Friday, March 29, 2024

Clifford D. Simak and Grandpa Jones and Their Dogs

I wrote a few months ago about how much I like listening to Grandpa Jones sing about dogs, though I don't actually like dogs that much, or want a dog as a pet. I've been listening to Grandpa Jones fairly regularly for several months now, and thinking about why I like him so much, and I realized that one of the many reasons I love Grandpa Jones is that listening to him makes me think of one of my favorite science fiction writers, Clifford D. Simak.

The connection between Simak and Grandpa Jones? Well, several things -- a love of the land and nature, simple country characters, bucolic beauty, backwoods simplicity.

But mostly it's the dogs.

Dogs are one of Simak's characteristic story elements, along with aliens, which every SF writer of his generation wrote a lot about. And ghosts, which most SF writers of Simak's generation did not write about. But there are ghosts in a lot of Simak's stories. And robots. Lots of robots.

One of my first experiences reading Simak's work was more than 40 years ago, when he was still alive and writing. (He died in 1988, but published a novel that same year.) I checked out his then-current novel Special Deliverance from the Lilburn public library, along with Piers Anthony's then-most-recent book (Juxtaposition, I think, or else the book that came before it, Blue Adept) and I've been a fan ever since. (Special Deliverance is considered one of his minor novels, but I love it, probably because it was the first thing I read by him. It's got a great cover – there's a robot on it. However, the book doesn't have any dogs in it.)

I recently re-read one of Simak's most famous stories, the 1958 novella "The Big Front Yard," and in that story the main character, Hiram Taine, has a dog named Towser. There's a Grandpa Jones song called "Old Towzer." Sure, Grandpa Jones (or whoever actually wrote the song; I'm not sure if it was him or not) spells it differently – and Simak always spells it the same; lots of his stories have a character kind of like Hiram Taine, and they always have a much-loved dog, who is, it seems, always name Towser – but Grandpa Jones and Clifford D. Simak show a similar affection for their old dogs. Even those that aren't named Towser.

If only Grandpa Jones had some songs about robots!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Elyse at the Sneaker Ball

Tonight, Elyse went to her school's "Sneaker Ball" (or as I call it, the shoe dance) at Archer High School, the high school she will be attending when she finishes up with middle school. Here's a picture Anna texted to me after she dropped her off:

Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Kids at Michaels

Today the kids and I went to lunch at Stevi B's, where Elyse met a friend of hers, and then we went next door to Michaels (a store whose name sounds possessive, but doesn't seem to have an apostrophe in it; in other news, yes, I know that nobody but me cares if I get these details right or not), where Gabriel took this picture:

After we left Michaels, we went to KPop Nation Duluth, where Elyse looked around for a while and bought some stuff:

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Traveling Misanthrope

I do a lot of driving. It always brings out the misanthrope in me.

I go on a lot of recreational drives, like into the mountains of north Georgia or up U.S. 441 toward the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (one of my favorite drives in the world) or on various backroads that seem like they might be interesting. The roads on these drives tend to be twisty and turny and I don't always know them that well, plus I'm trying to enjoy the scenery, and I'm on the lookout for any thing or place worth stopping at to visit or to take a picture of.

So I don't drive especially fast.

Oh, most of the time I'm driving the speed limit, sometimes a tiny bit faster – I may go 50 in a 45 MPH zone, but that's usually as fast as I'm willing to go. But that never seems fast enough for most of the cars that end up behind me. When I'm out there driving, trying to enjoy the scenery while also keeping my eyes both on the road and on the car's mirrors, it seems like all the other cars want me to drive faster than I am, and they sure as heck don't like it when I slow down to look at something that I might find interesting enough to take a picture of. I get passed or tailgated by just about everybody. The only scenery the other drivers care about, it seems, is the trees and mountains whizzing by in a blur as they speed off towards…wherever it is exactly those other drivers are going.

And it makes me hate them, every one of them. Stupid tailgating cars! I drive like I have a sense of self preservation. The other drivers seem to think they're immortal. They drive as though when they're around, all laws, including those of driving, the road, and physics, are suspended. My driving is informed by the knowledge, like Mr. Flood's gentle handling of the whisky jug in that Edwin Arlington Robinson poem, that "most things break." And that includes people who drive like idiots, or who drive too fast on twisty, turny roads they aren't familiar with.

It's pretty much the same on the roads I travel regularly, the roads I am familiar with. Even when I'm just heading to work, I still drive like someone who knows you should exercise caution when piloting a ton of metal down the road -- which is to say, I don't drive fast enough for everyone else.

I don't really know what the people in the cars behind me are thinking. Probably I spend a lot more time thinking about them than they spend thinking about me. There's probably nothing personal when they zip by me at 100 miles an hour. I doubt they really think, "Oh no! It's that Chris Burdett guy who always drives so slow," when they see the hind end of my Hyundai Elantra on the road ahead of them.

I doubt they enjoy passing me.

Do they?

Friday, February 9, 2024

Vines Park

Today I went for a walk at Vines Park. Here's a picture of the Whimsical Garden:

Shortly after I took the picture above, half a dozen Canada geese flew noisily in and landed on the lake:

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Eve

Here are four pictures from our Christmas eve dinner at Granny and Pa's house:

And here is Elyse posing in front of the fireplace (at our house) in the dress she made for Christmas eve:

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Six Winder Pictures

Today, Gabriel and I went to Winder to go to a used bookstore; while we were there, we also ate some ice cream, and I took some pictures of Winder's old and beautiful buildings:

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Tame Adventure: Wynne-Russell House Holiday Open House

Today, Gabriel and I went on a tame adventure, first going to the historic Wynne-Russell House for their holiday open house, and then to nearby old-town Lilburn to look around for a while at Antiques in Old Town. Here are some of the pictures I took on our outing:

And here are a few pictures that Gabriel took:

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving Day Portraits of Elyse

Here are three portraits of Elyse made today by Gabriel, two in Granny and Pa's backyard and one in Granny's craft room.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Feeding the Ducks at Meridian Park

Quacking and waddling
hurriedly in our direction,
the ducks seem to intuit
that the containers we cradle
contain cat food meant for them –
though cats they are not.

They don't care what the food is called,
or what animal is depicted
eating it on the bag,
or about the therapeutic value
we find in feeding them.
They gobble down
the food we toss out
and waddle away when it is clear
the containers are empty.

I doubt they think about us
at all when we are not there.
But I – I have pictures
and this poem.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Ducks and Geese at Rhodes Jordan Park

Today, Gabriel and I went to Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville to see some turtles and ducks. We didn't see any turtles, but here are some pictures I took of the ducks we did see:

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Pictures From a Road Trip--Hiawasee, GA, and Sylva, NC

Today I went on a drive north into the mountains. Here are a few of the pictures I took, the first three in Hiawasee, GA (including where I had lunch!), and the last two in Sylva, NC:

It was closed when I drove by it a little after 6:00pm, but looked good enough to prompt me to turn around and stop and take some pictures!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Sun Puddle on the Stairs

The cats love the sun puddle so much that I can't even get by!

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Westchester Elementary School

Today I took Gabriel to meet a friend of theirs at Hidden Cove Park in Decatur. The park doesn't have its own parking lot, but it's right behind Decatur's Westchester Elementary School, and, when school is not in session, park visitors can park there.

That's just what we did. I intended to take pictures of the park, which I did, but my favorite pictures from the day were taken at the elementary school: