Personal Ramblings

By Nils Dahl

Date: May 8, 2002

Dear Van and Kathy,

One thing after another.

The first major blow was learning of J. K. Rawlings' panic over the 5th Harry Potter book. It might not be out until next year. She seems to be very worried over introducing the 'teenage pangs of love' topic into the story.

The second blow was figuring out just how AMD and nVidia plan to CRUSH the competition - and realizing that I just didn't need to buy a nice nForce system and end up with obsolete technology. Anyway, Mandrake 8.2 is out and available. I may be able to buy it at Walmart and try it in my existing Linux partition - managed by System Commander.

So I checked my weight and made pork fried rice at home to drown my sorrows in. Recipe on request. Requires a T-Fal wok/frypan or similar cookware - and a gas burner or coleman stove.

I will leave computer stuff alone for a while more. Talking about obvious trends can cause plans to change.

So I am going to suggest two books to read - if you are willing to tackle serious fiction. Most people lack the time, inclination, and reading background. The first is undoubtedly one of the world's best stories. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. It is 'a tale of an ancient China that never was' - a rollicking adventure of detective work, challenges, and huge doses of philosophies of life - with the world's greatest ending. The main players are an innocent, pure village youth named Number Ten Ox and a certain dissolute old man who has 'one minor flaw in his character'. Wonderful satire too. The other book is another masterpiece of fantasy - even more difficult reading.

 Charles De Lint is a master author of fantasy fiction. He often uses Native American mythic characters in his stories. Someplace To Be Flying is an adventure set in a modern US city. It deliberately confuses as the players' characters are formed and embellished. Definitely NOT for casual readers. It too has a sort of glorious ending. You will meet some of the famous characters of legend, including Coyote, Fox, Magpies, Raven, the always nasty cuckoo family, and my favorites - the Crow Girls (corbae, NOT crows). Once again I caution that this is a very difficult story to read. If you want something less difficult, try Coyote Blue - a fabulous tale of a native american who just wants to reject his heritage but learns that Coyote is rather persistent.

Why did all this come up? Well, something happened locally last week that made the national news. Stanley Works tried to re-incorporate in Bermuda. Now Stanley Works is one of the world famous firms that immigrants from Sweden founded in central Connecticut. It was, in the past, a testament to solid values, great products, and to european traditions. Raped and raided by modern Harvard MBAs, there really was not anything left of Stanley except its legendary past, and that was almost canceled in a blatant tax dodge. Got me thinking about my heritage as a second generation of immigrants with Swedish roots. What we have lost is everything except the memories.

Maybe I do have too much time to think. What can one do with an old man who reads more books each week than most people read in a lifetime?

So I will leave you with this quote from Someplace To Be Flying by Charles De Lint. Page 233, hardbound first edition. Zia, one of the Crow Girls, speaks.

"She knocked a knuckle against the rusted metal of the car she was sitting on. "Because this is where the mystery lives. Out here. In the world. The only thing we carry around inside us is a reflection of it.""

May your personal reflection of the world's mystery be one of the best - unobscured by fantasies of how things 'should be'. There can be more joy in watching the bees visit honeysuckle than in all the fancy cars ever made. But you have to live IN the world to see things - not ride around in an isolation chamber on wheels.

Oh, 2 weeks ago, a moderately brain-damaged bureaucrat suggested building a wall around the Palestine problem, citing a line from Robert Frost's famous poem, Mending Wall - 'Good fences make good neighbors'. And Frost turned over in his grave at this total misapplication of his life's work. Good fences wall us off from each other - and good fences come in many forms.

nils dahl

just an old man


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