As of this April 16, it’ll have been ten years since the horrific events that took place in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007.

In the ten years since a mentally ill young man ran amuck with his guns and took the lives of 28 students and four faculty members — and wounded seventeen others — members of the Virginia Tech university community have gathered each year on April 16 to stand vigil and to remember those we lost.

I’d like to be there in person for the remembrance (I grew up in Blacksburg and received my masters degree there), but unfortunately, I have to be in Lubbock, Texas for work that day. In fact, I’ve never yet managed to be there for the memorial despite my active travel schedule. I’ve always hoped that I could route myself through Blacksburg on my way to Seattle or San Francisco or Tucumcari, but it just hasn’t worked out.

I wish I could say that the Virginia Tech massacre served as the Pearl Harbor-like wake-up call for the American people that finally got us to realize how out of control our love affair with firearms has become.

I wish I could say that the National Rifle Association realized that there are more important things in life than maximizing gun manufacturers’ profits.

I wish I could say that we, as a society, took a look at what happened in West Ambler-Johnston Hall and Norris Hall that awful day and decided “this far, and no further.” That it had to stop.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that. Blacksburg wasn’t enough. Sandy Hook wasn’t enough. Aurora wasn’t enough. Orlando wasn’t enough. Ten thousand gun homicides a year in the United States aren’t enough. Nothing’s enough.

Nothing’s ever going to be enough.

Our society has “addict brain” where our fetish for firearms is concerned, and the only thing that satisfies the craving, however briefly, is…

More guns.

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Dammit, Ennui

Today is a bright sunny, chilly day with the remnants of this week’s snowstorm all around outside serving as a reminder that although spring may technically start tomorrow, astronomically speaking, Vermont usually has other ideas.

Richmond, Vermont -- Sunday, March 19, 2017 (around 12:15 pm)

Carole is out at a meeting somewhere downtown, and then after that she’s got a symphonic reading with one of her orchestral groups. This means that I have the afternoon to myself, and I’m running hard up against a wall of ennui, depression, boredom, and lassitude.

It should say something that even though I actually just got back from a trip to Hawaii, I’m already paging morosely through itineraries for cruises this time next year. Travel to exotic locations motivates me. Sitting around at home doesn’t.

My imaginary gopherlike being Wally is sitting down in the living room absent-mindedly paging through the collected works of Don DeLillo, and some guy with a strange accent who says he’s Godfrey of Bouillon keeps calling asking if I want to join him on a crusade or something.

There are things I should be doing around the house – minor housekeeping jobs such as hanging my stupidly large collection of baseball caps on hooks on the cap rack I bought a while back, putting away laundry, doing Quicken, but right now I’m just sitting here staring off into space not wanting to do any of those things. Nor am I terribly interested in watching basketball, reading anything, going out and doing something… really, in doing anything at all.

It would be simplest if I just kicked off my shoes and took a nap, but that’s been my answer to this ennui problem for a few years now — spending as much time as possible asleep until it’s time to get up and do something, like going to work or making dinner. Part of this may be seasonal affective disorder — the urge to cocoon when it’s cold outside and I have nothing especially fun to do. In principle, once warm weather comes and the windows are open, I should have more energy, but frankly, over the last few years that hasn’t really been true. I think I got on my bicycle once last year. And it’s a nice bicycle.

Yes, perhaps my medication should be adjusted. I’m taking citalopram and buproprion, and I know from recent experience how absolutely lost and worried and angst-ridden I get if I skip those for a few days, so I assume they’re helping in some fashion. But… I don’t think that there’s a pill that will re-instill in me the motivation and drive of an ordinary human.

I wish there was.


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Newsflash: Hunger Sucks

Lots of things bother me. Cruelty to animals bothers me. Cancer bothers me. The weirdos who want the National League to adopt the designated hitter bother me.

Kids going to sleep at night with empty stomachs because there’s no food in the house — that really bothers me. It’s something that we take for granted — the poor and hungry will always be with us, and it’s not a problem we can “solve” — but that’s no consolation to a mother who has to tell her kids that they can’t have a snack, that there’s literally no food.

I’ve been very fortunate — I’ve never had a day in my life where I had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. My mother, who grew up in a terribly poor family in Florida during the Depression, on the other hand, was not so lucky. You don’t really realize how important food is until you’ve had to go without, not just once, but routinely. It sounds ridiculous and trite to say that, but it’s true — being chronically hungry sucks.

Here in Vermont, we’re very lucky to have an insanely dedicated organization, the Vermont Foodbank, that works their butts off to fill the food gap. They have staff and warehouses and collection and distribution operations all over the state, but even so, one in four Vermonters still struggles with hunger and access to adequate nutrition.

As it happens, the Vermont Foodbank is partnering with Magic Hat Brewing to put on the Burlington, Vermont area’s annual Mardi Gras weekend and parade. The parade is just a week away, on Saturday, March 11. The Foodbank makes use of a lot of volunteers to staff the event and keep things safe (it puts such a pall on the day when someone runs out to grab beads off the street and gets crushed by a giant green lizard float), and the volunteers are encouraged to fundraise.

If you live in (or are visiting) Vermont and you’ll be here this coming weekend, please consider volunteering:

Carole and I are volunteering, as we’ve done for years, and we’d be honored if you’d donate toward our team fundraising bucket — — click the link to the left and pick whichever of us you’d like to sponsor.

We’d like to raise at least $1,000, which is still a drop in the bucket when you consider how many hungry people there are out there, but it’s a start. If we all work together, not just one weekend a year but all year, we actually can make a difference.

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New Maps of Hell

In my office, at work, which I never actually go in to, I have a wooden bowl containing five plastic potatoes.
I have a lava lamp.
I have a Lite-Brite.
I have a wooden Vietnamese croaking frog.
I have a 2016 Cattle Mutilators wall calendar.
I keep thinking about taking in my TI-99/4A and my one remaining CRT-based TV and hooking them up and leaving them on my desk, just to confuse people.

Office as performance art.

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You know the drill: you’re on vacation, you go to a bar or club or something, and the owners stick a performer out there on a guitar with instructions to “keep ’em happy so they’ll keep buyin’.” Usually the musicians in question are fairly forgettable, but once in a while you come across the exception.

Carole and I took a seven-day, six-night cruise around the Hawaiian Islands last week aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ ship “Pride of America”. Along the way, we encountered Marissa Hollenback performing in “Pink’s Champagne Bar” (seriously).

She definitely stood out. Marissa could cover virtually anything in her soulful, rocking style (I thought briefly about asking her to cover “Jesus Built My Hot Rod” by Ministry, but thought better of it) and had clearly rolled a natural 100 on her Audience Banter and Repartee skill. The only thing I saw all week that fazed her was when I looked up her album on (she had stacks for sale right there on the ship as well) and requested one of her songs. She recovered brilliantly, told us the story of how the song came to be, and rocked the place.

I doubt you’re going to rush off and buy her CD solely on the strength of my recommendation, but at least give her a listen on YouTube:

And if you would like to buy some of her music:

Theo agrees!

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As of tonight, when we arrived in Honolulu and checked in to a hotel on Waikiki Beach, I have now been to all 50 U.S. states.  I don’t count “changed planes in an airport” visits; I’ve stayed overnight in almost all states and the ones I haven’t, I’ve driven around in, had a meal in, etcetera.

My 49th was Alaska, back in 2007.  Took ten years to cross off number 50, but I made it at last.

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