Happier Now Sunday Stealing

Hembeck, ADD, AmeriNZ, Forgotten Stars

happier nowThe Happier Now Sunday Stealing questions this week are all over the place.

What flavor Popsicle is the best?

I haven’t had Popsicles in years. But I remember that I favored grape, lime, cherry, and orange, in approximately that order.

Do you have a DVR feature with your cable?

Yes, and increasingly it’s the ONLY way I can watch television. It’s not only much faster – JEOPARDY! in 18 minutes – but I also get to avoid the plethora of advertisements for prescription drugs that are ubiquitous on American television. I’ve been told, and someone can correct me, that the ads are banned everywhere except in the US and New Zealand.

How many drawers does your dresser have?

Five. Or not nearly enough.

Is your closet a mess?

Actually, I have an armoire. After our daughter was born, the room with a large closet became her bedroom for a time. Now it’s my wife’s office. So no.

Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?

No, but I haven’t tried in decades.

Describe your favorite pair of pajama pants:

They’re blue and have moose on them.

What color is your wallet?

The brown color of probably faux leather.

Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable?

Not really. The cost (of time)/benefit (the find) is too unbalanced. Sorry, Eddie.

AMAZING

Have you met amazing people online?

Yes. I could write a whole blog post on this topic. When I first started blogging in 2005, I followed my friend Fred Hembeck’s now-defunct but still extant blog. I met a slew of great folks there, including Lefty, Gordon, the aforementioned Eddie, and even Greg.

I discovered the late Dustbury, who died in 2019. So I know fillyjonk because I knew Charles Hill.

I stumbled upon Denise Nesbitt’s ABC Wednesday, which I participated in for about a decade. I met Leslie and many other fine folks.

The local newspaper, the Times Union, used to have a blog platform. I still follow folks such as Chuck Miller and J. Eric Smith, the latter of whom is no longer in the area.   

Then there are people for whom I have NO idea how I “met” them, such as  Arthur and Kelly.

This doesn’t count all of the people I’ve become reacquainted with, including Steve Bissette,  Alan David Doane, and a bunch of folks on Facebook.

Between the lines

Would you be happy if I colored a picture for you?

Only if it’s better than I would draw for myself, which is almost certainly going to be true.

What show do you think ‘made’ the 90’s?

Law and Order, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, NYPD Blue… I think I’m supposed to say Seinfeld or Friends.

Are you happier now than you were last year?

Yes, because 2021 was too COVIDy. An odd observation, I suppose, since I actually GOT COVID in August 2022. But I’ve gone to a few movies, attended plays, eaten at a few restaurants, and participated in the church choir in 2022.

What are you currently drinking?

Not alcohol, and that’s about calories, not any other consideration. Arnold Palmer.

Do you trust people easily?

Not especially. I don’t DISTRUST people out of hand, but when they’ve betrayed me, I always remember. I can forgive, but I seldom forget.

What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

My daughter will be home from her first semester of college.

17 years a blogger

why do I note three score and ten?

If you told me I’d still be blogging 17 years later, and daily at that, I would have thought you were daft. I’m not much for daily rituals. Yet here we are.

Let me tell you a reason I DON’T do this. I have no sense that I know all the answers. Sure, I might know a few things. And thanks to the collective wisdom of you all, I know more about topics I didn’t think about than I could have imagined.

Let’s talk about the blog itself. When I started blogging on Blogger/Blogspot, I didn’t use any pictures/graphics. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to do so. Then, when I tried, it just didn’t work. They recommended a product called Picasa which I NEVER got to work, ever. Finally, I trial and error-ed my way to posting pictures.

Then I moved my blog over to WordPress. I had my fits and starts, more than I care to remember, frankly. But when I moved to another host, it came with ideas about plugins I should use, such as Yoast. Yoast offers all sorts of suggestions about SEO such as internal links (I do when I can), sentence length, passive voice, et al. I DO add subheadings, as recommended because I figure it makes the content easier to read. But I’m not locked into taking in all of the ideas.

The blogger fail

Oh, I should tell you a dumb thing I did with my blog this year. WordPress periodically releases updates. On March 11, it released version 5.9.2. Somehow – don’t ask me how ’cause I dunno – instead of updating, I overrode my whole blog! My home page was a Welcome To Your New Blog message. Fortunately, my provider, DreamHost was able to reinstate the backup in a couple of hours.

The best thing I’ve learned to do on the blog is to write when the inspiration hits. If I know what I want to write about for Labor Day, and it’s the middle of June, I’ll write about it before the summer solstice. It’s better than ignoring it than struggling with coming up with something at the end of August.

There are certain things I know that I’ll write about: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. Also, I created a list of people who turned 70 in 2022. Why 70? It’s the three score and ten in the Bible, I suppose. But it’s also at a point when their accomplishments are clear. And picking a standardized birthday is easier than trying to remember if/when I wrote about them. This is why it’s Joe Cocker on May 20, 2014, and Cher on May 20, 2016.

It doesn’t mean I HAVE to write about them. In April, Steven Seagal (actor, the 10th), EJ Dionne (I watched him on the McNeil/Lehrer Report, 23rd), Bill Belichick (New England Patriot coach, the 16th), and Larry Elder (ran for governor of California, the 27th) all turned 70. I realized I didn’t have 300 words to write about them, and I try to write 300 words every day except my birthday. Or I just didn’t feel like wasting my energy on them, such as Harvey Weinstein (March 19).

The tunes

Ultimately, I blog because it’s useful for me. It’s a public forum to actually goad me to think about things that are confusing, irritating, uncomfortable. More often than not, I discover something new about a topic I thought I had mastered. If you like it, that’s a bonus.

Oh, yeah, the musical selections. Both involve a 17-y.o. male and 16 y.o female. I picked Sixteen Going On Seventeen from The Sound of Music, not for the song itself, but because, as the story progresses, the narrative becomes largely untrue. (He’s) Seventeen from the Meet The Supremes album is really corny, especially the bridge, but I enjoy early Motown.

Mom died on Groundhog’s Day 2011

It was a Wednesday

Roger and Trudy
March 7, 2005

My mom died on Groundhog’s Day. It was 11 years ago, in 2011. Now, it’s 2022. A lot of repeating numbers. It was a Wednesday. Today is Wednesday.

On one hand, of course, her passing is a singular event. Looking back at my blog posts from February 2011, specifically 2, 3, 6, 9, 16, and 27, and subsequently, I had the need to write more about that time than possibly any other. The death of my dad in 2000, before the start of this blog, has been discussed, but retrospectively.

The day before, I had arrived in Charlotte, NC. Leslie was already there and Marcia lived there. They said that mom was doing better than she had been since she entered the hospital the previous Friday. I had heard that people often seem to rally a bit before they die, but I saw no reason to mention that to my sisters.

I slept in a chair, or maybe two, in my mother’s room. About an hour after she had awakened, she sounded as though she were suffocating. So I buzzed the nurse and this army of folks descended on the room. Someone noted to me in a scolding tone that she had a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate. Yes, I knew that.

I wasn’t trying to get her rescued, just to make she wasn’t uncomfortable. To myself, but not to the medical personnel, I muttered, “Sorry, I am not savvy on the stages just before death. This is my first one.”

Passing

And, in fact, when she did pass away, I was unaware until someone told me. My sisters were en route, so there was no point in calling them. When they arrived about ten minutes later, one noted that she looked peaceful and comfortable. I got to break the news. I signed some paperwork, as I did for dad. Then there seemed to be this rush for us to identify a funeral home to send her body to. This made me cranky too.

I can recall my emotions to the response to my February 2 post. I had written about four days earlier that I was going to Take The Train To Charlotte after my mother’s stroke. So the early comments were of the “I hope your mom gets better” variety. But after I told Denise Nesbitt via email that Mom had passed, she clearly circulated the news. If I want to cry Right Now, I can just read the later comments.

Now, I feel like an Orphaned Adult but that happened and is now just IS. Life post-parents have allowed my siblings and me to have more honest conversations about the ‘rents.

So when Mom died on Groundhog’s Day, it was a long time ago. And it was last week. One of those funeral parlor quotes, which I suppose I’d normally find overly sentimentalized, I somehow like right now. “There is a link death cannot sever. Love and remembrance last forever.”

Random posts, or the illusion of same

MLK, blogging, music, movies, race, anger…

randomHere is my annual compilation of random posts from the previous year by month. Or maybe it’s an illusion. “Humans tend to see patterns when, in fact, the results are completely random.”

Speaking of which, Kelly “randomly” selected the Concerto No. 1 in F minor for piano and orchestra, by Alexander Glazunov. You should listen. 

January. MLK: When Peace Becomes Obnoxious. “I come to declare war over injustice.” This is from a 1956 sermon. This was a catch-his-breath bit because the sentences before and after are much longer and detailed. Still relevant, and possibly more so.

February: Death of the Times Union community blogs “’Nothing urgent, but please give me a ring if you have a few minutes — cell is…'” Casey Seiler, the editor of the Times Union newspaper, was the caller. I was surprised to discover that, although I was not dependent on the TU blog – I have this one, after all – I was still sad to see it go.

Looking into the future

March: Paul Whiteman and the hits of 1921
“’After all is said and done, there is really only one.'” The lyrics are to a tune called Margie by Eddie Cantor. I have a version of the song by Ray Charles. The nice thing about the series is that, if I’m still blogging, I know that in October 2029, I will be writing about the #1 songs from 1999. Hint: one of them is Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. I have the album from which that song was pulled.

April. Review: Judas and the Black Messiah. “FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) considered Hampton a threat to decency in America and wanted him surveilled from the inside.” It was one of my favorite films of the year.

May. Critical Race Theory. “Much of the recent discussion seems to center around the response by Senator Tim Scott to President Biden’s ‘Can’t Be Called the State of the Union’ address.” I don’t know why I wrote about CRT. Almost no one was talking about it in 2021.

June. Musician Nils Lofgren is turning 70. “He was a two-time member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.” A friend of mine told me this fall they never read my music pieces because they don’t care about music. OK.

Side Two

July: Anger, a national disease “But living near a hotheaded neighbor who thinks we’re always calling the cops on her -I did once, because of the dog – unexplained noises at night are unsettling.” I BELIEVE that my neighbor moved in December, thank Allah.

August: Sunday Stealing, March 2020. “But only the ones I feel like answering.” When I get stuck or busy or tired, the quiz is the way to go.

September: The SCOTUS abortion ballet. “In a state that leads the country and much of the developed world in the rate of maternal mortality, women in Texas will now have to travel to another state to secure an abortion or resort to life-threatening back-alley coat-hanger abortions.” And SCOTUS has taken up the Mississippi law. I fear this will not end well.

October: Rhymin’ Paul Simon turns 80. “I got Stranger to Stranger in 2016, when it came out.” Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder were my favorite musical artists in the 1970s.

November: The way-too-detailed diaries. “I wrote or received letters from people A, B, and C.” My disappointment was that the diaries so far hadn’t gleaned much useful bloggable information.

December: Six Legends of Baseball. “Minoso lead the American League in being hit by a pitch for 10 seasons.” That would be Minnie Minoso, who played primarily for the Chicago White Sox.

Blogging easier or harder in retirement?

eight hours on the front porch

Arthur – you know Arthur – asked:

Now that you’ve had a bit of time to adjust, do you find blogging easier or harder to do now that you’re retired? Anything else stand out as being harder or easier to do now?

It’s a bit of a rollercoaster, actually. The summers have always been tricky because one doesn’t want to be shut off in the office while the family is around.

Fall 2019: it was quite productive, actually. Time to do those pieces that might take a little longer.

March 2020: At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife was teaching school from the dining table. This was really awkward; if I wanted to do anything downstairs, such as washing dishes in the kitchen, or watching TV in the living room, I felt that I was intruding on her classroom. Meanwhile, my daughter was sequestered in her bedroom. So I pretty much HAD to be in the office or the bedroom. This was advantageous for blogging.

When I petitioned for her to use the spare bedroom for her teaching, she initially resisted. But she soon found its advantages, not just teaching but for ZOOM church meetings, and the like. The daughter then would go downstairs and listen to her classes on the living room sofa. Again, I retreat to the office, which was good for blogging.

Blogging on the road is easier when I’m alone, virtually impossible when I’m with others. Back in the day, I’d go down to the “business center” and use one of the public machines. But now, I’m not able to remember to gather up all the things I need (clothes, room key) before leaving in the dark. Typing in the bathroom is not only suboptimal to me, but audible to the others.

Quit the blog?

But, and this might be an age thing, but I really can’t blog at night anymore. The best time on weekdays is from when I get up until my daughter leaves for school, with certain regular interruptions. They would be making sure my daughter’s up, watching 90 seconds of news at 7 a.m., saying goodbye to my wife, feeding the cats, and not hovering (as she puts it) when my daughter leaves.

And when I was having major problems with the technology of the blog, when it was down for 28 hours, and when it was assaulted by malware, it was really difficult. I dithered between quitting blogging and going back to my arcane Blogger blog that I used for the first five years. Unlike you, I never had a technological mentor.

The melancholy means it’s been much harder recently to blog. And NOT blogging makes me MORE melancholy. So my pieces in the queue have shrunk to about three dozen when six months ago, it was about five dozen. Given many are evergreen pieces I’ll only use if I’m desperate, or dead, I’m not all that far ahead.

Time is on my side. Yes, it is.

On non-blogging issues, I’ve found I have the capacity to actually access my bank, the credit union of my wife and me, and my primary credit card, all online. I check them all about twice a week, move money from our savings to checking on the joint account, and pay off the credit card each month. It wasn’t difficult, it just required time.

I know I say this a lot, but it’s no less true for that. I’m too busy to work. No way I do the ZOOM event for the library, for which I got an award if I’m employed.

Of course, this means that some people think I’m readily available. Not really. I did spend eight hours sitting on the front porch with my oldest friend from college. But I had to find a day I wasn’t working on something or going to the doctor or doing the shopping I promised to do, or…

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