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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Enchanted Rock, Texas

9/1/00-Fri.-Have made it through another workweek. It feels like each one takes another month off my lifespan. Perhaps I was not cut out for a social worker/caseworker kind of job, despite the idealism that led me to get a master's in counseling. Now, it feels as though I am trapped in this, as in a debilitating rut, marking (a generation or so of) time. The emotional repercussions of my job are extremely taxing. I do not know what I am cut out for; but, at nearly 57, at least I have discovered one field that definitely does not suit me, progress of a kind!

Larry was going in for work at the same time I was and pointed out that I have a headlight out on my car. Oh well! It was just four months ago that I had another one replaced. I was always told that, as we get older, things would wear out faster. Sure enough!

Larry, who does very well in our job and is cut out for it, was telling me how it happened that he did not become a physician. He said he was doing alright in undergraduate pre-med. studies, though he felt he was actually more intrigued with sociology. He added that he saw himself then also as quite attuned to things and seemed more in touch with his surroundings than now, in an esoteric way, as one might be who was trying a variety of "mind expanding" offerings, a little meditation, a little "pot," a little peyote, some Eastern philosophy, etc. One day, as he was going across campus to take his organic chemistry final, he happened to look up and saw a pigeon hurtling toward him. It fell right at his feet, dead. In the best tradition of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan character, he immediately realized it was an omen. He took the final, doing fairly well on it in fact, then walked to the administration building and changed his major!

Austin is the hottest it has ever been, for the first week of September, reaching 107° F today, and with high temperatures forecast for the next week in the 103-108° range. At half-past ten this evening, I am still uncomfortable in the house, even after a bath and with the AC on full blast. It is now not at all hard to believe that we are experiencing the first effects of global warming. I would much prefer global cooling! As we head into the Labor Day weekend, I find little to enjoy in this time off, knowing that I shall be much too warm during most of it.

Tomorrow, though, is our rationed watering day. I must also get the new headlight bulb installed. I have, as well, planned to be Fran's "manservant for a day," a gesture to hopefully help her spirits a bit, though I was glad to note this evening that she has perked up some and is, once again, interested in adding new stuff to the garden essays part of our Wagnerian Home Page site.

The idea of being her "manservant for a day" is similar to making her queen for a day. I am leaving it up to her how she wants to use my services during that time. I am at her disposal, at least after I get my car taken care of and until we need to go pick up my mom, who is due back at the airport late tomorrow, after her CA vacation.

This evening, before my usual listening to "Film Score Focus," on KMFA, I heard the special feature for the day from Composers Datebook. Tonight, among other things, they showcased Johann Pachelbel's very popular "Canon in D," which was already quite popular, even before it became a significant part of the Academy Award's Best Picture film for 1980, "Ordinary People." That movie, at the time it came out, had a profound effect on me. I identified alternately with the Timothy Hutton character and with his psychiatrist, and lamented the fragile, brittle, cold character of his mother, as played by Mary Tyler Moore, who, with horribly tragic irony, given the issues of the movie, lost her son to apparent suicide within a few months of the movie's becoming such a hit. In some ways I saw my own mother as like the one in the film. However, if she was, the cauldron of her own loss of her son, my brother Ralph, to brain cancer, and of the long ordeal leading up to his death, plumbed depths in her which forever would change her into a richer, more courageous person, whom that "Ordinary People" mom simply could never have become.

9/6/00-Wed.-Over Labor Day weekend and through yesterday, Austin's temperatures have repeatedly broken all-time high records for this time of year. On Tuesday, it got up to 112°F. One lovely place in Texas was braised with 115° worth of radiant energy. Even Houston, moderated as its weather is by proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, got up to 108. Fran and I are both fairly intolerant of warmth in this range (or on this range, as the stove analogy seems rather apt!). We had been considering places like North Carolina, Virginia, and Oregon for retirement; but now are also thinking Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont warrant serious candidate status. If this kind of climate is to be the norm in Texas, we may wind up moving to Alaska!

Frances and I are also quite frustrated of late by Yahoo!'s taking over of the WebRing, with calamitous effects on access to all of the rings in which we participate that did not elect to move their web clients to RingSurf. We are all for raving now about any alternatives to Yahoo!'s very commercial and quite crude bungling of the transition between the old WebRing and their new one. So, let's hear it for alternative rings and their facilitating of greater access, with much more competition for Yahoo's "bull in a china shop" approach to things.

9/7/00-Thurs.-Although I have severe misgivings about what Yahoo! has done to our WebRing, causing much extra work for ring managers and participants alike plus needless delays, or even complete loss of access for many sites, as well as changing the rings from basically non-profit ventures into grossly business enterprises, there are a few things about the GeoCities web site formats, and their pages' option to toot one's own horn a bit to fellow ring members via a small exchanged banner, that I like. One way or another, with Frances' inestimable help, I hope to be incorporating some or all of these advantages in a new section of The Vintage Diarist, through GeoCities, the site-building source of Yahoo!'s personal home page capacity, some other more "mildly commercial" webring/home page source, or through a new venue under The Vintage Diarist with my current internet service provider, AT&T Worldnet Service. I expect to call this new section Phil's Place. As proposed, it would be still in a journalizing mode but with entries more in a stream of consciousness style, while Steps will be kept with pretty much its present content, which generally is more organized and narrative in nature.

9/8/00-Fri.-Today was one of those, all too frequent, workdays that seem to take several weeks off one's life expectancy. The potential for extreme frustration in this kind of job is great and was realized once more this date.

Meanwhile, poor Fran is working despite a serious cough that keeps her awake much of the night, and has done so for the last week or so. She is also having to contend with near gridlock driving conditions, both going to and coming from her private music teaching in the Pflugerville school system, about twenty miles north of and across town from where we live.

Some time ago, after Dad's illness and death and after a lot of subtle and blatant innuendo from Horace and Leila, who, of course, currently live only about a mile from her, to the effect that she had become a lush and that her brain was going fast, so much so that they at that point no longer wanted to allow her to do babysitting for them, Mom was seen by several in the family, and finally also by herself, to have a serious drinking problem. Having, in my relative youth, had such a difficulty myself, I am perhaps more sensitive about such things than otherwise. (During a phone conversation I had with Ernie last night, he denied that Mom has, or has had, any significant problems along these lines. Perhaps if he admitted some problems on her behalf he would need to take a better look at his own drinking habits. In any case, after coming to terms with the arguably excessive drinking, Mom briefly considered participating in AA. Then she apparently decided it was not necessary. She has, in the meantime, on several occasions stopped drinking for periods of a few days to a few months, but then has returned to it each time. Ernie, who may figure Mom has already had a nice life and why doesn't she just pickle herself and be done with it, so her children can get some long, longed-for inheritance (in lieu of any significant savings and investing by most), grandly declared last night that, since she is in pretty good physical health for her age (which I certainly agree!), why not just figure she is entitled to "have a little fun" and not worry if she seems to have drinking binges at times or to ordinarily have a couple drinks a day otherwise? It is her right to live her life as she wishes. He has a point. I may be making too much of this. But I have seen her so plastered that she could hardly talk, much less safely look after kids, entertain guests, etc. I would really hate to see her get that way again. The fact that she can always recover from such times and usually maintains her intellectual faculties fairly well, indeed better than many her age, is heartening, but does not quite address the real issue of her addiction to a substance that is not good for her, mentally or physically.

Most recently, after the shock of Horace's admission that they were going to go to Colorado as soon as they could sell their Waco, which news probably led Mom both to question her judgment (in having assumed they would always be there for her) and to feel abandoned, as one after another of the children, whom she had counted on to be around (and to keep her grandchildren around) in her later years, have indicated a desire for moving out of Texas whenever practicable, she has again resumed a significantly higher level of drinking. After already having had a couple drinks on her flight in from CA, before I picked her up very late last Sat. evening, and admitting that she had drunk a "festive" amount while out West on vacation, she asked me to stop on our way home so she could get a bottle of wine. She then checked to be sure it "has enough alcohol" before buying one, and consumed all but about 4 oz. of it by herself before morning. 'Tis troubling! And she is so full of self-doubt and defensive already, beating up on herself far more than anyone else ever would, for real or imagined shortcomings, that, on the one hand, one hesitates to add to her bag of worries by mentioning something like this, and, on the other, one is likely to think twice before bringing it up since she often reacts angrily and with denial if the question of too much imbibing is raised. Well, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, one needs to accept the things one cannot change. It is her problem. She must deal with it. If and when it bothers her enough, hopefully she will, and will still be able to.

This evening I was surfing the web and chanced upon, and then enjoyed for several minutes, the Bob Newhart radio comedy site. I am particularly indebted to Mr. Newhart, since he helped get Frances and me together. We met through the personals ads! As it happened, at more or less the same time I was replying to an ad of hers and she to mine. But it must have been my ad that did the trick and resulted in our actually becoming acquainted. In it I had referred, among other, lesser enticements, to my Bob Newhart style of humor. After that, how could the poor woman resist?

9/9/00-Sat.-Playing the angles, this past week at work I volunteered for the extra duty of "coffeemeister" for our unit, replacing in those responsibilities a man who is being promoted out of our illustrious organization. I'll need to put in a little added time, apart from work hours, mainly at H.E.B., converting coins to paper money and maintaining an inventory of stirring straws, coffee, filters, powdered cream substitute, and sugar. During my shift, I'll get the brewed coffee started in our break room each morning, assure the popular area is cleaned up and has adequate supplies, maintain the coffee fund, monitor things periodically through the day, and start a fresh pot around 2:30 each afternoon. From the (hoped for) excess in moneys in our fund, I'll also provide extra cash for unit functions, like Secretaries' Day, Boss' Day, etc. By thus greasing the wheels of the unit's operations I hope to provide a useful service and, not entirely coincidentally, help assure my perceived value to the supervisor and to the rest of our esteemed "team" over the next 18-20 months or so before retirement.

Today I got up about half-past 7:00. Fran had another bad night with her cough. Pepper, reacting perhaps to medicine she's getting for an ear infection, threw up last night, but seems okay, if somewhat subdued, this morning.

I've gone over to Jim's for breakfast, before mowing our back yard.

We are having a "cool wave" now. The days are still sunny. But temperatures, this Saturday and Sunday, are only supposed to get into the nineties, instead of Labor Day Weekend's 110-112°F record levels.

9/12/00-Tues.-This evening in Austin we are experiencing our first true cool front of the waning days of summer, 2000. After multiple 100+°F highs, today's respite seemed so long in coming and is most welcome. The same frontal passage brought Dallas its first rains in about 75 days, during most of which temperatures were, if anything, even hotter than here. There is excitement literally in the air as one watches and waits, outside, for whatever this passage may bring. Pets, birds, and squirrels are among the first to react to the new circumstances, scurrying or flying about in celebration. I sat out on one of our pond rock benches enjoying the cooler gusts as they swept through the trees, wildly bending and thrashing the branches this way and that. Though I felt a few small drops, so far there has been no downpour here.

I overheard a colleague today talking about a vacation she had had in Indianapolis this summer. Their highs were around 89, their lows in the sixties, with one night getting down into the forties. She said housing was more affordable and that yards seemed nicer, with more trees and green yards, the plants generally seeming much less "stressed-out" than in our best little part of Hades. It occurs to me that, in retirement, we may do better in a place similar to that than in the much more popular Pacific Northwest, which already is having higher real estate prices and overcrowding problems. Actually, I am still partial too to central New York state, though the tax situation there is not great. We'll just have to weigh all the variables when the time comes.

Mom sent good news over the last couple evenings. She and Horace appear to be getting along better. He invited her over for a barbecue he and his family were having Sunday evening. He also let her know that it now seems their proposed move to CO will be put off at least about four years, which gives Mom a lot more time to plan her next circumstances. Good! I do not have a great deal of influence with Horace. Ernie, who is a fellow true believer type fundamentalist Christian, may. I would not be surprised if Ernie and Horace had a little heart-to-heart in the last few days. It is equally likely, though, that some hoped-for business arrangement, that would have made Horace's family's going to Colorado possible, just did not work out.

Frances, who now has half a dozen internet sites, and well over two hundred total on-the-web pages under her bulging technological belt, has made great progress on the latest home page, my Phil's Place poetic journal venture. It is now an up-and-running internet location. She likes the GeoCities way of assisting with web page-building well enough that she is now thinking of using them as the hosts for a site she is planning for her sister, to put out info. on the latter's show dogs, etc.

As usual, I am feeling extremely sleep-deprived as we slowly drag through the workweek, worrying myself, over the job, into insomnia nearly every night. Today I got out a near record seven cases. However, two of them were very old ones, that will badly skew the stats., making it that much more likely, in spite of my best efforts, that I'll wind up on probation after all the September figures are in. I am actually doing some of the finest work I ever have! It may not be enough, though, to overcome the backlog that developed during the bad old days of my respiratory illness and jury duty, last winter.

My new coffee-meister duties are proving interesting. Each day brings new surprises. It turns out that many more than just my unit utilize our coffee pot, sugar, cream substitute, etc. Some of these folks have little more regard for leaving things in good shape after getting their coffee and condiments, let alone paying for them, than some folks have for sanitation in the men's room, or for abiding by rules on the highways, etc. About 11 A.M., when I checked out the area, I found that someone had apparently dumped most of a whole pot all over the counter. Though a cursory attempt had been made to fix things up afterward, the coin-can still had measurable beverage in it, and all the loose change was wet the rest of the day, despite repeated efforts to dry out the change receptacle. Oh well. Might as well laugh.

Fran's cough is finally much better. She has, for about a week, been sleeping in the front room, but is doing well enough now to come back to our bed tonight. Yea!

In the last couple nights I have been watching some of the new PBS series, "On Our Own Terms - Moyers On Dying," about dealing with death, terminal illnesses, etc., both in ourselves and among our loved-ones. It is really good. For those not seeing it at first, and maybe even then, purchasing the videocassette series may be very worthwhile.

9/19/00-Tues.-Have had a very hectic time since the last entry. Fran's and my common site, Wagnerian Home Page, now has had over 4000 hits since mid-April. We just this past weekend put out our monthly issue of The Wagnerian Express. At work, the pace, if anything, has picked up as the month winds down. Today was particularly stressful.

The big news here in Austin has been somewhat cooler weather! Over the weekend and into the new workweek, nighttime temperatures actually fell into the fifties. Still, during the day the afternoon thermostat still registers mostly in the high nineties. And, while several parts of the city have gotten large amounts of rain lately, this is not the case for us.

There have been some frustrating lack of developments with the diary sites. After having registered this one some time ago with AT&T Community Port, I was discouraged last night to discover they could not locate it with their own search, though, of course, the site is one of theirs! A similarly sour note was sounded with attempts to locate Phil's Place on GeoCities and Yahoo. So, in disgust, I was feeling so let-down that I briefly wanted to throw in the towel on all online journalizing.

This is reminiscent of periods of depression when I was much younger. I used to keep journals all the time, having done so, off and on, since about age 10. But I also tended to go through cycles of such intense sadness that I felt I must start afresh completely or kill myself. I also had periods of intense highs interspersed with these episodes. I knew nothing, though, of clinical depression, mood disorders, bipolar syndrome, etc., much less dissociative disorder, which perhaps was also a problem for me for awhile, especially since childhood, for which I have scant recollection. I just understood extreme anguish and that I wanted the pain to end. I did, as they say in the movie and book Ordinary People, try to "off myself" a few times, though, clearly, not seriously. Had I done it like I meant it, as much anger and violence as I have had in me, I surely would have succeeded.

Instead, I destroyed many years' worth of journal-keeping. It was a symbolic act of self-immolation. And, because my memory is not the best, as is often the case among dissociatives and depressives, I thus really did "kill off" a major part of myself on a few earlier occasions.

This diary effort, and the stories I write for The Wagnerian Express, are part of my attempt to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

A young woman at my job site commented today that I seem much more chipper and upbeat lately than she is used to. She asked if anything special had happened to account for this. I was quite surprised by her observation. But, on quick reflection, I told her: "Could be! I'll know in a couple weeks."

I think that, in the last week or so, I have come to believe, though there is as yet no real evidence of it, that I shall beat the statistics battle and be successful in avoiding any new probationary status before my "coasting" (and final pre-retirement) phase of state employment can begin. I should know for sure when the stats. come out in a couple or three weeks. Till then, I am using every ruthless, expedient trick in my repertoire to improve the relevant figures.

It occurs to me that I need and want to utilize a very intensive program of meditation to really make inroads into the everyday consensual reality mode of my adapting to life, i.e. getting by. To achieve anything really meaningful before I die, I may need many sessions of meditation, one after another, perhaps with short breaks just so I can go to the bathroom as, with my bladder and prostate, seems all too essential now every 25-50 minutes or so!

I think it better, as the comedian suggested, if we were to live backwards, beginning with whatever death is, as if then awaking from a very long sleep, gradually getting a healthier and healthier and more and more energetic and smarter body/brain combination, and ending with an orgasm.

I have been reading and enjoying the book, Who Dies? by Stephen Levine, and can heartily recommend it!

9/22/00-Fri.-A long awaited celebration is in order. The stats. are already in for the first three quarters of this last month of the official rating period. I have met or exceeded all standards through the first 51 weeks of the fiscal year, in fact doing so easily, swimmingly! Since I have also exceeded the production standard, the "coasting" may now commence. I'll simply hold the remaining work until the end of the new week, too late for this year's statistics, giving the next annum's stats. a production boost and assuring that the few "old dogs" do not spoil my now illustrious performance record. Even if they were to slip in, the result so far this month is splendid enough to offset them. There shall, in short, be no firing of this state employee before he is eligible to retire, with all benefits intact, as of 3/31/02. Yippee!!!!! (I expect Fran and I shall start the festivities this very weekend, probably with a dinner at Landry's seafood restaurant on Town Lake. But the full extent of the celebrating will not be over for quite some time!)

My glee is tempered by knowing that there still remain a little more than 18 months at my best of all possible workplaces and that Fran did not win the recent Austin Symphony audition, which would have been a great cap for her music career. Frances is still pulling herself out of "The Slough of Despond" (to quote Pilgrim's Progress) over this. But we both, hopefully, have many years of life left and can probably find abundant satisfactions in them if we are but a little bit keen in our looking!

I intend to genuinely relax at work in the time remaining, compared to the harried, frenetic way I have been going about my duties in the more than 25 years of government employ I have enjoyed up till now. I'll certainly get the job done, but, in contrast to my recent 110+% efforts, will try for just 80-90%.

Meantime, there will be a renewed emphasis on excellent health habits. Might as well, if possible, live awhile into the years for which I've been preparing lo these many moons.

Last night I had vivid sexual fantasy dreams. Nice. Mmm, good!

In reality, far from having the desire for exciting passion, it has, however, been, for both of us, another week of dragging poor, tired bods. through their paces, exhausting ourselves with the effort, barely making it to another weekend respite.

And, despite my glad tidings above, I am aware that there is no "fairness" about existence, nothing written in granite that says we are entitled to happiness, freedom from care or severe disappointments, from a possibly foreshortened or terribly disabled existence, etc. Were we to think otherwise, how could we ever be prepared for the ultimate end all must face? The Buddhists have it right: life is struggle and suffering. We may dance in the moment, have our festive occasions, and perhaps, should we be especially lucky, even achieve some enlightened joy over the whole encounter. Yet the world ultimately is a place where things eat one another to stay alive, until they too succumb to the same fate as their previous dinners. If there is any personal plan for each of us in all of this, beyond the ways we do or do not pass on our genetic codes, it is well hidden and apparent only to a very few visionaries or wishful "thinkers," or a host of self-deluding true believers. There may yet be a sense of meaning possible, without adherence to some -ism or -ology or special faith, perhaps with jewels bestowed upon those who concentrate in disciplined mental or emotional meditative exercises. I am certainly not yet advanced enough to know. But for the vast majority of us poor sods, it seems, as William Shakespeare said, in "Macbeth," Act 5, Scene 5, to be but "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Meanwhile, with no rush, the next big question in our lives would seem to be where to move for the beginning of our retirement years. We have discussed it and seem to have a difficult time coming to a steady, realistic conclusion to which both will agree. Frances probably now has no further interest in trying out for orchestra positions; but, if she did, in my view one solution to our quandary may be simply to go to wherever she gets a regular, permanent symphony job that she'd like, staying here until she does, or until another solution comes that is so obvious to us both that we smilingly concur in the choice, even without such an incentive.

9/24/00-Sun.-A quite frustrating time for Fran and me with respect to the computer system generally and web rings specifically, ever since Yahoo, bless it, took over WebRing and, in the process, screwed up royally most of our ring connections, without giving us the means to rectify the mess they have created. Between Frances and myself, we must have already put in a fruitless 15-25 hours trying to simply reconnect to rings that no longer work for us, but without even being able to find the graphic Yahoo now insists on our adding to our site, much less copying and pasting it onto our pages and rejoining all these rings that are dysfunctional for us, but for which we continue to give free advertising on our sites! By rights, Yahoo should have to pay for all the hassle and costs, emotional and otherwise, of their takeover. We are by no means the only ones griping. Thousands, if not millions, of web site owners and WebRing users seem to be rather down on that company at this point. But, as things are, it will instead probably just take us, along with so many others, months or longer to get back where we were, before Yahoo got its dirty hands on our stuff. We shall apparently have no recourse than the inadequate satisfaction of mentioning to all and sundry what a load of (blank) Yahoo has dumped on us. Today, again, we have tried and failed to even get to first base in resolving this (blank, blank) situation.

This morning began inauspiciously for us otherwise, despite a very pleasant time yesterday of, and following, afternoon delight, with an intense, if brief, tiff between Frances and me, shortly after we'd gotten up, a little after six. With stony silence we adjusted to that for awhile, until we'd gotten to the Target shopping center area where, with Pepper, we intended to take a walk this morning. There were cute bunny rabbits just in front of where we parked. They promptly ran off in opposite directions, to Pepper's frantic ecstasy. Next, as we had started off on our perambulation, we saw a nearby cat; and Pepper gave chase. A little further along, we came upon a beautiful skunk, the first one I have seen outside a zoo in decades, though Fran had spied one in this same area a few months ago. Indeed, on that occasion, it had left a bit of its scent on the dog. Pepper this time got very close, but not too close, to it, before we decided to leave the poor creature alone. A short time after this adventure, we saw a nighthawk. On our return several minutes later, at a marshy area near a vacant lot full of trees, we saw a green heron. We had also seen another rabbit and a dark brown or black rodent of some type, which darted into the brush too quickly for a good look, but which was probably some type of rat. All in all, it was a splendid wildlife encounter for a relatively short hike, still in the city!

Weatherwise, this promises to be a more interesting day than usual as well. The high for today is expected to be near 100°F (and the low last night was about 80°!), disgustingly warm for this late in the year. However, a cool front of some significance is expected to pass through Austin by this evening, so that we have a better chance of rain than for some time; and the high for tomorrow is only to get up into the 70s. Alright. I'm ready!

I had a neat dream last night, about a weirdo, a big church, a pastor, etc. For now, though, I'll not go into detail, as I hope to make an entry related to this on the Phil's Place site.

9/28/00-Thurs.-A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the last entry, so that it feels like a couple weeks have gone by, not just four days.

There has, again, been a lot of interesting dreaming, which, unfortunately, is mostly forgotten, but with the impression left that much of (mysterious) significance has occurred!

Fran finally was successful, early this week, in accessing the new Yahoo ring graphic or "box" and adding it to our sites, so that, after much frustration, we once again feel pretty well connected. Hooray!

Yesterday, I also began submitting the diary sites to major search engines, including Lycos, Google, and Go.Com.

Monday morning, only about a mile from our house, in a somewhat wooded area and before sunup, while on the way to work, I had to swerve to avoid hitting a large deer which suddenly appeared, only about ten feet or so in front of the car. Fortunately, there was no traffic nearby, on the two-lane road, from the opposite direction. I must have missed the animal by only a couple feet.

Fran seems to be in somewhat better spirits lately. She still has lingering problems with her cough. She was yesterday hired to substitute for a concert in about two weeks with the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

My brother, Ron, had surgery yesterday on his left wrist, for carpal tunnel syndrome, which has bothered him a lot more than it has me, particularly since I have been taking Vitamin B-6 and cod liver oil daily for it. He has the added stress on his wrists from a heavy mail carrier route. Ron will have surgery on his other wrist in about two weeks and will be off work, altogether, about a month and a half.

This week, despite my new "coasting" phase, has been extremely hectic. I feel that only one of the four days, so far, has been really productive. Still, I am at least managing to muddle through.

Cutting this entry short. One of the advantages of having a brilliant spouse is that she can help with or oversee neat web page design and construction. But, as in any roommate situation, it is necessary to share! We have but one computer system. She needs time with this toy herself. She received an e-mail from a distant admirer today, asking her permission to use one the photos she took, and put online on a garden site via scanner, as part of a logo for a commercial site.

9/30/00-Sat.-Who's to say, given the meager fossil record after tens or hundreds of millions of years, what yet unguessed kinds of species may have evolved among the dinosaurs or others, now extinct? In all the time of their age, far more vast in duration than that of the great apes, who's to say that, amidst the aggressive hunter-gatherers of such previous epochs, one or more may not for awhile have developed true intelligence? Indeed, considering that at least ninety-nine percent of all species to have ever existed on this pearly world are now gone forever, might not several smart and social species have risen to prominence, known their periods of hegemony, and receded again into oblivion before the first lemur thought to spend more time on the ground than in the trees, leading eventually to creatures such as you and me? "No," you may say, "if there had been a glimmer of brilliance before, we would know it from the physical evidence of their civilizations. Where is the plastic, the glass, fine metals, concrete, etc. that would prove such beings once existed?" But this assumes their civilization must have been like ours. Indeed, our own intelligence did not emerge fully formed in its present guise. Have we more keenness of wit simply because in the last few mere thousands of years we have turned our savvy to the means of manipulating our environment and recreating it to suit our (possibly ultimately short-sighted) purposes? Were our own ancestors, but ten thousand years ago, moronic just because their complex languages and customs left no significant record of modern technology? We note that, elsewhere in nature, wherever a new niche develops, it is relatively soon filled by a unique adaptation. Only in our modern time do we find that, worldwide, but a single species fills the niche of aggressive, social, highly intelligent hunter and gatherer creatures. Vast gaps exist in our knowledge of the prehistoric. Is it reasonable to assume that this niche was never, in all the globe and all that time, replicated elsewhere and "elsewhen?" It is sheer anthropomorphic hubris to assume there were never any great intellects before ourselves, that may, like us, have had their days of glory, but perhaps only for a few hundred thousand years at a stretch, before their examples of evolution's experimental nature succumbed, as will our own, to the judgment of existence that all are fleeting, shimmering dances of light upon the waters of time.

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