Killing Batteries

Leif Pettersen

Leif Pettersen

There are some bloggers I have been following for several years. One of them is Leif Pettersen, whose Killing Batteries blog is the best blog I’ve read by a professional travel writer. He has written extensively for Lonely Planet (I believe his is their top writer on Romania and Moldova) as well as other places. According to his personal website:

Leif Pettersen is a freelance writer, humorist, world traveler, polyglot, “slightly caustic” blogger and wino from Minneapolis, Minn. He has traveled through 51 countries and lived in Spain, Romania and Italy.

Pettersen has been a juggler since he was 12 years old, loves chocolate, hates pickles, types with exactly four fingers, and can escape from a straitjacket. He has not vomited since 1993, making him a consummate travel journalist and excellent party guest.

Take a look at his travelogue and tell me if you know anyone who is as well traveled as he is.

As for his Killing Batteries blog site, it’s best to skip some of the “syndicated” material up top and look at the references under “All Time Popular Posts.” From these, you can find links to some of the postings that turned me into an avid follower of his work.



In Praise of Past Times

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

For several months now, I have been lifting quotes from a website called Laudator Temporis Acti, a blog site where I go to get inspired. And it never fails to do so. The Latin means, roughly, “One who praises past times.” About half of my long quotations are lifted bodily from the site, with the only acknowledgment being a tag at the end that reads laudator-temporis-acti.

Run by a scholar in Conyers, Georgia, by the name of Michael Gilleland, the website pays homage to the thinking of times past, from ancient Greece and Rome through the nineteenth century. Each quotation is well documented. When translation is necessary, an honest attempt is made to get to the gist accurately and, sometimes, elegantly.

Some people—my own brother included—think that I live in the past. If that were so, why would I be blogging here? Why would I own a cellphone? Why would I drive to work in an automobile? No, I like to investigate the past because nothing serves to help me understand the present than to see what is both constant and meritorious in the human condition. That’s why I am concurrently reading Marcus Tullius Cicero and William H. Prescott (History of the Conquest of Peru). Oh, I could be reading something contemporary about philosophy, but I probably wouldn’t understand it as easily as I could understand the Roman. And I can (and will) be reading contemporary books about Peru, but it was Prescott who originally got the ball rolling. Everything since published about the Inca owes a debt to the Harvard-educated historian of the 1800s. And no one has written on the subject more eloquently.

I don’t frequently recommend websites, and none do I recommend so whole-heartedly as Laudator Temporis Acti. I visit it several times a week and urge you to do so as well. Among other things, you will discover what William Faulkner did, that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past” (from his Requiem for a Nun).

A Writer of Feuilletons and Causeries

Apparently, Writer’s Block Is Not Much of a Problem for Me

Apparently, Writer’s Block Is Not Much of a Problem for Me

When I was in high school, I thought I’d like to write the Great American Novel. I made several attempts at telling stories, but I found I just didn’t have the knack of inventing a character other than myself. In fact, I thought later of writing a series of short stories using a private investigator named Emeric Toth, patterned after me, of course; but the stories just did not take wing.

I have come to realize that I am what the French would call a writer of feuilletons, or to be even more exact, causeries. According to Wikipedia, the latter term refers to a piece that is:

generally short, light and humorous and is often published as a newspaper column (although it is not defined by its format). Often the causerie is a current-opinion piece, but it contains more verbal acrobatics and humor than a regular opinion or column. In English, causerie is commonly known as “personal story”, “funny story” or “column” instead.

The term feuilleton refers to a kind of op-ed newspaper piece, but can mean a whole lot of other things besides, such as (in today’s France) a soap opera.

Essentially, I write short essays on a multiplicity of topics that run the gamut from politics (though not so much any more, since politics in America got so dirty), religion, literature, film, travel, meditations, humor, science and the Internet, weekend excursions, to you name it. I’ll take on virtually any subject, though I am averse to Internet flame wars and quickly dump water on their beginnings. While I like to say what I feel, I am averse to back-and-forth debates. This is not so much because of any uncertainty in my convictions as an unwillingness to participate in the Grand Ego Theatre of the Internet.

As a literary medium, feuilletons and causeries are definitely writing in a minor key. My words will never be carved into stone or memorized by legions of school children. They are not detailed enough to change anyone’s mind about anything. They serve to entertain and inform, and perhaps point the way to other sources that do a better job in that area.

A few days ago, I re-read Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. I could have chosen instead to re-read one of the Bard’s better-known works, but I have a certain affection for his minor plays. Maybe that’s why I write the way I do.


Giving the Mafia Free Access to Your Credit

Don’t Gamble With Your Credit!

Don’t Gamble With Your Credit!

Since I have begun this blog on WordPress, I have picked up some 1,100 Spam comments. At first, they were mostly from Lista de Email or Lista de Emails from Brazil. Now an altogether more unruly crowd has moved in: “Free” Casinos.

These are mostly people who want to have free access to your credit cards and transfer your credit to their own offshore bank accounts. That’s why I check several times a day for Spam and assiduously delete it permanently, less you think I am in cahoots with these goniffs, which I am not.

I do not accept a comment unless it:

  • Responds in some way to the web posting to which it is attached (generic praise just doesn’t cut it) and
  • It does not have a number of links sending you all over the Internet.

So if someone finds a way of escaping my vigilance, know that I do not endorse any commenter’s website unless it pertains to the discussion in my blog postings.


The Brazilians Love Me

Brazilian Samba from Rio

Brazilian Samba from Rio, Of Course!

To be more precise, Lista de Email loves me. I get at least one comment a day from them, from a sports website in Portuguese at They always have something nice to say, though it is so nonspecific that I could be talking in my web postings about roasting nude Brazilian women on a spit and they would be making the same vaguely encouraging comments.

If the intent was to get people to visit their website, well, you can click on the link above and make them happy. In the meantime, I will continue to erase all their comments from my website lest I appear to be a bookie from Sao Paulo. I don’t think I am, but maybe I’m wrong.

In the meantime, the Lista de Email siege continues unabated. I’m preparing the boiling oil, and, if they really rub me the wrong way, it will be time to fetchez la vache.


About That Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

I have been asked by friends about that glacier shown atop my blog page. It is the Perito Moreno Glacier in the State of Santa Cruz in Argentina. Last year at this time, Martine and I were there on our vacation. In a country full of natural beauty, Perito Moreno is one of the top attractions. It is near the city of El Calafate, from where one can take bus tours that allow one to view the glacier from a number of viewpoints, including from a boat that travels close to its edge.

The man after whom the glacier is named was a 19th century Argentinean naturalist who was the South American equivalent of John Muir. Francisco Pascasio Moreno (nicknamed Perito, or “expert”) was born in Buenos Aires in 1852 and died in 1919. He was largely responsible for the creation of several Patagonian national parks and is memorialized in the La Plata Museum of Natural History.

One of the interesting facts about the Perito Moreno Glacier, other than its massive size, is that it is one of three Andean glaciers that are still growing in size—at a time when glaciers all over the world are retreating or even disappearing. The lake that the glacier melt drains into is Lago Argentino, which is flanked on its western boundary by a number of glaciers, including the massive Upsala and the Spegazzini glaciers.

I will change the image up top eventually, but Martine and I have happy memories of our Argentina trip, and I wanted to be reminded of it every time I looked at Tarnmoor.Com.

A New Kind of Spam

A New Kind of Spam That Caught Me Off Guard

In the last three months since I started posting at WordPress, I’ve discovered a new kind of Spam. At least WordPress labels it as Spam, and I go along with it. For every two legitimate comments I get, there are three generally favorable but wildly nonspecific comments that seem to be associated with commercial ventures on the Internet. My  guess is that it’s a plot to get a more favorable ranking for their own websites with Google.

Some few are “helpful,” such as those offering to help me get more visitors to my own little website here at Tarnmoor.Com. Curiously, my anti-malware program usually blocks their websites, so I can only assume they are helpful only in the sense that a pickpocket will attempt to lull you into a false sense of security.

So if you have some general comment of praise without mentioning any specifics to show that you’ve actually read what I’ve written, your comment may well be deleted by me as possible Spam.

It’s such a complicated world in which I have to be so ruthless with so many (over 160 to date) favorable comments completely out of the blue.

You see, I don’t really want thousands of visitors a day to my website. I have nothing to sell. I do, however, have some sort of compulsion to express myself. That’s why I posted for over a year on Blog.Com, a Portuguese blog host whose total membership could probably fit into a telephone booth. (You remember those, don’t you?)


Little Victories

Little by little, I am getting the hang of WordPress. There are a lot more design options than in Multiply, but there is also more help and a relatively logical organization of the material. That makes a big difference. The organization at Yahoo! 360 was rich, but totally cockamamie. At Blog.Com and Multiply, there wasn’t much help to be gotten; and what there was seemed more oriented toward software engineers.

The heat wave in Southern California—indeed, across much of the United States—continues unabated. I would like to be more active, but the monsoonal clouds indicate a sharp uptick in the humidity, and nights are uncomfortable. Even more so because our 60-year-old building is uninsulated, and we have no air conditioning.

Oh, well, this too shall pass.