Up at 5:30 a.m. for a bit of moonbathing. I take my chair and thermos mug of coffee around to the southwest side of the house, in front of the portico. A couple minutes after I settle in, a cat-shaped, detachable shadow trots down the driveway; even from ten feet away, I can’t hear a sound. Of course, that may be because I have a knit cap pulled down over my just-washed hair, which is already beginning to form ice-dreads.

The moon is a day past full and stands low in the west, in the same direction as the interstate, and sings the same, monotonous, high-pitched tune. It’s the howl of a lonely Yeti — or, more likely for this neck of the woods, a Stone Coat. (The din of my 8-year-old computer is at least an octave lower, though, so don’t think I’m talking about myself here!)

The black cat trots back up the driveway, pausing for a moment to glance in my direction, then accelerating just a little. The other day I surprised her in the middle of the field, and she ran flat-out for the barn. She seems to sense that it’s bad luck to cross my path, being fonder of native songbirds than non-native, feral cats as I am. But in fact I’m both too lazy and too softhearted to grab the gun. I keep expecting a coyote, a great-horned owl or a fisher to do the job for me, but somehow year after year the cat manages to survive this gauntlet of eager housecat predators. Just lucky, I guess.


Found in the archives of a blog called an open chart:

i thought cinderella’s dancing was far more beautiful when she was barefoot–there was such grace to it, such childlike simplicity. when she put on her magical slippers, i thought something was lost.


Sometime last night while I was sleeping, spam comment #40,000 (since June!) stormed the Akismet-protected walls of Via Negativa and was thrown back down with the rest of the barbarian mob. I’m not sure why this blog has become such a magnet. Maybe it’s the sheer number of posts in the palisade, each with a spot to put a ladder up.


The opening line of an email addressed to my mother from an angry all-terrain vehicle (ATV) enthusiast, in response to a message of hers that was forwarded to an ATV riders’ list:

Education is the key to all things successful, and I see that you lack education in some of this arena.

The letter went downhill from there.


That was one of two things that gave me a belly laugh yesterday. The other was a story from the furnace repairman, Earl, who had come up to replace my wildly inaccurate analog thermostat with a state-of-the-art digital one. In the course of installing it, he mentioned that one can adjust it so that its actual temperature setting is hidden, allowing unsuspecting users to set it as high as they want without effect — a feature in high demand from local landlords who pay for their tenants’ heat, he said. “They want to turn it up to 80 degrees? Fine, it’ll read 80 degrees! And most of the time, they’ll be satisfied with that, even if it’s still just 70 in the apartment,” Earl said.

One problem tenant was an elderly woman who complained of being cold all the time. The whole building ran off one thermostat, and the landlord couldn’t turn it up high enough to satisfy her. So he called Earl. “We gave her her own thermostat. She watched us cut the hole in the wall and fish the wires through. What she didn’t know was that the wires didn’t connect to anything — they were just hanging loose in the wall. She turned that thermostat up to 85 degrees and that’s where it stayed. She said it felt good to finally get warm.”


Sometimes I tap my foot while I’m writing. Yesterday afternoon, one of the tenants in the crawl space under the house — probably either a porcupine or groundhog — started tapping back from about five feet away. I adjusted my speed and volume to match. It felt like we were making music together, you know? I’m just like those people who play saxophones to the humpbacked whales, only doubtless more irritating to the wild creature in question. After a while, the porcupine-or-groundhog’s tapping petered out, so I stopped too. I’ll let it think it won that round.

Just now, I started tapping as I wrote the preceding paragraph, and wouldn’t you know it — my unseen interlocutor answered with some taps of its own. I wonder how it’s making the noise? It has two tones: the aforementioned tap, and a lower-pitched knock. It’s not a gnawing sound, but I still picture large teeth connecting with the beams somehow. I refuse to believe that it’s actually tapping and knocking with one of its forefeet.


I notice that the new thermostat makes a click whenever it signals the furnace to run. It’s a loud tsk sound. The furnace comes on with a groan and a sigh.

12 Replies to “Anecdotal”

  1. Your story about the tapping porcupine or groundhog reminds me of the mother raccoon and her baby who lived in our attic one winter while we were renovating. We’d get similar responses to hammering, banging etc. but when our youngest, who was a baby at the time, cried… we’d hear the baby raccoon crying too!

  2. Well, it could be a raccoon, then, too! I didn’t think of that. Or a skunk. I know they’re around, though I don’t know for a fact that they’re living under the house. Probably not a bear (wouldn’t fit).

    I’ll have a better idea of what’s under there when we get some snow, and I can see the tracks.

  3. In the summers here in Phoenix, I wish I could install one of those thermostats for the air conditioner, forget that I did so, then live off the cool breezes of placebo A/C.

  4. Brett – Hah!

    Have you tied swamp coolers? They don’t work too well here in the humid east, but might be just the thing for Phoenix. I’m told you can save up to 80% of the electricity you’d spend on AC.

    Teju – Thanks.

    Dick – That’s her original reaction to seeing the ballet. Click on the first of the two links (“archives”) to read the whole post.

  5. Brett’s comment reminds me of a taxi driver we had in Mexico who, when asked if he had AC in his car, opened his arms up to the windows and said, “aire condicionado de Dios!”

  6. Ahhh, swamp coolers. I remember them well.

    Lived in Phoenix (actually Tempe) for a year or so after graduating, and we had swamp coolers in our rent house. Lowered the temperature inside by a whopping 20 degrees compared to outside, which made for an interesting time when the outside temps were 110+ F. (It may have been the rent house was poorly insulated, but I happily blame the swamp coolers.)

    I slept fitfully, wrapped in sheets which I’d soak in cold water in the shower with a misting sprayer near the bed. The anvil-like heat would wake me up most nights, and I’d reach for the spray bottle. As long as I kept the sheet damp, the slight bit of relative cool from its evaporation helped me get back to sleep.

    Now, back to the photo Cuisinart, er, image processing…

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