Not altogether Charlie

One day, driving in the hollows above Tyrone, looking for an entrance to the state gamelands, we drove down a rutted, unpaved road and past a rusty trailer whose occupant had come outside to stare at us. The yard was muddy and full of junk — old cars, refrigerators, whatever was too big to fit in the trailer. The man stood next to the road, head cocked to one side, mouth gaped open. “He’s not altogether Charlie,” my Dad remarked. A few hundred yards further, the road dead-ended with no gamelands signs in evidence, so we turned the Scout around and headed back. The man was still there, waiting for us. We stared; he stared; we didn’t stop.

Thirty years later, for no good reason, I think of that incident. The sky is orange with sunrise. I’m standing out by the road, gawking at another “v” of swans heading north.


Via Negativa hasn’t been altogether Charlie for the past five days or so, but we hope to have it back in shape in a few hours. After that, it should be faster and more reliable than it was before. I’m grateful to my cousin Matt for trouble-shooting and for continuing to let Via Negativa live rent-free at his place (which is a bit fancier than a trailer). He just replaced the virtual couch, but it may us take a little while to break it in.

Thanks to everyone who wrote to express concern. I really appreciate it.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Look! A working comments form! And the angels sang hallelujah…

    Oh wait, that’s more tundra swans.


  2. Sorry about your troubles! Happy to have your comments working again! The technology is wonderful, except when there are problems.


  3. Hope the Charlieness was confined to computer mind-machine matters and not to your good self? Glad to see comments working again.


  4. Keith – I wonder how common a phrase that is? Probably pretty out-of-date. The book does sound like a good coincidence, though – something about the name “Charlie,” I guess.

    marja-leena – You said it! What gets me is the need to continually upgrade to new hardware and (in this case) software. I was perfectly happy with WordPress 2.0! Adapting this theme, which I like so much, to the new version was as much of a pain in the ass as I thought it’d be. But the new server should be much more reliable – I think I was losing readers before, because it was often slow-loading and sometimes not there.

    Natalie – Well, that depends on who you talk to. But in this case, it was my own laziness/stubbornness that got us into trouble. I knew how vulnerable older versions of WordPress were to hacking. It even happened to Al Gore’s website not too long ago.


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