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February 5th, 2003

a cardboard box of milk

When I was in college, my university was justly proud of its agriculture department. While in matters of the liberal arts and sciences, it was a "typical land grant state university", more noted for its football team than its Rhodes scholars, its studies in things like agronomy and pig science had international prestige.
I knew one fellow who was studying to be a county extension agent, which always seemed to me to be a direct analog to the pursuit of a Ph.D in the liberal arts, except that one needed only a bachelor's, and getting a job was much easier. In both fields, one gets to pontificate mercilessly, and utilize theories that nobody has any idea if they really work, but in county extension work one gets as an added bonus to drive a pick-up truck from student to student. When I was in college, I would no more have dreamed of pursuing a degree in agriculture than I would have dreamed of becoming a beautician at the Ace School of Beauty and Nails, but hindsight has convinced me that those fellows were really on to something. The study of soils and plants and critters and agribusiness is a rich field unto itself. Of course, if I practiced what I preached, I'd go to my alma mater for an LLM in Agricultural Law, but I am much better at posting than at practicing. For that matter, if I could cut paper in a straight line, I think it would be fun to be a barber. I am very good at discussing politics, hunting dogs, get rich quick schemes like earthworm farms in the back of Field & Stream, and the Porter Waggoner show, which were the main qualifications when I was a kid for effective barberdom.

The agriculture department raised a lot of its own produce as an educational exercise. They had their own little store to which students could go to get reduced-priced items. Those of us who lived in dormitories had little need of "real" food, but some of my friends used to religiously get the cardboard box of milk. This box was shaped about three and a half feet long, and two feet high. It didn't have the conventional appurtenances of a milk carton, but instead had a little plastic tube in its side from which one siphoned the milk. Don't ask me why, but there is something immensely cool about siphoning one's milk from a drab cardboard box. Now I get my skim milk from a standard little plastic jug for my raisin bran, but I long once again for a "bulk food" box of milk, with a plastic tube for easy squirting.

I feel the hankering to study something lately. Maybe it's time to find some inexpensive distance learning program.

barrier reef

Let's hover together,
deep beneath the water,
where God created fish
as models for picture postcards.

I've tired of the man-made waves
that throw me up against the shore.
I no longer wish to swim among the
toxic tides and needless oil slicks.

I've walked in too many dusthills,
where the ants, always industrious,
prepare for internecine struggle,
their mandibles snapping to and fro
like weapons of mass destruction.

Let's just float away,
staring at castles underwater,
gliding past neon fish and towers of coral,
without struggle, without pain.

get into the groove

"This desire to design by reproducing one shape over and over seems natural with children and therefore should be utilized. This unconscious designing can be seen in the drawing or printing process where many times boys and girls repeat the same design over and over thereby creating an excellent pattern. The child may draw a tree over and over in a picture and then say "See, I have made a forest." However, this desire should not be confused with the fact that some children who are emotionally or creatively blocked are able to conceive ony one idea and therefore make it over and over again without any variations, thereby producing stereotypes", from "Meaning in Crafts", by Edward L. Mattil

When the beaten path becomes a deep rutCollapse )