb, never a verb — no way, never, no-how.

But why shouldnʼt modern yokels be allowed to invent a new word, the verb transition? Shakespeare made up words, and this isnʼt the first time a noun has become a verb (or perhaps “twinned a verb version of itself”) or vice versa. We can race each other in a race. Talk a talk. Read a really good read. After you wreck your car, you are driving an old wreck. And those three examples barely scratch the surface of twin nouns and verbs.*

So whatʼs wrong with the word with which I take such exception, huh?

The Great Neologist Himself, WS

The problem with transition is its etymology, in particular that troublesome -ion ending. That ending has a meaning (deriving originally from the Greek word ion, a “thing”), and that meaning is “noun.” Putting -ion on a root creates a noun, a thing. Think about it: all the -ion ending words are things (and not actions** which you do). Someone desperate (as I am to make this issue clear) is feeling desperation (a state of being, a thing), and no one can desperation (an action).

In fact, we most often turn verbs into nouns by adding just that -ion. People concentrate, creating a state of concentration, for instance, or calculate to perform a calculation. And when we perspire, itʼs perspiration. Those who inspire (as I hope to do with todayʼs exhortation — from the verb exhort) provide inspiration.

But all those -ion endings mean one simple thing for each word: “This word is a thing, a noun.” And thatʼs why the faux verb transition is just wrong. The ending contradicts the verb usage, absolutely and clearly. And only an idiot would think otherwise (now).

Avoid being that idiot. Just say change. Or join with me in spreading the new verb transide.

Now that I have made that matter clear, I have a further post on another vile issue of stupid nonsense, our contemporary bit of redundancy, “meet up with.” But, with me having filled my appropriate space, youʼll have to wait for that rant.

* Both scratch and surface have nominative and verb uses!

** And yes, the word action is itself a noun (ending in -ion, after all), meaning “the state or situation of doing something.” But thatʼs not a problem. The word verb, after all, is grammatically a noun, too.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Statistically Interesting?

The search stats from earlier today when I got started composing this post — I notice also that Teagan and his situation continue to bring visitors, sadly, to this blog.

Although Iʼm not sure just how monumental the occasion mightʼve been, we missed the chance to make a milestone for Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog on Wednesday, January 26. The ClustrMaps™ counter had the blog within 144 “unique daily visits” of 11,000 in a year (I evidently first found* and loaded the widget on January 27, 2010). Randomly thinking such an “accomplishment” might be vaguely cool, I put out a brief plea-status on Facebook asking my friends, all 391 of them, to bother making a visit to the blog so we would go over the 10,000 mark. Ironically, certainly not sadly, the effort fell 23 short, at least according to ClustrMapsʼ accounting. (Of course, meanwhile, WordPressʼs own count of all hits and clicks on the blog is gradually closing in on 75,000 — somehow, although I know I can personally influence that number easily, as I did far too many days in 2010, that greater accumulation is also fascinating to me.)

Since Iʼm on the subject of statistics, I was amused to discover that someone had arrived at the blog earlier today by searching for “durwood wakdjunkaga.” (Of course perhaps the same person or someone else had reached the blog looking for information on “gloria petesch.” Now that Iʼve mentioned her by name for a second time, possibly that visitor will feel gratified the next time s/he goes looking. — I did miss out on the opportunity to get a bit of substitution work for Mrs. Petesch on Wednesday because Janet already had an appointment for me in Dubuque, along with a lunch date together. I wonder if the two events are connected.) I assume the first searcher had to be someone who knows me, but I guess I donʼt really know that.** It just struck me as funny that Durwood, my pseudonym, has realized (if that word is even sarcastically correct) a googly kind of digital/æthereal existence.

Statistically, my most popular posting remains my lengthy discussion (and associated pictures?) of Impressionist art.**** Each day dozens of searchers wind up at the blog, however briefly, at least according to WordPressʼs system, in search of images or information about various Impressionists, assorted specific works and related information discussed in that post. My Gödel Escher Bach*** mention also still elicits considerable attention. After that things get pretty random, although the Maltese Falcon essay usually garners a hit or five most days, and I have been amused at how many people want information about The Sunbird, too.

This is a sad and self-centered excuse for a post (and also extremely bloggishly self-referential), but now at least there is something up for today that will remind me of the not-making-11,000 nonevent someday in the future. And now I should check out what I posted a year ago to see what changes need to be made…

Hey! Last January 27, I had finished (and posted the conclusion of) “Details, Details,” which is great, and that also means simply undoing those unfortunate pull quotes and making them actual indentations. Off to work now.

* I first noticed the widget on the site of friend (by-marriage?) BookMama, who has an excellent blog. And I copied her example by signing up with ClustrMaps myself (I think the very same day; I tend to work like that, with spontaneous folly).

** I did make a joke about the Andrew speech team, who did very well at district contest with two pieces I wrote (“Oh Gawd, Itʼs Storytime Again” and “Medea” for those who might remember their own high school speech years), perhaps writing Durwood Wakdjunkaga a check for royalties after their success. Hmmm, as income of any kind from my writing would be so much more than merely welcome, maybe I should insist…

*** That post also harvests hits for the Janus discussion specified in the title. (If youʼre wondering why I reversed the order for this and the previous/next footnote, the Impressionist reference seemed to make a better closing (and I added that footnote last, too).

**** It is time to make that link into an item for the list to the right of Fiction and Essays, and to combine the Tarzan and Sunbird essays into individual Longer Items themselves. I have a little bit of Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A. editing to do first, but you should check back soon to see how quickly I got going on the blog improvements…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

…for the best

Well, just as Qwest kicked me off the Internet again, I decided to get started on a blog post. I guess Iʼll be walking downstairs to restart the modem fairly soon — assuming I intend to get something up for early this Wednesday morning. And assuming that the godawful ISP (ha, Qwest a “provider,” thatʼs a laugh indeed) grants me any time connected for several consecutive minutes to the Internet at all here.*

I did not intend to leave the most recent post, my dark realization about Teaganʼs accident, the first thing you see for two whole days, but early Monday morning, even as I was going to proofread that post, having worked for an hour as editor/proofreader for Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A., I received a call to come in and substitute at Andrew in fifth grade (me in elementary is perhaps an even better laugh than trying to imagine Qwest being a “provider”). That job filled my afternoon on Monday, and while I was there I got the chance to work again yesterday/Tuesday, this time upstairs in science. I will admit the elementary students challenged me, but with a recess (even if  half a dozen excited girls chose to remain in the room for those fifteen precious minutes) and more assertive discipline than I generally prefer, the kids and I survived adequately until the guidance counselor came in to end the day with a presentation. The junior high and high school students on Tuesday made the day go quickly. So I never really got a chance to sit down at the computer again until now/Tuesday evening.

In the meantime, I did hear from Carrie kindly taking her precious time to provide more information about the accident and Teaganʼs condition. Although the accident was serious, I know she is strong, as is Teagan, and perhaps if we all believe powerfully enough, things will turn out fairly well. Only time will tell, and itʼs always hard to wait. Itʼs not my place to splat other peopleʼs information all over the Internet, so thatʼs all I have to say for now. Keep him in your thoughts, as I am unwaveringly (so unlike a Qwest internet connection), so Carrie will handle bravely what challenges may lie ahead. Hope is what she has for now.

Except that Iʼve been back at school for a day and a half, I donʼt really have anything much to say. During one prep period yesterday I looked back at some old posts here on the blog, which gave me the idea of re-examining each day this year the post from last year for that same date. It was interesting to read what was preoccupying me a year ago, and if I re-examine one (or maybe two or three) year-old posts at a time, perhaps I can correct the mistakes I did not see before the posts went up and fix/change all those pull quotes I used for indentations into genuine indentations (the thought of trying to do so very, very many of them in only a few days has boggled my will to make the attempt).

I also realize that I truly have stalled on resubmitting rejected work to find a publisher. “Underground” (which returned from its second rejection on about this date last year) and “Details, Details” (which I was just about to finish writing not quite a year ago now) have both sat idle nearly all year. I know I dislike rejection, but in this business I havenʼt really entered yet, rejectionʼs what itʼs all about.

The time is now to open myself wide for more rejection to slap me upside the head. Or not. Sometimes that thing with feathers is all weʼve got. Letʼs hope thatʼs a good thing.

* Hey! On the hope that Qwest might, however, briefly, however temporarily, provide me a link with the ʼNet, I finished this post. And if you are reading this, then that tiny hope worked out. Now for another…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Stuff, some serious

I begin more than a little distracted and preoccupied today. One of our good friends (and one of my favorite former students) has had life take a bad turn when accidentally her husband suffered a long fall at work on Friday. I only know about the incident from Facebook, but my heart is torn with worry and concern, and we wish her and him all our very best. Sometimes life is simply not fair. Many times.

Mark Twain, as students in American Literature/Advanced Composition and English III (including Carrie) got to hear in a biographical video for many years, once remarked in the wake of his daughter Susyʼs unfortunate death, “We were robbed of our greatest treasure, our lovely Susy in the midst of her blooming talents and personal graces. You want me to believe it is a judicious, a charitable God that runs this world. Why, I could run it better myself.” In the face of far too many events, I find myself chiming agreement with Clemensʼs dire judgment. (And I am absolutely uncertain just how much I feel apologetic whatsoever to my conservative and evangelical or otherwise convinced and devout readers for this expression of my exasperated and powerful doubts.) At least, Teagan and his fellow worker live. We must hope for the best, and I do.

I got online, not expecting to learn bad news, about two oʼclock Sunday afternoon. Janet had left to take a two-hour burlesque workshop, about which she was very excited (as were a good number of other people in her Zumba class). Perhaps Iʼll feel like writing about that once I know more about it. Right now, as I write, she is still gone learning to shake her tassels. And my heart is still stone.

Earlier in the day, we were just having an ordinary Sunday at home — doing laundry, reading a newspaper, conversing, vaguely planning possible meals for the week, drinking coffee… About noon, she suggested perhaps we head outside and go to Theisenʼs for some rubber boots. I have talked for at least three winters about wanting some rubber galoshes, and I suppose she figured it was finally time to shut me up. After all I could have gone on my own any day, but I never had. So we drove the mile to the store and looked around. I tried on size tens and then size nines, wondering if I wanted boots or the ten-dollar-cheaper shoe-sized galoshes. I went for the more expensive boots, size nine.

See colored text

As we were heading toward the checkout lanes, she brought up another long-mentioned idea — a bird feeder. In this case the idea is one sheʼs talked about for a long time. So we headed across the store to the aisle where she could see wooden combination birdhouses/feeders (for far more money than we intended to spend). They also had a selection of tubular plastic feeders with multiple perches, which we examined and from which we selected a model. Then we had to determine which bird feed to buy, not easy as none of the bags explained very much for utter, complete novices like ourselves, but we eventually made a choice about what to feed the birds we hoped to see and headed to finally check out.

Since the boots were still the most expensive item by a long ways, I got to buy everything. And once we got home, the boots came in handy for the very first time as I stomped through the snow to hang our new feeder from the fruit tree in the back. I remembered reading that birds like some sense of shelter or cover when feeding, so I decided to hang it from the tree rather than from the convenient hooks on the otherwise unused clothesline poles at either end of our decrepit rear patio. The job wasnʼt even hard, the little piece of cotton rope — dyed green many years ago for the Andrew spring play, “Jack and the Beanstalk” — having been cut, pretty much uncalculated, to exactly the length I needed (although I don’t know how I did that; I just grabbed the full length of rope and cut off a few inches to use).

So now the feeder hangs in the tree waiting for birds we havenʼt seen yet this winter to arrive and eat. I hope they enjoy it. Something might as well get some pleasure from this sunny day.

Not much of a post, I admit, but I write distractedly, most of my thoughts having been driven far away from such lighthearted and simple matters. Please send whatever positive energy in which you may believe to the benefit of Teagan Rouse. And best wishes, Teagan and Carrie. You are both in my heart.

Attempting to take a photo for this post, I discover The Lovely One seems to have carried the camera along to her workshop. Our new bird feeder looks much like this image I found googling. Ours has a metal wire rectangular hanger at the top rather than the plastic loop shown.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Popping Out (Red, White and… Blue)

If you remember from a week ago, I was having a little trouble Arriving on the scene back in 1953… Letʼs begin with  review: with infant me fully two weeks overdue, Seventh-Day-Adventist Dr. Onofrio had induced labor for my mother early in the morning on Friday, but nothing happened, until hours after she had been released to go back home and rest. About 2:30, labor contractions began.

And there was my mother, at home alone, entering labor, with the doctor and the delivery room about fifteen or twenty minutes distant. In those days, apparently, school administrators didnʼt call teachers out of class, even for a birth. What was this mother-to-be going to do?

Drive herself to the doctorʼs office, of course, having left a message for my father to receive at the end of the school day. She drove the whole twenty minutes alone in the car, as her contractions arrived more frequently, lasted longer each time, and grew more intense. As she personally never told me any of this story and as I have never endured childbirth myself (an acting exercise in college in which one of my peers, female and feminist, cast me as the mother in delivery notwithstanding), I donʼt know just how unbearable and difficult this experience was. I do know she made it and staggered up the steps and into the office area of the Old Folks and Obstetrics facility sometime around 3:30 PM.

Her water broke either in the car or as she arrived in the doctorʼs office (I have heard, or I remember hearing, both versions), so the birth was imminent. The staff got her in a wheelchair and took her to a delivery room where the contractions continued and the birth proceeded with Dr. Onofrio on hand. (That wheelchair may be an elaboration on the truth of my own…)

My dad got the message as soon as the day ended, and I think he hooked a ride with a fellow teacher over to Victorville in time to arrive not long after my birth, perhaps even just in time. (It was, of course, the Fifties, when fathers-to-be were separated from their wives in a waiting room, pacing and waiting to hear the news arrive secondhand from a staff member, although my proud paternal parent would not have offered to the others thereabouts cigars of celebration, nor drinks of any kind, not even cokes or coffee*). So he waited.

My mother thought the doctor and nurse acted a little awkward or uncomfortable, seeming to avoid her eyes, as the birth progressed, but she delivered successfully, at 4:04 PM on Friday, November 13, only to have the staff hurry the baby off instead of laying it/me on her bosom, once the stern slap, to encourage infant lungs to breathe, had been administered. It was my father, who seeking the baby-viewing area once he had been permitted to visit my mom and see she was doing all right, eventually learned that his newborn son was receiving the Fifties version of intensive care. The little tyke was born blue.

Yes, in my extra time in the womb, or earlier, I had gotten bored and tied my umbilical cord around my head and neck. The blueness of my crowning bald infant pate had startled and concerned the doctor and changed the atmosphere in the delivery room. I hadnʼt responded well to the lung-starting slap once I was out and freed of the umbilicus, either. So they rushed tiny me away to an incubator.

It sounds so dire to say it was “fetal distress from nuchal cord,” but although I recovered well (some would insist there has been brain damage, but I think they werenʼt serious), those first hours were evidently touch-and-go. But the good doctor and his staff did his/their job well. I survived getting born.

I didnʼt have to remain under treatment long, but my sister says that if Onofrio hadnʼt been an Adventist, religiously unable to deliver a Saturday baby, I would have been born in worse shape than merely a bit blue in the face, probably not actually born at all, just another in my motherʼs string of disappointed pregnancies. Waiting another day or weekend would have been simply too long.

I may have arrived not on Halloween but instead a fortnight late on Friday the Thirteenth (appropriately, my students always felt), but at least I did arrive and went home with my folks early in the next week. Margaret has often said that if I choose to write an autobiography, perhaps I should entitle it One Foot in Heaven for (if you think about it a little) a lot of reasons, ironic and otherwise (it has been done before, though).

* I have often joked my father should have been a Mormon.

So thatʼs my story, which perhaps twenty years of Andrew speech students heard in even grittier and more glorious detail (all invented on the spot and all, I hope purged for this rendition). The problem is that I believe Ms. Morissette wants the tale reduced to a Facebook post, and I donʼt really think I can do that. Do you? (No, wait, I found the link to e-mail her the whole 1900 words of the story. Here goes…)

Now, depending upon requests, I also have The Tale of the Time I First Drove… (and I could even scan the photos Janet and I took of the location a few years back).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

“Keep on Working”

Ironically, as I created and posted two pieces on my “big job” from early last summer, I received an emergency phone call (well not emergency, just last-minute and out of the blue) to ask if I could get myself up to Andrew and do a bit of substituting on Wednesday. Half the day is not too bad a stint to serve, regardless what the class; and per my usual behavior, I had pretty well been wasting the morning up to that point; and as always we could use the money, however little. So of course I accepted.

The “bag of books and notebooks.” You can see I have my research reading for Sepharad and the hopefully now famous “big red notebook.” What you canʼt see are two paperbacks within — Fritz Leiberʼs Fafhrd-and-Gray-Mouser novel “Swords of Lankhmar” (canʼt italicize in these captions, dagnabbit, so weʼll just endure the incorrect use of quotation marks) and Frank Yerbyʼs “Odor of Sanctity,” a wonderful book that I was gratified to be able to reread on the excuse of background and research for Søren and Judah.

A teacher was ill, and they needed a sub just about instantly. (I myself have been in that pitiable teacherʼs shoes memorably more than thrice before, so I was more than merely sympathetic.) I dressed myself as quickly as humanly possible, grabbed a bottle of water and my preloaded bag of books and notebooks that I always take “just in case” (and that case is usually the one Iʼm in, which is why “Mistakes by Moonlight” ever got written), hopped in the truck, and headed on up to school, arriving only about twenty to twenty-five minutes after the call (I felt pretty pleased with myself; I hope in actuality I had moved along quickly enough).

This particular teacher writes excellent plans, and she followed that pattern even handwritten while feeling noticeably poorly that day. The only downside there: I couldnʼt do anything I wanted — I had to teach, so my bag of books and notebooks was superfluous. Oh well, the whole point of working is to do that job while you are doing it. I could always read and write another day (and I thought that unprofiting* day would be yesterday).

The Andrew students are always generously kind and pretend to be moderately excited (or at least not disappointed) to have me as a substitute. So the somewhat more than four hours that I spent at school Wednesday went pretty easily as I finished out her day. When I left the building, stopping by the office to sign my substitute sheet (getting paid is the whole point, and that sheetʼs the only record created that one has done any work, so filling it out ranks somewhere above “vitally important”), the new superintendent/principal chatted me up as he often does, politely, and asked about my availability for the next day, which would be yesterday. Until I get my act in gear and either undertake some new career or get some writing finished, submitted, accepted and published or sign myself on to sub at other schools, as I should, my availability is pretty much a given. Which is exactly what I told him. The call to continue that sub assignment, as the teacher was not feeling better, came about 7:30 Wednesday evening. So I served as temporary replacement teacher again on Thursday.

Itʼs always nice to make a little money, even though those full days remind me invariably of why I enjoy no longer teaching full-time. Once again, however, the kids were generous and well behaved, the lesson plans excellent, and the day more rewarding with time I could spend at a book or notebook while all the students were reading their assignments. Fortunately or un-, my choice when those times arose was to read, so not much progress got made on anything I am writing. I did, however, read through the “Mistakes by Moonlight” page here on the blog,** just to verify information and wordings and to proofread/edit/check what I had written. I was dismayed to discover I have a lot of changes to make — particularly with the most recently dictated material (boy, did Dictate a few months back not understand my mumbling!),*** where whole paragraphs make little to no sense, some of which Iʼm going to have to check back against the handwriting, hard enough to interpret itself, because even I donʼt know what I meant. With luck Iʼll get all that done and that page corrected today. I also realized I never added the “new” material I had been revising and adding earlier this past autumn, which will be easy enough to do by simply locating the post and copying the information to paste in the proper place.

With that, I believe I have given myself my marching orders…

Have a great weekend!

* Why do I keep forcing myself to invent words. Yes, spellcheckers of all varieties (as these posts now pass through three separate spellchecking programs), I meant “a day with no money made” rather than “a day that was not worthwhile, fiscally or otherwise” (unprofiting rather than profitless or unprofitable.)

** I am glad that technologically Ian access my blog from the school now (some of the students even told me they had been reading it during a computer class previously).

*** Now that is a magnificently long and jumbled (if absolutely correct) sequence of punctuation, particularly when you include the asterisk(s) indicating this footnoteʼs here.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Last Yearʼs Job, 2

Yesterday, I introduced you all to some details of my engagement with Census 2010, getting as far as my own training efforts with a crew of enumerators in Maquoketa…

If you look closely, you will see that mine is among the counties “most likely to return.” We still had plenty to do, tramping door to door in person.

Meanwhile, one of the people from my own crew leader training, a woman who insisted on asking questions about everything and thereby slowing down our training, was failing as a trainer/teacher over in nearby Preston. Eventually, on Thursday night, after her third day of training others, during which time she had only gotten through the first dayʼs material, she either volunteered to resign or was fired/reassigned. I got a call at about nine at night to inquire if for bonus pay (as I was about to go way over forty hours in one week) I would take over her class and finish two-and-a-half days training in one. My boss was going to edit the materials for me, so all I have to do really was read; I was hoping to be designated the perpetual trainer anyway; and these people in Preston were supposed to be the crew that I would get assigned if I stayed as a crew leader anyway (a situation nafu altogether, as the training materials were clearly written that the trainer would turn out to be the boss for the crew s/he was training), so I agreed. That day was easier than Iʼd even expected because the meeting room in Preston was considerably nicer than the dilapidated environment of the classroom I had to squeeze my group into every day at the Maquoketa community center. And the crew was delighted to have the former trainer gone and anyone in her place, so they loved me.

Unfortunately for my plans about being a permanent trainer, my boss was now down one crew leader, and when, during that day in Preston, the call came from Cedar Rapids asking about my availability to train a new group of random numerators in Davenport the next week, I hesitated accepting and finally decided I would stick with being a crew leader to help out my boss who had been pretty good to me (a good choice in the end as one of those random new trainees was the woman I replaced briefly in Preston). She was delighted, and I ended up being assigned not these new people I had just met in Preston on Friday but the original crew I had trained in Maquoketa (no comment on their intelligence, but they seemed delighted, too).

If everyone had just filled out the original form, the government would not have had to spend its precious tax-derived resources on me and my crews…

The job didnʼt turn out to be too hard except for BS work imposed from above (without warning — for instance, Wednesday or Thursday of the next week, once our enumeration process had actually begun, all of us crew leaders were suddenly instructed that by the end of the day, actually 2:30 in the afternoon, we had to assign all of the work that we had for our crew — supposedly about six weeks worth of home visits — immediately, without regard to the things we were supposed to care about, such as keeping enumerators as much as possible close to their homes*; I had a similar task just to get started in the next operation, only we were to ensure that our assignments that time made sense — requiring a twenty-hour day of nonstop work, with the first training session starting the next morning**). As the enumerators finished work, I was supposed to go over their census forms and pay sheets very carefully before submitting them that same day to my boss, who in her turn passed them on up to Cedar Rapids. This process didnʼt seem so bad until I was receiving several hundred forms each day, and it was nearly a week before my boss informed me that it would be all right not to pass everything on in the same day, just the pay sheets, thus giving me the chance to actually study the forms. The hardest aspect for me was keeping my work under forty hours a week, especially when the Bureau decided we crew leaders were to take work seven days a week.

Anyway, the job evolved into a routine, more or less, and wrapped up early in June. I got the chance to work a few days longer when Cedar Rapids wanted me to doublecheck one of my enumeratorʼs work, in person through revisiting the homes and contacts he had listed. So for about three days I got to experience for myself just what enumerators job was actually like (leave it to the government to train someone as a boss who had never done the job of the people he was bossing) and to receive the mileage pay for the distance I had to drive to get to the vacation community where my worker had found so many uninhabited residences (logical when you realize it was a vacation community on a lake, and so most of those trailers and cabins were not actually homes).

Later, I got offered the chance to work the next operation as well, getting trained after a week off in late June, this time at regional headquarters in Cedar Rapids, and doing pretty much the same job I had done before with a different (larger) group of people over a larger area, rechecking submitted work that somehow the big boys up the ladder of command didnʼt like (which mostly meant my workers got to annoy for the third or fourth time people who didnʼt want to talk to the Census in the first place). That lasted about a week and a half, keeping me busier than in the first operation day by day through completion, and I resigned officially toward the end of July.

Not much detail there, but I kind of enjoyed running over in my own head what I remember of those experiences.

* I felt so glad the the wad of nonsense I submitted (and had to keep revising for weeks to actually give out the work where it really belong) not only kpet some bureaucrat way up the chain of command looking good but shamefully kept my own nose so polished and brown.

** There was no reason for doing it all before I had even met my crew, but once again someone I would never meet could say in his/her area all the work was assigned and in the hands of enumerators by such-and-such a date, regardless of how much rewriting we peons would have to do to actually get the work done. The government as a whole does operate a whole lot like the armed services…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Getting a Job

I was writing my brother Stephen this morning (that would mean yesterday/Tuesday), and I realized in telling him about a few things that Iʼve never really discussed my adventures not quite a year ago with Census 2010. Of course, having taken the sacred federal oath “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and Title 13ʼs utter Census secrecy about all gathered information for 72 years, I canʼt talk about any of the actual work of enumeration. But I can talk some about how I got my job.

Last March, Janet was getting concerned about my lack of extra income during retirement, above and beyond my monthly IPERS stipend (me in those days not receiving all that many substitute jobs from Andrew, maybe merely a couple each month), and I was just about getting guilted enough to head over to the Maquoketa Community Schools and volunteer to start subbing for them (something I still have not yet done, but probably need to). About that same time, Janet noticed in the local paper an article about qualifying for Census 2010 work. All I needed to do was call a phone number and make preliminary arrangements to show up for a scheduled test in a few days. Doing something completely different and making some money both sounded interesting (although Iʼm not sure if “interesting” really fits with making some money), so I made the call. The bureaucrat who answered was completely surprised that someone was volunteering to take the test this late in the process and really really curious how I knew about the test (he evidently had nothing to do with the article in our local paper). Now, after my experiences with the Census, I am assuming he was one of my over-bosses in the Regional Office in Cedar Rapids, although which one I really couldnʼt tell you. He did get my name on the list, and early on the Wednesday morning following I walked over to the local community college building newly built beside the high school. If nothing else I would get the chance to check out this new building.

To prepare for the test, potential Census workers could go online and attempt a practice version. I had done so and missed four or maybe five questions, which didnʼt seem very good to me (it wasnʼt). On two of those wrong answers I would have been correct if I had taken the test somewhat slower, but I had freaked out at the timing aspect (itʼd been a couple of lifetimes since Iʼd last taken a timed test, regardless how many times I had supervised the tedious and lengthy ITEDs). For the real test I tried to be more relaxed, and in the end I only missed two, which still didnʼt seem very good to me (I had found out on Facebook that a former student had gotten a job with the Census having earned 100% on his test). However, when my test supervisor was processing the exams later in the day (I was amazed, and you may be too, at just how primitively pre-digital — paper-driven — the Census Bureau still operated this last time), she noted that I had in my personal profile listed “leadership qualities.” She called to ask me what those were, merely teaching experience and directing plays, but that more than my, to me, mediocre score got me a job as a crew leader, and I was to go to training which began in about ten days in Eldridge, just north of Davenport.

We all received bags exactly like this, to contain our materials, and a badge identifying us as Census 2010 workers.

A brief series of phone calls got me confirmed for training, although governmental ineptitude appeared, as I should have predicted, when my name was not on the list of permitted trainees as I arrived, passport in hand, to get taught about my newly acquired job. However, a few more calls from the training site sort of clarified my status, and I was permitted to stay and learn. About thirty of us were at this site, under the tutelage of two people, a young woman and a man about my age, who it would turn out would be the supervisors/bosses for us (half with the woman and half with the man).

Training wasnʼt exactly what I imagined, being mostly these two immediate superiors reading verbatim training materials to us. And most of the lessons covered the training for the people I was supposed to supervise, enumerators. The days were long and pretty boring, and I discovered at the end that I hadnʼt paid enough attention to the right stuff when we took a concluding test (but I did just fine on that anyway). On the first day I got fingerprinted for the first time in my life (and I would get my opportunity to fingerprint others when I trained my crew later) so I could pass an FBI scrutiny for some level of minimal clearance, I guess. The training lasted four days, as apparently most Census trainings of various kinds do.

My most vivid recollections now are of the gloomy cellar-like, concrete-block community center/bowling alley (we didnʼt get into the bowling part, only the large meeting room in the community center half) where we first met. The Census does not pay for facilities, so all meeting rooms and training centers have to be arranged as freebies, which was a problem for our training, since no one place was available for consecutive days. We ended up in the Fellowship Hall and also the tiny Sunday School classroom at a church down the way from the community center for our final two days. We were released on our own for lunch for an hour at about noon each day, and as I brought my own sack lunch, and the warmth of spring was just bringing new growth and comfortable days, I remember wandering around parking lots and later around residential neighborhoods beyond that church, studying shoots of leaves and little crocus and other plants just starting to sprout and spread. (Those memories feel like heaven now in the midst of January.)

And that got me to a thousand words (and a bit more), so I had better quit for now…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Flurries on a Few Things

The weather tops my attention for this post (written yesterday/Monday), and that was not just flurries…

Snow is cascading from the sky. It has been since sometime in the night, although the heaviness of the snowfall has apparently only increased as the day has dimly brightened.

I awoke on time for my run, but I was already aware from the weather forecast Sunday night that Iʼd probably be shoveling instead. I did, although there was less than an inch of snow on the concrete of the driveway. Even so, it took me about an hour to scrape what I could clean, some of it twice, as I was not keeping up with the snowfall. I got back inside in time to stir Janet from bed, telling her she probably wanted to give herself a little extra time for the drive. Then I showered and shaved and got her stuff ready and packed for her car. We ate our little breakfast (two of the little mini-quiches apiece, half a grapefruit each, milk and tomato juice) and got her on her way, just after the plow came through. So I redressed myself in winter gear and headed back outdoors as she drove away. This time I could keep up even less well than in the full dark earlier, but I scraped away the driveway and half the street in front of our residence again.

Now itʼs 10:00 AM, and the driveway is again full of snow. The plowʼs been through again, but only along the middle of the street. As this little storm is supposed to last into the night, it looks as though I may have a busy day.

Of course you should be reading all of this in past tense, as Iʼm not going to post these unremarkable observations until Tuesday morning, when hopefully the clipper storm has passed.

I clearly (heh heh) waited too long (or should have waited longer) to take some shots, as there was no visible snow in the air at 11:00. “Lookinʼ out my back door…” at ugly Gasser True Value, where some poor schmuck was trying to clear their delivery zone, reminding me I needed to get back out for a third spate of scraping and shoveling this newfallen snow.

The snow keeps changing from tiny little darts to big fat fluffy flakes and back. The wind seems to have let up somewhat, as the flakes I am watching out the window are mostly falling straight down. When I went out at 5:00, the wind was whipping pretty briskly from the southeast, cutting right through my layers of sweatshirts, especially when I was at work out in the street. So when dressing for my second round with the shovel, I decided to try out the new white windbreaker Janet had given me for Christmas. It worked quite well, keeping me warm enough that I think I’ll try dropping one layer of sweatshirt when I decide to go back out again, probably around noon. Of course the weather Monday/today isn’t supposed to be terrifically cold, with the forecast temperature here in town just at or below 32°.

The warmth of the day is one of the problems with this storm. There is a chance for freezing precipitation if the air gets warm enough. I am hoping Janetʼs drive home after 5:00 PM won’t be during a time of sleet or icy downpour. (I must admit, that when I got back indoors about 8:00 AM, I was relieved I had no message indicator for a substitute teaching job today. Iʼd rather not be driving on the roads, although I should go out this afternoon to pick up a prescription for The Lovely One and some stew meat for Tuesdayʼs dinner.)

Speaking of temperatures, the furnace seems to be working fine — the rest of Saturday, that night, Sunday and Sunday night, and even now. Currently, through the day, I am keeping the place a couple degrees warmer than usual, but we should still be in “testing” mode after the boiler’s misbehavior on Thursday evening and Saturday morning.

Also working fine is Dictate (okay, saying that was a mistake; that dang program just interpreted the opening of this paragraph as “Also working phone line is Dictate”). However I am getting more accustomed to its shortcomings, and overall it does seem to be more accurate than it used to be as MacSpeech. I also donʼt appear to be inserting as many random syllables, my breaths or sighs or chuckles, as I used to. Of course, Iʼve also gone to using Dictateʼs own Notepad within which its accuracy is best (when “best” means adequate, as it tried to make that “its” into “itʼs”).* In most other programs, even trying to dictate into e-mail, the oddity of ignoring the final few letters or syllables, particularly of long-ish phrases, from what I have said persists. That’s frustrating. Then again, the instructions with the software told me plainly that the program works best with its own Notepad.**

(I really shouldnʼt complain about Dictate. Revising/editing right now with my aching fingers and hands, rather than my mouth, Iʼm typing as many goofy mis-strikes and other typos as the mishearings the dictation software devises. For instance, I just actually typed, “Iʼmm tyrping as many gofy misstrikes…”*** and even now “oinstance.”)

So, including deliberately recorded mistakes, now I have constructed a post, saying absolutely nothing, for this Tuesday. The snow keeps falling and remains heavy. But the radar shows weʼre covered by precipitation only just past Cedar Rapids — good news. The bad part is the amount of pink (freezing precip) that map indicates as well.

Winter in Iowa. What can you do? Except shovel and shovel and keep on shoveling. It could be worse. I could live in, oh, Wasila, Alaska, and then imagine what Iʼd have for neighbors instead of creosote-hell Gasser True Value…

Now itʼs time to try for a photograph of the snowfall to illustrate this post. Benevolence, all!

* Unfortunately, within the Notepad, apostrophes are regular typewriter straight marks, not the curly apostrophes I prefer. (I hope I caught and corrected them all, having forgotten to just “Find/Replace” once I copied the text over to Scrivener before moving the HTML version into WordPress on the browser. Learning, always learning.)

** Strangley, I have switched the iMacʼs sound output back to the microphoneʼs earpiece, at least for a while Monday, as I dictated and after, because it seemed soothing (and of course, the mic couldnʼt hear any of the music from iTunes and try to interpret those noises as parts of my messages). I also just realized that the sound of the music, which right now isnʼt particularly harmonic, being some jagged King Crimson improvised composition from the Eighties or Nineties, can give me a clear signal of just how far from the computer I can go before losing the Bluetooth connection.

*** Seeing “misstrikes” made me decide, however, that the invented word needed to include the hyphen: “mis-strikes.”

(At just shy of 1200 words for today, I am finding, that especially with wordy captions and all these footnotes, I am not doing well at keeping my posts shorter than last yearʼs. I hope thatʼs not a problem, faithful readers.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A