A generous bird

I have a lot of hats.  One of them is a walking hat by Hanna Hats of Donegal, Ireland.  I’m quite fond of it, not least because it was a gift from my father.

When I received this hat, it had a feather in its band.  I was sad when I lost that feather two weeks ago; it hadn’t really matched the hat very well, but it was part of it, and a replacement was in order.  So whenever I was among trees, I kept looking at the ground, trying to find another feather. 

Yesterday, I found one.  It matched the hat much better than the original had done.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the old feather, but here are shots of the new one:


In place



On its own

I can only surmise that some bird with the right plumage, a generous heart, and a highly developed aesthetic sense saw my featherless hat and decided to make a donation.  I’m very grateful.


Shoe superstitions

A few minutes ago, a young man  I’d never seen before was walking through the hallway outside my office.  His shoes were squeaking.  I looked at him.  He smiled.  “Well, at least it isn’t my funeral.”  He walked on; I didn’t have a chance to ask him what he meant by that.   

I was puzzled by his remark, so I Googled “squeaky shoes” funeral.  I found some examples of the locution “as annoying as squeaky shoes at a funeral,” enough examples that it might be a proverb or at least a cliche.  But that didn’t explain why he said that it wasn’t his own funeral.   

I also looked for squeaky shoes funeral superstition.   That came up with some spotty results, nothing that quite explained the guy’s remark.  I did find an old book which records a traditional injunction “Never wear new shoes to be married in.  You will always be squeezed in your walk of life.  It means poverty”  New shoes might squeak, so that might explain why squeaky shoes at a wedding would be regarded as bad luck.  And funerals sometimes have ritual similarities to weddings.  But few people walk at their own funerals, so the danger of squeaking wouldn’t likely be a concern in selecting shoes for the deceased.  Anyway, this man’s shoes were squeaking because of rain, not because they were new.  A search for wet shoes funeral superstition didn’t come up with anything promising.  And now it’s time for me to get to work, so my researches are ended. 

Here‘s a collection of superstitions about shoes; here‘s a long list of superstitions, including these pertaining to shoes:

SHOE: lucky, hence the custom of tying an old boot to the back of the car of a couple who have just got married; shoes on the table is symbolic of hanging; shoes left crossed on the floor or put on the wrong feet brings bad luck; and walking anywhere with one shoe on could lead to the death of one of your parents. A shoelace which comes undone as you set off on a venture is unlucky; if you tie someone else’s shoe laces up you should make a wish as it is lucky.

The Funny Times, October 2009

funny times october 2009Two items in this one I wanted to note.  The first is from John Walsh, a column about his former sister-in-law Jo.  When Jo divorced Walsh’s brother, she wanted to drop the name Walsh, but did not want to go back to her maiden name.  So she sat down with her teenaged sons and thought up a new name.  What she settled on was “Jo Sohneronne,” pronounced “Jo’s on her own.”  When Jo went to get new ID forms, each clerk she approached told her she’d have to change her name legally before they could issue her identification.  When she asked to see the regulation that said she could not put the name “Jo Sohneronne” on her bank account, Social Security card, or driver’s license without a court order, the clerks were unable to produce any such regulation.  So, she made the change successfully. 

I wish I’d read Walsh’s piece several months ago.  When Mrs Acilius and I got married this spring, she was excited about adding my last name to her name.  She was going to keep the three names her parents gave her, but use my last name as her new last name and her old middle and last names as two middle names.  So, if her given name had been Michelle LaVaughan Robinson, she would have become  Michelle LaVaughan Robinson Acilius, and would have signed herself Michelle L. R. Acilius.  The clerk at the Social Security office told her she couldn’t do that.  She could hyphenate, the clerk said, but she couldn’t  have two middle names.  Why not, asked the missus.  “A lot of brides weren’t using their names the way they were supposed to,” the clerk replied.  Mrs Acilius asked me what she should do.  I said what I always say, which is that I don’t tell her what to do.  She decided to keep her middle name and drop her maiden name.  That satisfied the clerk, but Mrs Acilius has been regretting it bitterly ever since. 

The second item was from the 26 July edition of Chuck Shepherd’s “News of the Weird.”

Until Mayor Sharon McShurley changed the protocol this year, fire stations in Muncie, Ind., had been delivering reports to department headquarters downtown by dropping them off in fire engines. McShurley ordered the department to learn how to send reports by e-mail. [Star Press (Muncie), 6-25-09]

I called someone I know who lives in Muncie, Indiana and mentioned this item to him.  He was not only unsurprised that his hometown featured something called “News of the Weird,” but was surprised that a digest under that title could appear week after week and mention Muncie only occasionally.   The town has come up since then; the digest for the week of 2 August reported on a Muncie brawler who started his fights by stealing his opponent’s false teeth out of their mouths.

An unexpected visitor

Yesterday was the first day of school. I taught in the morning, Mrs Acilius had her classes in the afternoon.  We went in together on the 7:14 AM bus.  We have a little bath mat that Mrs Acilius’ assistance dog P—— uses to keep from sliding in the aisle of the bus.  When we take the bus to school, I keep the mat in my office so that Mrs Acilius doesn’t have to carry it with her everywhere she goes. 

At about 1 pm, I was doing paperwork at my desk.  A student appeared in the doorway of my office.  “Excuse me, sir, this cat was running around in the hallway.”  She was holding a little kitten.  “He’s bleeding rather badly.  I have to go to class.  Can you do something for him?”  I stood up and reached for the kitten.  She looked relieved and held him out to me.  Of course he scratched my hand.  I handed the kitten back to the student, then picked up P——‘s mat.  I held the mat out, the student set the kitten down in it.  As I wrapped him up, she rushed off to her class. 

So there I stood with an injured kitten.  What next?  I decided to take him to the nearest office and appeal for help.  My office is about equidistant from the Dean’s office and the Psychological Science department office.  I decided to take him to the Psychological Science office. 

That turned out to be a very good decision.  Their office assistant took the mat and set it on her desk.  Also in the room were the department’s administrative coordinator, a couple of undergrads, and the department chair.  They all gathered around the kitten in a circle.  The office assistant got a little jar, filled it with water,  and offered it to the kitten.  The chair got a little cardboard box and put the jar and the kitten in it.  The administrative coordinator had some dog food in her office for some reason; she put a couple of pieces of that in the box.  The chair then went to his office and retrieved some tuna left over from his lunch. 

The kitten was very badly hurt.  He sniffed the water and the tuna, but didn’t take any of either.  The student hadn’t been exaggerating when she said he was bleeding rather badly.  The end of his tail was missing and blood was streaming out of it; there were deep scratches on the front of his chest.  Someone I told about it this morning thought the kitten might have tangled with the hawk who circles the Quad; I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. 

Seeing how much attention he was getting in the Psych office, I decided it was time to get back to work.  So I excused myself and returned to my office.  A half hour later, a psychology professor whose first initial is H came to my office.  H—— told me that she had made a 4 PM vet appointment for the kitten.  She swore up and down that she wouldn’t be able to keep him.  “We already have two cats, and our place is so small- we can not have another cat.”  Oh, she said, she would keep him for a while after he was released from the vet, but he’d have to live in the bathroom to keep him away from her two rambunctious older cats. 

A few hours later, I was meeting with a student when Mrs Acilius came by my office.  As Mrs Acilius waited for the end of my meeting, H—— saw her.  H——- went up to Mrs Acilius and told her the whole story.  She’d already taken the kitten to the vet.  The vet had said the kitten was in shock from loss of blood and would need surgery to repair some mangled bones.  H—— had agreed to pay for the surgery and was going to take the kitten in afterward, but she repeated that she could not have another cat.  Apparently she went on and on about the sheer impossibility of taking another cat into her home. 

When Mrs Acilius and I were leaving for the day at 4:30 or so, she reported what H—— had told her.  I remarked that in my experience, swearing that you will not take in another cat is one of the stages in the process of adopting a cat.  She said she suspected that it would prove to be the case here.

BK Torture

I usually don’t watch TV commercials. On my way to Maine I saw a BK sign- “TRY OUR ANGRY WHOPPER.” I mistakenly thought it was the unique and clever expression of a single BK manager. It certainly grabbed my attention. On the way back from Maine I suggested we stop and take a picture of the sign. I realized my assumptions were mistaken when Mr. Cymast asked me why I would want a picture of a common BK ad. Still intrigued, I found an ANGRY WHOPPER commercial online. It fits right in with the current international political attitude of the USA. And looking at the youtube comments for the commercial, people absolutely love it. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into it. But I do find everything about the commercial very distasteful, to say the least.

as per request

I had a dream that I was attending a special advance-preview screening of a new version (or “special edition”) of
_Sophie’s Choice_.  Richard Dreyfuss was on hand to introduce the film and make a few comments, which was
wholly appropriate, given that he had written, directed, produced, and starred in it.  It was freakishly long, like five or six hours,richard-dreyfuss1and seemed to focus almost exclusively on Dreyfuss himself, with hardly any spoken dialogue or scenes in which he
was not the direct focal point.  It was only after the closing credits began to roll that I noticed that nothing from the
original – characters, plotline, even basic premise – were in any way represented or even intimated in Dreyfuss’s version.
In short, Dreyfuss’s “version,” if it could even be called that, had essentially no commonality or point of contact with
the 1982 effort or Styron’s novel.  It was a completely freestanding work that shared nothing with the earlier movie and book
except the title.  What is more, it was the most blatant vanity project imaginable:  Dreyfuss had simply paid someone to take
footage with a handheld camera, as he sat in his living room and rambled endlessly about mundane topics from his personal life
in which nobody but Dreyfuss himself could possibly have been interested.  Yet the work was being treated as high art,
as a watershed moment in the history of cinematic form.

Felines and Humans Living Together Reflux

uncredited photo

uncredited photo

This spew-monger bears an uncanny resemblance to my Princess Ting. She holds a feline record in her weight class for volume (mass) and distance in the Spew-Hurling category. Her other talent is invisible biscuit-making.

An unexpected visitor

It was Thursday, 23 May 2002.  I walked to school.  About halfway there a little reddish dog with a twisting tail started following me. 
I tried to ignore him, couldn’t completely as there was some traffic and I didn’t want to be responsible for him getting hit.  He passed up several other pedestrians to stick with me.  When I got to the door of North Quad I had to make a decision.  Would I let him in to my office and call animal control, or would i shut him out of the building?  He was awfully thin, reminded me of a dog found half-starved whose picture was in the paper the week before.  Being so thin, with his red fur and pointy ears, he almost looked more like a fox than a puppy.  So I let him into the office. 
The class was very small, just 8 students; that happens sometimes in the summer.  At that time my office was in a room off a little conference area.  The class met in that area.  So the dog came into the classroom with me. 
It was a 95 minute class.  Throughout it the students were playing with the dog and telling storis about dogs who had followed them.   From the table where we sat you could see out the window to the southwest entrance to the building.  We all glanced out that window from time to time, hoping that animal control would get there.  Class ended and animal control still hadn’t shown up.  A student got up to leave.  He opened the door, and the dog ran out.  We all jumped up to herd him back into the room.  Glancing over my shoulder at the window, I saw him bolt out. 
I don’t know if it was the same dog, but starting a few weeks later I would occasionally see a very similar little dog, same shade of red, same twist in his tail, following a homeless man around the neighborhood I lived in at the time.  I saw them together scores of times.  It was a couple of years before I saw the homeless man without the dog.  I asked the man what had happened to him.  He lit up and described the good home he’d found for the dog.  A nice house, fenced-in yard, and a loving family.  Then he went back about his business, picking up cans off the street.   

Victoria’s Security Secret?



Not long after 9-11 I flew to Hawaii in a trench coat. Underneath I wore a skimpy sheer camisole (no bra) and long pants. I was asked to remove my coat to go through security. I started to slip my coat off my shoulders, and the security guy blushed and waved me through. On the plane, the passenger sitting next to me kept insisting I share her sandwich with her. She reached into her purse and casually pulled out a standard kitchen knife. Then she cut her sandwich in half while I braced myself for the SWAT team that didn’t show up. The rest of the flight was without incident. Once in Hawaii, I waited several hours for my luggage to show up.

Long live the blog!

Lefalcon, how are things in Mukalla?  It sounds like quite a change from Aden. 

Monday night I attended a meeting of Ball State’s Orthodox Christian Fellowship.  As you recall, I’d attended once last year and had been meaning to go back.  Someone I hadn’t seen there before asked me if I was an Orthodox Christian.  No, I said, I’m a Quaker.  This was a bit of an exaggeration; I haven’t joined the Friends Church yet, but am planning to do so.  This drew a puzzled look.  “I’m very comfortable with Quakerism and can’t imagine being anything but a Quaker, and that’s precisely why I want to learn more about Orthodoxy.  I want to make sure that I’m not just looking for an excuse for being the sort of person I already am.”  “Well, Quakerism and Orthodoxy are certainly opposite ends of the sprectrum.”  I agreed.  For example, the Orthodox always tend towards the most elaborate possible liturgical forms, while Quaker liturgy consists of sitting still.  

At any rate, the theme of that meeting was  the New Year.  Because 1 September is New Year’s day in the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church.  In that spirit, I declare my New Year’s resolution to be posting more stuff on this blog.