The Butler Is Still Doing It

Journal Entry (Friday January 6, 2023)

I continue to wade my way through “The Remains of the Day.” I’m well aware that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on a book that doesn’t speak to me, and this one certainly doesn’t. I suppose the biggest problem I have is I can’t believe a person can be as self-deluded as the protagonist appears to be in this work. He is humble to a fault, generous beyond expectation, and gracious enough to make even the nicest people I know vomit. I’m waiting to see if the protagonist realizes his “faults,” but I don’t anticipate that is where the author is taking me. I keep reading because I want to find out why this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature and why the Boston Globe called it “one of the 10 best books of the decade.” I’m not going to wait until I get to the end to answer that, I’ve decided to ask the internet…

What a marvelous thing the internet. I have now been schooled along the following lines. According to a CNBC article (my first hit) the author is touching on the theme of “self-delusion.” (Well, I feel a little better, that is exactly what I was saying in the opening paragraph, before I hit up the internet for a second opinion.) The article claims Ishiguro is a mix of Jane Austin and Franz Kafka. I have no desire to read Jane Austin. Kafka I get. My exposure to Kafka in the past has left me confused and just a little depressed. I don’t expect “The Remains of the Day” to be a whole lot different. (There is a movie version of the book starring Anthony Hopkins. I may have to watch it just to torture myself a bit more, and because I like Anthony Hopkins.)

The Nobel Prize in Literature is considered the most prestigious literary award. It would be fascinating to ask the judges why this deserves to be ranked with Hemingway and Solzhenitsyn. The prize in literature is one of five prizes awarded annually. The literary award goes to “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” Okay. Whatever. There is some chatter that the Nobel committee may not be the best judge of what constitutes literature deserving of such an important distinction as the Nobel Prize. I’m in no position to comment on that but you can probably hazard a guess what my opinion on that is. Apparently today’s academy places a priority on what it calls “the pioneers.” It seems to me “The Remains of the Day” is more about perfection of a form (a study in manners) rather than a pioneering form, unless by pioneering they mean raising a form to new levels of perfection (not to be confused with boredom). The committee also gives attention to “unknown masters” which may be a factor in the Academy’s choice here. I can’t argue on that score because this is my first exposure to Ishiguro, I haven’t read any of his other work. When I look at the list of recipients of the award, I’m left with the conclusion that I’m hardly a judge of fine literature and certainly not one to raise a serious objection to the academy’s decision making process. I just hope that Ishiguro uses the substantial monetary award received for this work to write a truly great novel about baseball, bicycling, or skiing.

On Writing

Journal Entry (Thursday January 5, 2023)

What does it mean to be a writer? It’s not about the act of writing per se, or the product of the writing effort, these flow from the true task of writing. The true task of writing is finding things to write about that have value, or to put it another way, having something to say. When I can’t think of anything to say, I pick up a book and have a good read, often that leads me where I need to go, before I know it, I am putting pen to paper. The part about your words adding value can be a bit tricky. Once the “something to say” is realized, recognizing that it actually holds value for people other than yourself is the final ingredient. I’m still working on the second part.

Another Plan

Journal Entry (Wednesday January 4, 2023)

Change is hard. Not only that, but you can expect it to be uncomfortable. I want to drink less coffee, but what am I going to do instead when I want another cup of coffee after I have already had two or three? I want to row and do yoga daily, but that is as hard to get started as changing the coffee routine. (I have to take a break now for my third cup of coffee.) I suppose if it feels uncomfortable it is probably worth doing. Perhaps a good way to accomplish change is to break it down into small steps or increments. Saying to myself that I am going to start rowing and doing yoga is not granular enough. Something easier, and at the same time more concrete, might produce better results.

I’m taking a break to think about this a bit more, and have my fourth cup of coffee.

I think the approach to take is one that uses small two-minute steps. These are easy to do daily and lead to establishment of the new habit. For yoga, I’ll start by getting out the mat. For rowing I’ll get on the machine and row for no more than two minutes. It also doesn’t hurt to have a goal that can only be achieved by establishing the new habits, in may case I want to do these things so I can take a bicycle trip in the Spring.

I think I have a plan! I’m going to celebrate with a cup of coffee!

Reading Level

Journal Entry (Tuesday January 3, 2023)

I thought it would be fun to calculate the reading level for some of my recent entries. The results shown below use the  Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level Calculator. I’m happy with the results. I like the idea that my writing is accessible to most people. There is one caveat that has to be kept in mind, the calculator measures the reading level based on word length and the structure of the sentences. That does not mean the thoughts presented in the sentences make sense to the reader… Hopefully mine do, at least most of the time…

  • Friday December 30, 2022
    • Reading Level: 6th grade Easy to read
  • Thursday December 29, 2022
    • Reading Level: 7th grade Fairly easy to read
  • Wednesday December 28, 2022
    • Reading Level: 8th & 9th grade Plain English
  • Monday December 26, 2022
    • Reading Level: 7th grade Fairly easy to read
  • Sunday December 25, 2022
    • Reading Level: 8th & 9th grade Plain English
  • Saturday December 24, 2022
    • Reading Level: 7th grade Fairly easy to read
  • Friday December 23, 2022
    • Reading Level: 6th grade Easy to read
  • Thursday December 22, 2022
    • Reading Level: 6th grade Easy to read
  • Wednesday December 21, 2022
    • Reading Level: 7th grade Fairly easy to read

If you average these scores you get a reading level of 7.2. Good for blogs, not so good for graduate school. It does raise an interesting hypothetical question, could you write a passing graduate school paper if it used a reading level of 7.2?

Today’s Reading Level score (first and last paragraph) is 8th & 9th grade.

W. M. T. S. A. G. S.

Journal Entry (Monday January 2, 2023)

What makes Trump such a good speaker? His followers will tell you it is because he “tells it like it is.” Loosely translated, that means he is providing a picture that can easily be grasped by his listeners and shared with their friends at a later date. He is not making an attempt to convey truth, in fact if there are any truths being expressed it is most likely an accident. What he is doing, he’s doing in a marvelously simple way. He uses repetition and alliteration to deliver ideas, that, even if they make no sense when exposed to the light of critical thought, they are easy to digest and regurgitate. Take as an example the following:

We have to stop illegal immigration. We have to do it. We have to do it. And when I hear some of the people that I am running against, including the Democrats. We have to build a wall, folks. We have to build a wall. And a wall works. All you have to do is go to Israel and say is your wall working? Walls work.

It is impossible to find a truth in the preceding statement. There isn’t a single one lurking there, passing as a thought that might accidentally be discerned as truth. What it contains, is a lot of repetition and assertion of thoughts where no supporting fact has been established. As Harold Evans puts it, his audience is “seduced by his insistent certainty.” It is probably dangerous to say this style of speech is designed to appeal to a specific segment of the populous, but that is exactly what it is designed to do.

 Flesch Kincaid Calculator

Flesch Kincaid Score for my words:

  • Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 8.9
  • Flesch Reading Ease Score: 62.2
  • Reading Level: 8th & 9th grade (Plain English)
  • Average Words per Sentence: 17.5
  • Average Syllables per Word: 1.5

Flesch Kincaid Score for Trump’s words:

  • Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level: 1.4
  • Flesch Reading Ease Score: 97.9
  • Reading Level: 5th grade (Very easy to read)
  • Average Words per Sentence: 7.3
  • Average Syllables per Word: 1.2

The Plan

Journal Entry (Sunday January 1, 2023)

My daughter’s request to share with her my list of favorite reads got me thinking… what should I read in 2023 that likely would end up on that list once I had a chance to absorb them…. Here’s what I came up with. I’m going to limit myself to ten, there is no guarantee I will actually get through these this year, but it is a worthy new year goal, don’t you think? I’ll probably end up watching that many Netflix crime dramas, so I might as well read that many books…

  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

I probably should have chosen twelve books to make it a little easier for me to keep track of my progress, i.e., one per month. Having only ten books on the list is probably going to make it difficult for my simple brain to know how I am progressing at any given point in time…

Top 30 Reads

Journal Entry (Saturday December 31, 2022)

My daughter asked me to send her a list of my top 30 favorite reads. That is a tall order. It would take many more than these to draw up a complete list of my favorite reads, but I consider these a good start.

In no particular order…

  • Swiss Family Robinson by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Brave New World by Aldo’s Huxley
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

I said these were in no particular order, but in fact they are listed here in the same order they appear on the website The Greatest Books. There is one exception, “Killing Commendatore,” which I added myself because in my opinion it is an oversight by the list maker. Murakami’s books “IQ84” and “Norwegian Wood” did make The Greatest Books list. There are 2,688 books on The Greatest Books list (in case you were curious).

The Butler Did It

Journal Entry (Friday December 30, 2022)

I’m reading “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book ranks 168th on the list of best books of all time (1) and it won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but it’s still boring. (2) It’s a story about a Butler in England. If you can think of anything less interesting than that, good for you, I can’t. Oh, it’s well written. The author has the British upper-crust manner of speech down to a tee. I think that Is precisely what causes this book to drag incessently. I’ve read that you should never be afraid to put down a book that you don’t find interesting, there are too many in the world to spend your time reading one that does not speak to you. Generally, I subscribe to that philosophy. But for some reason I can’t put this one down, even though it is annoying the hell out of me. The reason I suppose is that I want to find out why it is regarded so highly. I just hope I don’t get to the end and find out I regret the investment. I can tell you one thing for sure, it won’t wind-up on my list of the top reads. (See tomorrow’s post.)

(1) I think this should be considered a trusted source, at least as far as book lists go. The list was compiled using what appears to be a pretty sophisticated algorithm, a “list of lists” approach which probably yields good results, at lest as far as something this subjective can be calculated.

(2) In fairness, I’m only on page 43. I looked it up on Wikipedia and I’ll admit it probably gets better from here. Still, I find the “air” a bit tedious.


Journal Entry (Thursday December 29, 2022)

Sometimes you just want to write and your mind is so full of horse shit nothing of value (including this) can find its way out. The question becomes at that point, how do you settle your mind into a place where it can begin to relax and let itself associate freely. I’m working on that right now. Routine might be the answer, or rather, having a routine. Something I don’t have and desperately need. I think mine should look something like the following. (Trust me, I’m just trying this on for size and this is in no way a commitment or a new year resolution.) Get up in the morning, have coffee and make some notes about the day if anything comes to mind, if nothing does, fine. Do some yoga and row, then have a morning protein shake. After that would be a good time to sit down and write. Finally, spend some time with the cat. If I were to practice this routine, I think it would constitute a pretty good start to the day, would also be doing some good things for myself (which is the whole point I suppose). I said this wasn’t a new year resolution, but in fact that seems to be what it is… Just don’t hold me to it…

Life’s Tasks

Journal Entry (Wednesday December 28, 2022)

I read recently that you have to look at life’s tasks as though they were floating in a river rather than thrown into a bucket. You will never get to the bottom of the bucket but you can pluck things out of the river as they float by. Some things will float past you but there is nothing you can do once they have drifted by. I would add to this beautiful analogy that if they are worthy of your attention, they will haul themselves out of the river and put themselves back into the current upstream to give you another opportunity to pull them out and work on them. If they are not worthy of your attention, they will drift into the ocean and you won’t have to worry about seeing them again.

A Choice

Journal Entry (Tuesday December 27, 2022)

Former United States Senator Gary Hart reflecting on the impact of the events that occurred on January 6, 2020.

“We Americans are at a moment of decision. The moment began years ago, and its final resolution will depend on the outcomes of at least several more elections. By the end, we will have decided collectively whether to continue our history as a republican democracy or to begin a dramatic departure from our past with the advent, whether gradual or sudden, of an authoritarian state. In either case, our future is our choice.”

Please, think about who Trump most admires if you step into a polling place in the future and you find his name on the ballot…

How To Love Your Cat

Journal Entry (Monday December 26, 2022)

How do you maximize your quality of life and still love your cat? As John Maynard Keynes put it, the man who is always looking forward “does not love his cat, but only his cat’s kittens; nor in truth the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom.” So to love your cat, (and your life?) you need to take a slightly different approach. You need to realize you will never get every aspect of your life and work fully dialed-in. If you can make this intellectual leap, you’ll have time to love the cat you have now, and likely lots of other things too…

Bringing Light

Journal Entry (Sunday December 25, 2022)

Two nights ago I was lucky enough to attend the Seattle Men’s Chorus Christmas Concert. It was such a joyous event. The music was terrific and the sing-along was so much fun. The house was full of energy and it felt like everyone that was there was sharing in the spirit of the event and the holiday. It was the perfect way to bring 2022 to a close. I don’t feel like describing all the things that made this last year sub-optimal, but the year in reflection took on a happier note after having attending the concert. I think that’s the answer. Times may be difficult (when are they not) but as long as we look for opportunities to view the passage of time in a positive light, there is hope that we can move forward and bring more of that positive light into the world.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Happy Coincidence

Journal Entry (Saturday December 24, 2022)

I met someone last night that reads my blog! (Apparently you do too, but the odds are these people are one-and-the-same…) I was surprised. I really did not expect to ever find someone that reads this stuff. My message has always been, I do this for myself. Perhaps that’s clear from some of my previous entries. This is not a novel. In fact, I can’t say there is a real point to any of this — other than the aforementioned selfish reasons. I take that back. Having a blog keeps me off Facebook and Twitter. (My parents told me not to believe everything I saw on TV, now I tell them not to believe everything they see on Facebook. (1) ) You probably will not be surprised (coming from me anyway) when I say those two platforms for social engagement are two of the most toxic inventions humankind has ever devised. I suppose about now you’re thinking, “he’s off his rocker.” Maybe I am. On the other hand, if you stop and think about it for any length of time, I’ll bet there is a small part of you that will agree with me. Back to my story about my lone reader. We attended the Seattle Men’s Chorus Christmas Concert last night. First of all, what are the odds I would attend an event and not know my companion was a follower of this blog. On the other hand, it seems likely someone that knows me well enough to spend the evening at a concert with me would have abandoned this blog long ago. There simply is no accounting for taste. Please don’t take that to mean you don’t have good taste, I’m sure you have excellent taste, just not when it comes to this particular blog.

It’s Christmas Eve, so I’m going to cut myself some slack. I believe if you hang in there and continue to read, in time, you will stumble across an entry that will be worth your time reading…

(1) I stole that joke, obviously, since my parents departed before Facebook became a “thing.”

Ya Sure

Journal Entry (Friday December 23, 2022)

Yesterday I went in for a stress echo cardiogram test. I was instructed to strip to the waist and lie down so they could attach the electrical leads to my chest. The technician looked at me and said, “it looks like you work out.” I laughed and said, “compared to what?!”

Stress Test

Journal Entry (Thursday December 22, 2022)

I did one of those treadmill stress echo tests this morning. It kindof knocked the crap out of me. I came home and slept for two hours. It doesn’t hurt that the cat was on the bed with me. I sleep better when he’s there, almost as well as when my sweetheart is there. I read recently that you need to write every day and have a blog in order to “be a writer.” Obviously that’s not all there is to it. I believe you actually have to be able to say something from time-to-time. That’s the hard part really. Take this blog post for example, is this good writing? Very little of me thinks that it is, but a small part of me wants to think that it is. I suppose a small part of me is allowed to be right, even if it’s not… I could be writing about important matters. For example, I have a relative that thinks the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen and the wrong man is sitting in the White House. Now there is something truly serious and important to write about, but all I’m doing is chatting about my own personal interests and aspirations. The only reason I can give you for that is I like to focus my energy where it has a chance of doing some good (in this case, on myself) not where I’m pretty sure it is going to be ignored.

Why I Write

Journal Entry (Wednesday December 21, 2022)

Why I write. I suppose the best answer to that question (I realize that’s not really a question, rather an imperative) is because it makes me feel good. It is a form of therapy I suppose (1). Little doubt really. It settles me, grounds me, whatever that means. I enjoy it and it gives me peace. I’ve been doing it now on a daily basis for over four years (2). I rarely miss a day. That’s really saying something I think. I would like to be able to tell you one earth-shattering thing that would convince you (and me) that it has changed me dramatically, but I can’t. It has changed me and it hasn’t. I’m still the same person I always was, just a bit better in some subtle ways. A bit more self-aware, a bit more willing to be just a bit nicer, occasionally. More content, and maybe (although there is no strong evidence for this point) a better writer (3)(4)(5). One other thing, I don’t spend as much time watching NFL Football as I did before I started writing…

(1) That is exactly when I started writing. My therapist (she called herself a counselor because she wasn’t licensed as a therapist strictly speaking) told me to start writing and to read what I wrote when I came in for our visits. I discovered from that experience there was more going on inside of me than I realized.
(2) Rest assured I spare you most of what I produce, and that is a good thing.
(3) You should see the crap I used to write.
(4) I have taken quite a shine to using footnotes. I think it’s a great way to append after-thoughts that you are too lazy to go back and find a way to incorporate into the main text…
(5) I’ll try not to do this too often…

How We Met

Journal Entry (Tuesday December 20, 2022)

I have probably told this story before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t bear repeating. I tried a few online dates before you and I met. None were satisfying. Then I realized it wasn’t the fault of the women I had tried to date — the problem was with me, or, to be a bit more specific, with me and the dating site’s search algorithm. It dawned on me that I really had no idea what was being served up to me because I was not being clear with my search criteria. I realized that to meet the woman of my dreams I was going to have to be a good bit more specific about what it was I was looking for! To that end I decided it was time to overhaul my search criteria. To accomplish that, I went into the search settings and unchecked every option. There were several options checked I didn’t even know were there, as well as a few that made no sense whatsoever. After completing the removal of every search criteria, I checked the box for “skiing.” The rest is history. (1) (2)

(1) I love this story as much for the technology lesson as I do for the outcome, which is to have met the love of my life. I realize some of you might think this is a stupid way to approach such an important subject, to you, all I can say is, it worked.

(2) I love this story so much I think I will publish it annually to commemorate your birthday. I will publish it on a random date in the winter to protect your privacy and as a nod to that first ski date, which is itself deserving of its’ own story.


Journal Entry (Monday December 19, 2022)

“What can I get you? I have Beer, Bourbon, and Blessings. You can have any two you’d like.”

The Universe

Journal Entry (Wednesday December 14, 2022)

The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. Those are not my words, those are the Universe’s words.

The Journal

Journal Entry (Tuesday December 13, 2022)

As soon as I start writing in the journal
I feel better.

I don’t know what it is about setting pen on paper
and scribbling.

I rarely know what the result will be
when I begin.

I don’t think that’s the point, or,
maybe it is.

Maybe it is my inner self waiting to see
what I will come up with.

Freedom of Speech

Journal Entry (Monday December 12, 2022)

You are free to say whatever I agree with, but if you say something I don’t agree with you should be censored. Did I get that right?

Why I’m Here

Journal Entry (Sunday December 11, 2022)

I’m here because I love this place, not because I want to change it.

Moral Ethical Choice

Journal Entry (Saturday December 10, 2022)

I made the correct moral ethical choice and I returned the grocery cart to the cart corral thus confirming that I am indeed a good person.

Moral and Ethical Philosophy

Journal Entry (Friday December 9, 2022)

The question of what constitutes moral and ethical behavior can be condensed very simply, as explained by Samuel Beckett.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.