“A Flea and a Fly in a Flue…”

Diary 7/18 to 7/22/22: Torey Hayden; thermometer from Wal-Mart; Camus’s Notebooks and boredom; ancient Egypt; Lost in Austen; at war with the fleas; sun exposure and hunger; favorite music; an enviable life.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Comment: Today’s title comes from a nonsense rhyme I encountered as a child; this link (to MamaLisa.com) has more, including many versions.


Torey Hayden has written about twenty books, of which I’ve read about ten.  In seeing what’s available, I discovered her Teaching Children Who Are Hard to Reach: Relationship-Driven Classroom Practice, coauthored with Michael J. Marlowe, and had the thought, “today all kids are hard to reach.”  It’s a half-truth, and perhaps is no change from when I was a kid.  But my impression is that we live in harsher and less forgiving times.

The thermometer that I ordered from Wal-Mart has been slow to arrive.  In checking I find that it has taken a detour through Flushing, New York, but has arrived this morning in Bakersfield.

The thermometer arrived, also Bertrand Russell:  Our Knowledge of the External World.  The thermometer is marked in Celsius.  Somehow this was not noted in the product description, unless I’m an idiot.  Easy enough to print a conversion table (though I had misremembered the factor as 8/5, not 9/5 which is correct).  I gave it a two-star review, with some whining.  I am not double-checking the advertising copy.


Reading Albert Camus:  Notebooks 1942-1951, he said that in riding a bus to somewhere, he let his imagination run wild and the hours passed before he knew it.  I would have been reading or working sudoku.  I have noted before that boredom tends to stimulate the imagination; I don’t allow myself time to get bored.  I race from book to book, or DVD to DVD, anything to fill the time, or kill the time.  Now, reading is good; sudoku is good in moderation; boredom is good in moderation, too.  So, if there is any value in this observation, what is the conclusion?  Allow time to be bored?

I’m plenty bored when Pablo is repeating for the tenth time in my hearing (or the third, more accurately) his summary of some book he’s read; is there a way to use this time productively?  Perhaps observe his listeners to see which are listening, which are inattentive, etc.?  Or observe the other patrons in Panera Bread, where such lectures occur these days?  Take out the graph paper and try to draw a periodic table of the elements?  This would be rude, but perhaps might shut him up?  Better would be to doodle or think about other things, maybe.

Photo by Andreea Ch on Pexels.com

Watched three episodes (of six) of a History Channel DVD set, Egypt Beyond the Pharaohs.  Thoroughly fascinating and informative; unlike most National Geographic shows I’ve seen, this was more basic and generally more entertaining.  I rented it from the library for $2.00.

Not so entertaining was Lost in Austen, about a woman who saturates herself in Pride and Prejudice and finds a way into that world.  I was dismayed to see that it was three hours long, but that would have been an advantage if the actress or script had been more appealing.  I may end up watching more than the thirty minutes I gave it…


“Flea” Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

Last night, while resuming reading of Kurt Vonnegut:  Timequake, I saw to my surprise and dismay a flea on the book.  In looking at my bed I saw many more fleas.  I proceeded to kill sixteen fleas that night, and one more this morning.  I have been in this apartment for six years and never saw a flea in it prior to last night.

My theory is that these fleas had hatched from eggs laid in the book, perhaps from a flea I had carried in from somewhere.  I guess a flea will lay all its eggs at once, and they will hatch out at one time or within a few minutes or hours of each other.  If a flea had laid eggs in this book earlier this month, or possibly last month, when I started reading the book, they would have hatched while I wasn’t reading it (I had laid it aside for perhaps ten days or a bit more), then when I picked up and opened the book, the fleas were unleashed.

Today I washed my sheets and other bedding, along with all my other laundry, but it is not to be supposed that all the fleas are gone.  Since I saw several pink marks on my skin last night, which I presume were flea bites, I’m assuming that these are “human fleas,” i.e., the species that specifically infests human beings.  I’ve heard that each species of flea has a specific species of host.  We’ll see what happens!

Reading Bertrand Russell:  Our Knowledge of the External World, and Torey HaydenTwilight Children:  Three Voices No One Heard Until a Therapist Listened, which I’ve read before.  Reading her Lost Child (new in 2019) recently gave me the bug again, but I have no plans to go further with it.  The Russell is rather “dry.”  Still intending to finish Camus’s Notebooks also.  These last two are from the library, yay for me.

“Sunburn” Photo by Riccardo on Pexels.com

Item from Neuroscience News:  “In males, sun exposure activates the p53 protein which signals to the body to produce the appetite-associated ghrelin hormone. In women, estrogen blocks the interaction between p53 and ghrelin, reducing the urge to eat following sun exposure.”  I’ve experienced this recently, that is, unusual hunger following unusual levels of sun exposure.

Also useful, perhaps:  “Listening to your favorite music increases connectivity in the brain, especially for older people. Researchers said music appears to bridge the gap between the auditory system and the reward system in the brain.”  Now, if I could just decide which of my music is my favorite!?

Time for Chris Hayes (5:00 pm).


I was wrong about the fleas.  It’s possible that the ones I saw did come from the book, but they were only a small part of the total population of, seemingly, several million in my apartment.  I tried vacuuming and fogging the place, but have seen no particular evidence of a reduction in population.  The foggers I used, Hot Shot brand, were singularly unimpressive—one of them stopped working, apparently having exhausted its contents before I even left the apartment.  Today I bought more foggers, specifically for fleas, and a can of spray.  I’ll use the foggers tomorrow.

Took a nap; when I was waking, I thought I had a ticket stub in my hand, which I didn’t recognize. When fully awake, before even opening my eyes, I realized that there was no such thing.

Finished reading Torey Hayden’s Twilight Children today.  As generally happens with her nonfiction books (I’ve never read her novels), it ends with warm fuzzies all around.  If stories of a therapist/teacher working with emotionally disturbed preteens has any appeal, you’ll surely like her books.  In this one, I thought that she talked entirely too much to “Cassandra,” and I even skipped one long paragraph of her dialogue.

After finishing the book I realized that I envied the author:  she’s had a remarkably good life, dedicated to the best of causes, with serious accomplishments and helping many people, even rescuing some from totally awful and seemingly-hopeless situations of unnecessary suffering.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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