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Now that I’m a day out from having to get my MNA entry prepped, the thing that’s bugging me most is the waiting, waiting, waiting four months for results.

I’m more into immediate gratification, prompt response to my efforts. You know, kick someone, they say ow. That prompt response to my efforts to provide stimuli is gratifying. It clearly makes sense. This is why we learn not to burn ourselves and that ice cream is delicious. Good or bad results, we want the immediate gratification of a prompt response.

Can you imagine if it took four months to learn that putting your hand on a hot stove hurts? That’s why people with sensitive stomachs have a hard time giving up spicy food — it takes at least two hours for the heartburn to kick in. Delayed response is ineffective, counterproductive and just plain mean.

Besides, this is the newspaper industry, you’d think they’d be more into promptness — we do deal with currently relevant information, spot news and late breaking headlines that still have to come out on deadline.

I guess I can spout some platitudes to get me by. Life goes on. Let the chips fall where they may. If you love something, submit it as a contest entry. If it comes back to you attached to a trophy, it’s your just reward. If it doesn’t, blame the judge’s lack of humor and poor mental faculties.

Wait, that’s how I responded last year at pam(at)


In the irony that is my life, I, the weekly/monthly columnist and blogger, have issues with being noticed. I spent the first pathologically shy years of my life trying to disappear when in public. Somewhere in my 20s I learned to get beyond it — not over it mind you. I just learned to sort of ignore the awkwardness and, more importantly, to avoid situations outside of my comfort zone to varying degrees of success.

So here I am, now, throwing myself out in front of the crowd by trying to show the world (well, not that the whole world is going to find me and become a loyal reader, the world has a lot of weighty matters to deal with everyday, I get that, and I’m sure you get what I mean by world and that brings us back to: show the world …) the me that I generally reserve for friends and family: the smart alec at the back of the room.

I’m generally fine online. I’ve gotten pretty good, after two years, dealing with people I know or don’t know commenting to me on my column. I have an occasionally awkward personal moment when I get an email from a stranger who isn’t one of those sex/lottery/scam spammers, but I can get over the brain dysplasia in private. So on the whole, I’m coping with the notariety, meager as it is.

This week, however, I’ve had to do something I can’t seem to learn to tolerate, can’t avoid and do hate terribly: enter my column in the Montana Newspaper Association annual contest.

Why doesn’t someone just kill me now? It would be a mercy.

I vowed last year, as I was watching my entry head out the door, that I wasn’t going to do it. I told our lead reporter and he agreed with me. Then the boss told me a few weeks ago that I had to. HAD. To. enter or he would pick out some columns and enter for me. Friggin’ lead reporter agreed with him. Traitor.

So all week I’ve been freaking out in my skin trying to pick three example columns as an entry.

The process starts with me getting together all my tear sheets, putting them in order by date, and then sorting through them on the first pass into two piles — the columns that make me want to vomit, and those that only made me gag a little.

I take at least one, preferably two, days to recover from the harsh evidence that I suck.

Then I go through the gag pile of columns to divide them into those that embarrass me to know that I put them out to the world and those that don’t make me want to crawl into a hole.

One day of recovery required.

I sort through the “relatively goodish” pile to pick the truly relatively OK ones and I beg John to read them. We come to a consensus on, usually 5-8 of them.

I require a healing sleep after this.

The next day I take those not-so-sucky-kind-of-OK ones to work and beg colleagues to place a vote. Then before I can over think it, I chose a top three bundle, bag ’em and tag ’em and walk away.

This week sux. It’s torturous. I am horrified that I have to put myself out there into the public as a contestant for “Best Column Writing” because no one in the MNA is smart enough to create a category for “Most OK-ish Claptrap in a weekly column.” Stupid gits.

Now I have to wait months and months for the torture to end. Four, to be exact, (4), yes, IV as the Romans would say, months before I can be assured that the judges are done gawking at my beeswax and freakin’ analyzing the degree to which I suck. Stupid MNA.

Is there a support group for this affliction at: pam(at)

Last night I took our niece Little Sonya Oakley to rifle club practice. After a year of not-so-remarkable shooting, for who-knows-why, she has increased her scores dramatically in the last few weeks. Now she’s qualified to compete at the match in Missoula next month. Big doin’s.

But she had some trouble last night in prone position with her shots being consistently too high. Little Oakley worked her tail off getting through all her positions, then coming back to prone to fix the problem, which proved to be beyond a simple changing of her hand grip. The instructor changed the sights on her rifle, and she shot another round of targets — her sixth. The poor child was so fatigued we’re not sure if it helped or not. (And yet she had energy to wait around to see how a classmate was shooting while I stood by the door in my coat sighing and rolling my eyes like a little-miss-petulance.)

Anyone who thinks that competitive shooting isn’t an athletic sport needs to come spend time on the range. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. Little Oakley shot for well over two hours, and I was amazed at her determination. Teenagers can surprise us sometimes. In good ways. I like that. Even when I’m sighing and rolling my eyes.

I didn’t get home until 9 p.m. I was asleep by 9:45. Apparently, I think being a spectator is physically and mentally exhausting too. She has a band concert tonight. Luckily the kids hit enough sour notes to keep me awake and thoroughly amused.

By the by, did you notice that I added a new page for samples of my columns?

Right there at the top under “Write on” at: pam(at)

This week marked the arrival of two clear harbingers of spring: a skunk dead along the highway and seriously shedding horses.

The first — eww, just drive on by.

The second, is great but I think I might have to kill Jilly, mostly because I haven’t figured out a way to torture the little Princess for her ravaging of the water trough. All that shedding itches and when the sun comes out, she’s to-o-o ho-o-o-o-t! So she paws the water trough to for a refreshing spritz-bath. Now I have ice around the trough, and I also expect one time soon she’ll be hooking a foot on the heating element and bending it to oblivion.

I spent the better part of today building a conduit pipe frame to put over the trough. My hope is that it will be enough of a nuisance to deter the pawing. We’ll see.

As part of the design, I flattened the ends of three chunks of 1″ conduit so they would lay securely against the top of the trough. Being sans metal forge, I used a large vice to start the flattening process then used a hammer and anvil to finish the flattening.

Can I just say: oh. mi. gawd. That was exhausting and more than just a little bit painful. The conduit was so hard to bend I had to use large wrenches for leverage turning the vice handle. I had to add all my muscle — and my fat — to the project, so basically everything hurts. And if my hands didn’t already hurt from all the reefing, the hammering would’ve been enough in itself.

Tip to Readers: When using a hammer and anvil to bend metal, be careful always to hold the metal flat on the anvil or the hammer blow will sting the nerve endings right out of your hands. Seriously, ow. It’s a lesson learned readily, but a skill that takes time to develop. More ow.

I’m making a list of projects to start on to help me get in shape for spring thaw when I start back to work on the corrals, a project I was looking forward to until today.

Soft and squishing coating around a hard-boned center at: pam(at)

So I was about to start this entry about the things we each think symbolize luxury, like a massage every week and clean sheets on the bed every day. These are a few examples I was going to expound upon as a lead up to the fact that I’m sitting in the living room “watching” TV and working on John’s new netbook to create this entry. It seems decadent.

Or rather it did before I started randomly hitting weird keys — probably dropping my thumbs onto the touch pad — that transformed this post into a saved draft complete with new window, and when I recovered it I was somehow typing in all italics. Then I jumped from typing at the end of the text to typing in the middle of my first paragraph, so I had to fix that.

I amend my title to tell you that this is not luxury so much as flirting with disaster because this post may just publish to the net at any ridiculous and entirely inconvenient moment. Perhaps if I could learn to control my wayward thumbs which drop onto the touch pad at the most inconvenient moments this wouldn’t be quite so disastrous, but I doubt that will happen. I’ve been down this small computer road before.

John and I also have this discussion on occasion: how handy is a small laptop? John loves them because he can type faster one-handed on the smaller ones which have small keyboards easily spanned with one hand. I have some trouble because I have to crank my hands in together so much to type. Not easy for someone with a broad ribcage, zero flexibility and hands with all the delicacy of a farm peasant built for hard labor.

This is not the entry I had envisioned, but it does have a nifty chaos tally: 1 jump to draft status, 1 random italics mode, 8 9 11 random cursor jumps, 1 3 random deletions of a block of text, 1 cramped neck, 2 deeper brow furrows from squinting at the screen and now add 1 random jump to another text box. (Additionally, for some reason I have a different font at the start of the article and then it switches back to the normal font. WTF?)

Where is my partridge in the pear tree at: pam@viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

According to my Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary

A newsreader is a person who broadcasts the news, not a member of the news audience who literally reads the day’s news in, like, the den or the bathroom or something to get information, rather than give it.

A newsdealer is a person who sells at a stand newspapers, magazines and paperback books (the last item being the media in which we regularly look for the latest news). A newsdealer is not some nefarious seller of news tips in a dark back alley, lurking two doors down from the crack dealer who keeps saying: Don’t get hooked on the news, kids, ink will blacken your soul.

And, just so you know, a newsmonger is a gossip, which is, by definition, a person who collects and spreads news for the thrill not the money, even though a monger is most commonly defined as a dealer or a peddler of goods.

Words are weird at: pam(at)

Wow, I almost went to bed without posting my word!

I give you:

pooh-pooh: v. belittle or dismiss with contempt [e.g. Don’t pooh-pooh my ideas.] It must be spelled with the hyphen and the Hs in use as any part of speech.

The best part about this word is not that it’s in virtually every dictionary of modern English. No, the best part is that it’s in The Associated Press’ official style guide for newspaper publications. Even the New York Times and the Washington Post.

AP has an opinion on pooh-pooh — I’m just childish enough that I enjoy saying that, and even if I do so without make any other noises than are needed to form the words in the sentence, I’m laughing on the inside. Guaranteed.

By the by, I remembered to get the citation info from the work dictionary which I quoted Monday: Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition.

I’m square with the world now.

And I can sleep in peace at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

mobocracy: n. 1. rule by the mob, 2. the mob as a ruling class (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

I get the first definition in its very literal sense, but the second one is the definition rank with possibilities.

Ten-thousand-and-one in number, the mob riots, bringing mayhem, death and destruction to the streets. The 10,001 mob members overthrow their rulers, declare themselves king (all 10,001 of them) and set up shop in the castle (well, only 10,000 of them because one guy is claustrophobic and sleeps in a tent on the royal lawn).

They rule.

They demand a seat on the U.N. Council, find a dealer who can hook them up with some weapons grade plutonium to prove they’re players of some importance and start competing at polo on the weekends.

Because they are king they wish to refer to themselves as “we,” as in the royal “we,” but they don’t want to emulate their former rulers whom they prefer to mock, so they call themselves the royal “I.” They adopt the motto: “An I for an I.” They think they’re clever.

But this is not a happy story; it’s ironic, so their language usage brings about their downfall.

All 10,001 mob rulers run around making declarations, such as “I am in charge here, so do what I want, when I want!” Which should suit the royal “I” mobocrats just fine in principle, but they can’t get beyond their upbringing. Eventually, as they say “I,” they each secretly begin to think of themselves singularly rather than collectively.

Literally, “I” becomes about “I” or “me,” but not “we” as in we the mob in order to form a more perfect ruling class … . Each of the 10,001 mobocrats hears his or her co-kings making “I-filled” declarations and knows that each of them thinking of him- or herself singularly also.

Rioting, mayhem, death and destruction ensue as each of the 10,001 royal “I’s” fights to become the one great and dreadful “I” who can, in the darkness, bind the others — and, once in charge, become the royal “we” ruling in singular peace. (Are you still with me?)

As the rioting depletes the I’s numbers and weakens their resources, a lost and long-forgotten royal of little standing from the former ruling class shows up, whups the mobocrats into submission and declares herself ruler, high-muckety-muck of all the land, if you will.

In her crown acceptance speech she doesn’t want to say “we” and risk causing another riot by sounding uppity, and she doesn’t want to say “I” and risk associating herself with the last pack of dumb-asses trying to take charge.

Her solution, because she is gifted in the language arts, is to use second person pronoun in reference to herself: “You are so very pleased to reclaim this throne. You shall wear this crown with pride and rule the country with justice and dignity. You hereby declare that ‘you,’ the people, shall partake in your coronation festivities while you exit to the loo, because you really have to nervous pee, right now. You thank ‘you’ very much.”

The people accepted and loved, well, liked her as their ruler because, despite her oddness, she was better than the mob — which is about as good of an endorsement as most rulers get, really.

And the queen ruled happily ever after on the average, to the end of your days at: pam(at)

Foudroyant: adj. (foo droi’ ent) [Rare] dazzling or stunning (and I’ll have to add the citation tomorrow because the book title isn’t legible on the copy I made at work. I know, fan-friggin’-tastic).

I swear that the dictionary at work has the awesomest words. My dictionary, which is technically bigger, doesn’t have this word. It has fou which means drunk (good word in its own right) and Foucault pendulum, but then skips to fought, foul, etc.

In some ways I find it distressing that two seemingly equivalent dictionaries will provide a list of different words. I feel like I need to suffer the hassle of having several tomes to cover the same language, my language, my only language. Am I the only one who finds this distressing? It’s like being duped out of invaluable knowledge put at risk by other people’s lack of thoroughness.

What if I were CIA and someone, a heretofore trusted operative, withheld complete and valid intell. That could queer my deal, blow my cover. People have died for less.

Guess I’ll just have to save my money to buy the holy grail of words, 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary and the addition to my house which I will need to have room to store it.

But it could save my life at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

In honor of the death-themed news which will follow, I give you:

cremains: n. pl. [blend of cremated and remains] (1947) ashes of a cremated human body (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate).

I think it’s funny, in our modern emoticon, netiquette, fugly, televangelist, ebonics, stagflation, Brangelina, Californication, spork world, to find that blended words are not new to this generation.

Can you imagine the conversation between the mortician and the bereaved family in which the word cremains was first used back in the 1940s? The family members were weeping into tissues or staring stoically at some point on the wall just over the mortician’s shoulder. When he said, “This brass urn is the standard vessel for the dearly departed’s cremains,” everybody’s teary, bloodshot and no-longer-distant eyes zeroed in on the guy, and they were all, like, “Huh?”

Some language innovations are inherently harder to introduce to the general public.

On that somber note, I give you my “History of the Dead” with 1984 Olympic shot put bronze medalist David Laut.

Mr. Laut, it seems, was shot dead at the scene last summer, and his wife, Jane, was arrested this week on a charge for his murder. She had originally told police that he had gone out to the backyard to investigate noise and was shot. Her lawyer is now saying that it was self-defense because Mr. Laut had threatened to use the handgun to kill their child and dogs and then her. She wrestled the gun away from the former shot putter and, well, shot put several bullets into his head.

So I was reading the article and thinking, wow, poor guy. And, wow, he was either really drunk or Janey baby is one bad ass chick to wrestle a gun away from a strong guy. And then I got to the little blurb about David Laut’s life, and I thought, wow, Irony is such a bitch, and I just can’t let it go without comment.

Mr. Laut won two NCAA titles at UCLA and a gold medal at the 1979 Pan American Games. He went on to win the bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics, and in 1985, he was still ranked the No. 7 shot-putter in the world and the No. 1 American. Then Irony delivered a low blow well south of the belt. He tore tendons in both knees during an agility test to become a fireman and thusly ended his shot-putting career trying to apply for a practical career for which his body would’ve seemed to be well-suited.

That’s just mean.

On that harsh note, we must move on to a more psychotic one as we examine my “Dead History of the Living” with Amy Bishop, disgruntled University of Alabama biology professor, rampaging gunner of innocent people and, possibly, sibling murderer.

Really, it’s kind of extraordinary that a woman opened fire on a crowd of co-workers in a fit of vengeful rage. That’s more of a guy thing. I’m just saying, it’s a statistical truth.

Her lawyer, however, might take a note from Jane Laut’s attorney and claim justifiable homicide for killing her three colleagues and wounding three others. She was, after all, being denied tenure — a clear threat to the life of her career.

Tenure doler-outers might’ve voted the other way had they known she owned a gun, and that she had killed her brother with one 20 years earlier. Therein lies the story behind the story.

Seems there’s shady history surrounding the dead-brother incident because of conflicting reports between whether Ms. Bishop’s actions were a result of a shotgun misfire or a shooting rampage. Hard to tell sometimes, I know.

On one hand, there’s bang, oops, omigawd, you’re hit!! Let’s get to the hospital!. And on the other hand there’s bang, bang, bang, shotgun pointed at a motorist, running through town and an arrest of the suspect behind a local business.

Statistically, witnesses don’t report seeing the same details in high-stress incidents, but no further assembly of facts or deliberation was required because the police chief took charge of the case and declared the shooting death an accident. And then all the records were lost.

Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all. Can we assume that the paper cremains were filed at the local landfill?

Bloody Irony at play on Valentine’s Day at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

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