Haiku #1: Coffee House

Misty breath, door squeaks.
Burbling voices steam into cups
Fill our sails with ideas.

The “Maker” States Win 2012 Election (Generously Giving to Red States)

Two Color Map That Leads On Astray

Two Color Map That Leads Astray

Today I saw the 2012 election map like the one above1. It looks overwhelmingly red and the tagline that came with it was something like “Look how much red is required to support the little blue”. If I might rephrase this to express what I think is the implication, “Look how many ‘makers’ it takes to support the ‘takers’.”

How we present data is hugely important and all too often I think the geeks don’t think enough about the message and graphics to help humans understand the data, not just read the numbers. And of course bad presentation choices can be deliberate to make a point.

The right question is very important and here’s what I think it the right question: ¿Do we elect a president by population or acres? I know, it seems stupid, but doesn’t the tagline with the mailing raise that question? I believe we should approach it not by acres but by people (yes I know, the Electoral College (and 2000 Bush vs Gore decision where it came down to 5 justices to 4) distort this some).

If you check out Maps of the 2008 Presidential Election Results (2012 results don’t seem to be complete yet) you can see many variations. My favorite follows. Rather than two colors which overemphasizes differences they use a more graduated scale. And they distort the map so that equal populations take equal areas.

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

Doesn’t look so dramatically out of line does it? And of course this is a Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moment. The 2008 election split 53% to 46% so it should be pretty evenly split.

You say: But the implication was about Makers and Takers. What about that?!?! Continue reading

The Angel of Death, An Introduction


If you wonder, no, this is not a fictionalized account. It is wholly (and holy) what actually happened, as good as my memory can make it.—October 1st, 2012


Angel of Death Mask & Hood

Angel of Death Mask & Hood

October the first is an anniversary that brings on a familiar feeling that I can only describe as “ending-times”. The season certainly defines some of it, that smell of dying and drying plants, that crispness finally entering the air, the way the clouds look scudding across the sky, how the words “azure sky” become sacred in the purity of their manifestation. But these are just a backdrop, the props on the stage, to my mother’s illness and death; and learning about the modern fashion sense and business etiquette of the angel of death.

I must give you the prologue about the time before the call. My father, Clifford, had broken his hip just a few weeks earlier. I got a call about him at work and learned that my mother Joan (pronounced joe-ANN, thank you) and dad had closed up the fishing season and brought lots of things home from our trailer house by the lake to be re-oiled and refurbished during the cold winter months. Because of clotting in his legs, dad found it hard to walk down stairs so he would go down backwards. This time, as he was taking his tackle box down, he lost his balance, mom tried to grab him, but because he didn’t want her to get hurt too, he pushed her away and plunged down the stairs breaking his hip. His mother had broken her hip at the same home years earlier and never walked again so this was a very bleak outcome.

Three weeks later, and a week before the call, I was at my home in Hastings, the same home I grew up in. I was twenty-eight, married, and feeling good about life. On this trip we brought Doug, my best friend since the 1st grade. It was one of the grandest weekends of my life, all in vivid memory color. The trees were changing, the days were warm, the evenings chilly. We played Frisbee by Fisher Rainbow Fountain, leaves crunching underfoot. Dad was healing well and they thought he had a chance to walk again, and though mom seemed tired from taking care of him and making grape pies to put in the deep freeze, all seemed well and normal.

The first day

October the first, a few minutes before leaving for work, the call came. “Bob?! This is aunt Dot. Come home quick!” Continue reading

Rumors of Winter

Hard festooned cumulus
Riding like boats across the azure sky
On a torrent of air sliding off the mountains
Washing running churning over the
Shaking corn fields like a flood
Bringing whispers of rumors that fall is near.

The sumac overhears and blushes.

Penelope and I linger
Apples and cheese, a last meal
Before we separate once again.
In cars like pebbles
Rolling across the bottom of the flow.

Dadden Stories — Introduction

To You, My Dear Gentle Readers

I recorded on July 7th, 1985 that my wife and I were in Allegany State Park in our VW Vanagon Camper. The back seat folded out to make a bed, but when it was up it enclosed a makeshift crib area for my oldest child, Stewart. He was happy and full as we were doing our cooking and dishes. I remember his sheer joy at doing a job well, in this case learning to stand, with the seat back acting as an aid to hold him up. During this good time he started calling me “Dadden”. The joy was shared when I heard that, and the name has stuck.

A few short years later, now with another son, Matthew, I was doing what I loved, reading stories to them before bed time. Some of our favorite stories were My Daddy An Me; The Ghost-Eye Tree; In the Night Kitchen; The Wreck of the Zephyr; Moo, Baa, Lalala; and of course Hot Air Henry. One of these times I asked if they wanted to hear stories of my growing up and they were enthusiastic so we started.

This grew into a common occurrence for a few short years. Favorites emerged, and eventually I recorded some of them onto tape. They became known as Daddy or Dadden Stories. I encourage all parents to offer this treasure to their children. This is a world that often seems disjointed and disconnected. Our children crave to know how they are connected to the past—how they have become. It is a small elixir and helps them become more resilient to life’s many many slings and arrows.

Years passed and children grow away from stories and into games, and hanging out with friends. For a time what came before is gladly disconnected from what they are trying to become. And yet something still remains, a seed. More years have passed and now they are in busy making their adult lives, dealing with jobs, loves, and other adventures. But last yule time Matthew’s request was for me to write down the Dadden stories he knew he had heard, but had mostly forgotten. Perhaps ten pages. It became a 30 page gift with the original recordings, for Stewart and Matthew. Shortly afterwards I began blogging and put out Hastings Nostalgia #1-My Bedroom. Getting many positive responses I’ve started posting more.

I wish I could claim some large purpose to this. A moral to the story. I can not. I have read about ants, and have become a beekeeper and from this have come to understand that these small creatures have a few simple behaviors to react with their environment and their family (in an ant nest or a beehive there is one mom and then only brothers and sisters). Indeed if you add up all the little bee brains in a hive they weigh about the same as a human brain. From each of these small interaction comes “emergent behavior” that is likely overlooked by each individual.

I remind myself of this as I write these stories. Life is mostly known by its small interactions. I appreciate “History”: dates, causes and effects, etc. But here I wish to write about a living, breathing, smelly, visual, tasty history. A poetic history. A heroic history such as all families experience. With such story there are good times, comfortable times, and difficult dangerous times. I believe if we leave out parts of the story we leave out parts of experience that may be so vital to what is to emerge. From all of it I hope something good will emerge, even if we are unaware of what that something is.

To You, My Precious Sons

I wish to declare here, to you and to the whole world, that there has been no experience of joy and of love that’s ever been better than what I’ve had with you. You have made life worth living. Someday I hope you will tell your Dadden stories to your children. Perhaps they will be of riding on my shoulders, or sitting on them in a chair while making out your Christmas wish lists from the Sear’s catalog (including item name and page number, you know, to help Santa). Perhaps of your first backpacking experiences and reading Scary Tales while skunks probed the perimeter of light around our campfire. Or so many other things.

For letting me experience this wonder and joy I thank you and love you.

All Saints Day, 2012

Other Dadden Stories

20 FEET of Water


WOW! My son just heard the art gallery he works for in New York City has 20 feet of water in their very tall basement. He’ll be flying back soon to NYC to see what’s up and what’s sunk.


Islands Cafe

When I think of smoking in Hastings I think of three things. The first involves my father. He owned an auto shop at 3rd & Lexington and owning a business means you have long hours so he’d often go in early and once in a great while I would come along. I learned then that he didn’t always go right to the work but occasionally went to The Islands Cafe.

When I think of the Islands Cafe an image like a modern commercial comes to mind. It’s a monochromatic blue with the only other color being golden brown pancakes. The air is filled with blueish cigarette smoke, the walls seem blue, enhanced by the fluorescent lights. The many shirts on the men are blue with white ovals over the pockets that say “Ed”, “Wayne”, “Roger”, “Lloyd”, and the like, while the middle-aged waitresses move around in blue uniforms with blue pads, and say things like, “How are you doing honey!”, and “What can I get for you today!” It smells in a cacophony of hot griddle grease, butter, engine oils, coffee, pancakes, toast, sausage, hair oils, and tobacco smoke.

This was the world of men. Men who, when barely older than I was, carried guns into war against the “Japs” and “Krauts”. Most of them had seen the hardest days of the depression and dust bowl. These experiences didn’t harden them but quite the contrary, they had easy smiles and a gentleness. They welcomed me with a smile and seemed interested in what I was doing which was confusing to me at that time in my life when I still felt awkward even about shaving.

They would chat about the important things in life. Who was having babies, what the children were doing or not doing, and who might be getting a divorce. Cars were important too with new features like automatic transmissions, air conditioning, and power brakes beginning to appear and compared. Weather too would come to mind and how it might affect the crops. And what was I going to do today and with my life? At the end of the food was just enough time for a cigarette, then plans for a coffee (and cigarette) break at the lounge at 10:00. Sustained now, off we’d go.

One of the more startling things to me now is to watch old movies, and TV shows and seeing all the smoking. Yet at the time this was a normal and casual part of life. Continue reading