Dec. rambling: Happiness Campaign

FFAPL book reviews now two hours later

Thoughts and prayers

A Viral Dance and ‘Happiness Campaign’ Frustrates Iran’s Clerics:

It all started when a 70-year-old fish market stall owner nicknamed “Booghy” was grooving in public in violation of Iranian law.

Elon Musk and Freight Trains: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Those University Presidents

 COVID isn’t over: “Globally, the number of new cases increased by 52% during the 28-day period of 20 November to 17 December 2023 as compared to the previous 28-day period.” In the US, “SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, has continued to mutate and spread. The latest strain to attract attention is called JN.1, and so far, it appears to be highly transmissible.” I’ve known several IRL people who’ve gotten COVID this fall. My sister in SoCal told of one of her choirs in which almost 50% had to bail from a concert because of various respiratory ailments. BTW, I got my most recent shot in October 2023.
Kindness Doesn’t Have a Billable Code— But it’s a key part of patient care.
My questions to Ask Arthur 2023: Get here from there; measuring and measured.

The loneliest miser

Just how rich were the McCallisters in ‘Home Alone’? Fans have been debating the family’s wealth for years. We asked the Federal Reserve for answers.

Mais non?

France did not always speak French.

8 Demonyms That’ll Leave You Shaking Your Head

Opinion: The simple explanation for the changes at ‘Jeopardy!’ and Ken Jennings on Mayim Bialik’s Exit and His Own ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ Host Approach

Tom Smothers, Half of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Duo, Dies at 86. I watched the Smothers Brothers show on CBS religiously.

Mbongeni Ngema, Renowned South African Playwright and Creator of ‘Sarafina!,’ Dies at 68

Lee Sun-Kyun, ‘Parasite’ Actor, Dies at 48

‘The Gilded Age’ Stars Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon on Their On- and Off-Screen Relationship. My wife is currently bingeing on Season 1 of this program. BTW, the building in the background of the photo is my church!

Now  I Know: The Smutty History of the Pixar Logo’s Older Cousin and The Town That Raged Against Rage Against the Machine and There Weren’t Skeletons In His Closet and The Silent, Stickless Award Show Protest

Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023. I’ve got five more since.
Voting in even years

On September 20, I complained in this blog about a bill passed by the New York State legislature that would mandate many local elections to be held in even years. There was bipartisan opposition from the Albany County Board Of Elections on the bill (Times Union, Nov 27): “Republicans and the New York State Association of Counties have generally mounted the main pushback against the legislation, raising concerns that traditional attention on local races will be drowned out by races for president, Congress or governor…”

The TU editorialized against it (Dec 3): “More people may cast a local vote as long as they’re in the voting booth, but those local races may just as likely get lost in the information overload of a considerably more crowded ballot. And the bread-and-butter local issues behind those races may get drowned out in the hyperpartisan, hot-button din of state or federal elections.”

To my great disappointment, Governor Kathy Hochul signed it (TU. Dec 23). “Hochul described the controversial measure as a ‘significant step towards expanding access to the ballot box and promoting a more inclusive democracy,’ but she also chose to sign it on a Friday evening, three days before Christmas. “

Friends and Foundation Book Talks move to Tuesdays at Two!

The FFAPL book talks at the Washington Avenue branch of the APL are moving from noon to 2 pm starting in 2024. The speakers in January:

January 2 | Book Review | The Democrat Party Hates America by Mark R. Levin.  Reviewer:  Frank S. Robinson, JD, philosopher, author, & blogger.

January 9 | Book Review | Prequel: An American Fight against Fascism by Rachel Maddow.  Reviewer:  Roger O. Green, MLS, retired librarian, NY Small Business Development Center, & current board member, FFAPL.

January 16 | Book Review | Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant.  Reviewer:  Jonathan Skinner, PhD, retired statistician & amateur classicist.

January 23 | Author Talk | Paul T. Murray, professor emeritus at Siena College, discusses & reads from his book, Seeing Jesus in the Eyes of the Oppressed:  A History of Franciscans Working for Peace and Justice.

January 30 | Book Review | Best Remembered Poems by Martin Gardner.  Reviewers:  Joe Krausman, poet; Gene Damm, former journalist; & Jonathan Skinner, amateur classicist & retired statistician.

Newsmax writes: “Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is poised to declare “war” over proposed legislation in New York that would force some Chick-fil-A restaurants to open on Sundays, a move that would run afoul of the company’s policy since it opened in 1946.” Except that the story is grossly misleading. 

VerifyThis notes: No, a New York bill wouldn’t force current Chick-fil-A rest stop locations to open on Sunday.  “The bill requires all restaurants at certain rest stops to remain open seven days a week, including Chick-fil-A. But it only applies to future restaurant contracts.”

Frankly, I never understood why the Thruway authority offered contracts to an entity they knew would be closed on part of the weekend.


Kodachrome – Joshua Lee Turner

Coverville 1470 and 1471: The 2023 Coverville Countdown

THR’s The 10 Best Songs of 2023

J. Eric Smith’s Best Albums of 2023

Laura Lynch, Founding Member of The Dixie Chicks, Dies at 65

The eighth class of artists was announced for the Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Hall of Fame.

Losses and isolation during COVID


In March, two friends and I discussed “the losses and ISOLATION regarding COVID.” Subsequently, one of them suggested I write a blog post about it.

One friend said he didn’t understand why people weren’t talking about this. I was initially confused by the observation. I had read many articles, such as this one:  The COVID-19 pandemic triggers a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Or this one:  The impact of COVID-19 on mental health cannot be made light of. Both of those were from WHO in 2022.

And here’s a piece from September 2020: “We are six months into COVID-19, and it’s already challenging to imagine a world post-COVID-19. It’s hard to believe it’s only been half a year — it feels like so much longer. I struggle to remember concrete details of life before COVID-19, much less relate to the ones I do recall, like going out in public without worrying about proximity to others and masks.”


I think that I underestimated my friend’s need to TALK about feelings. I WROTE about my experiences in this blog recently and a few times before that.  But, for the most part, I did not have the opportunity to verbalize those sensations.

Fairly early in the pandemic, in October 2020, after I had finished working the Census, I tried to set up a counseling relationship with a therapist. Of course, it was going to be remote. Everything was remote in that timeframe.

For whatever reasons, some technological and some because we didn’t “click,” I abandoned the effort after three sessions. Perhaps if we had a previous relationship, it would have been more successful.

The most interesting and intense part of the conversation with my two friends involved our children. One friend insisted that he and his wife were most impacted as empty nesters. The other friend and I pushed back, noting that watching our children flounder was at least as painful.

I did not use this analogy then, as it is imperfect, like most analogies. But that COVID time for one friend was like drowning. It was like watching your kids drown for the other friend and me.

The sheer intensity of this discussion helped me realize that we as a country will need a lot more accessible mental health capacity than is likely available in the near term.

I recommend that people speak to someone outside their immediate circle on the phone or ZOOM if not in person. It doesn’t have to be a psychologist. However, it cannot be one of those people – I’ve met them – who say things such as, “Suck it up! The pandemic’s over. Move on!” Those folks are less than useless to talk to.

Worthy is the Lamb


In 2020, our church choir planned to sing the last piece from the Handel Messiah, Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain, with the Amen on Easter Sunday. The text is from Revelation 5:12-13. While I had heard it many times and loved it, I had never sung the piece.

Then COVID happened. What a killjoy. It literally killed my joy of singing. 

In 2023, our church choir will sing Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain with several instrumentalists on Easter Sunday. The trickiest part for me is the melisma in the Amen, especially starting at measure 110 when the four parts interweave. What has been helpful is a video at Chord Perfect. I’ve been studying the bass part, but here are the soprano, alto, and tenor. CyberBass is a similar service. 

Then at the end of the service, as we did every year I’ve been a member, except for 2020 and 2021, the choir will finish with the Hallelujah chorus. And once again, members of the congregation who know the piece will come forward and join in. It is a joyous celebration. 

Speaking of which…

Every week at 8 pm ET, someone in the choir looks at the community level in Albany County. In 2022, to the best of my recollection, it was green (low) for only one week, just before Easter.

In 2023, it’s been green (low) for THREE weeks, which may be meaningless for all unconcerned about the virus.  For those of us who still care, it’s excellent news. I should note that one choir tested positive for COVID this week, so I took my first test this week in a few months. It’s negative, just the seasonal allergies.

By the way, Rensselaer County (Troy) has been in lockstep with Albany County, COVID-wise, since I began tracking the results weekly in late 2021.

So it will be a very happy Easter for this group of singers and the community.

Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain – VOCES8 & Academy of Ancient Music

Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain -| The Tabernacle Choir

(Grammarly wants me to change it to The Slain Lamb)

Hallelujah – with vocal score

Hallelujah – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge 

And what the heck

Hallelujah – A Soulful Celebration

Three years of COVID

Only remotely interested in “remote”

Back in January, fillyjonk wrote about three years of COVID. The first case of COVID in the United States occurred in that month. But it didn’t really affect me until March 13.

I’ll back up to when I retired on June 30, 2019. my wife and daughter were home from school, but come fall, I had the run of the house. I’d read and write in the morning, exercise and clean in the afternoon. It was glorious. And after Christmas break, more wonderfulness.

My wife and I went to the cinema often. I saw Cheap Trick at the Palace Theater in February 2022.

The church production of Once on This Island occurred on Sunday, March 8th, with the afterparty the following evening. Choir met as usual on Thursday, March 12.

But the buzz was out that everything was going to shut down after Friday the 13th. At 4:30 pm, I rushed to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library with my daughter. I WANTED to take out ten videos for me, but she wanted to get a few, so I checked out seven Marvel Cinematic Universe films I had not seen. Sure enough, the library was closed on Saturday and for months after that.

The annual hearts game at my abode occurred as scheduled for March 14; some people came, but others begged off, which I understood intellectually, if not emotionally.

School at home

After a week of figuring out what to do, school districts made laptops available to students, and remote learning began. My wife specifically was disappointed (too weak a word) when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that the spring break be canceled. The rest of that semester was a slog.

One thing I insisted on is that my wife teach in the old guest room. Otherwise, every time I went downstairs, I was in her classroom. In hindsight, it was a great decision, as she held her church session meetings and other private conversations there.

My daughter was engaged in school for about a month, then not so much.

Starting March 22, my church began having services online on Facebook, a feature that continues to this day. Early on, it was okay; better than nothing.

I was feeling very isolated. Starting in April, I started calling, on the telephone, people who I hadn’t spoken with for a while, some of them for years, even though they live in my metropolitan area. It was a worthwhile project. I completed two calls daily until Memorial Day, then one per day until August. By this point, I was also phoning people I used to see weekly at church.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law, Richard, was dying from lymphoma and passed on April 22; his funeral was 13 months later. His death led to weekly family Zoom meetings, which ended abruptly over political differences at the end of June.

I did start having regular ZOOM meetings with my sisters, which have continued.

New job

I had expressed interest in working on the 2020 Census in mid-2019. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I learned I’d be trained to work, as I wrote about here. It was more difficult than it was 30 years earlier because it started later in the year. COVID did a number on this enumeration.

My wife, despite her trepidations, had to return to school in person and teach both online and classroom, which was way more work for her. My daughter opted to stay home to do school, which was probably a suboptimal decision.

Church was still remote, though some section leaders recorded music in an empty church on a Monday, and it was shown during the service. Specifically, some previous choir recordings were shared, especially on Christmas Eve. Watching myself sing instead of actually performing brought me to tears.

We watched a few events online. Frankly, though, way more offerings were available than I wanted to consume. I watched a few movies and plays, but most didn’t capture me.

2021: the vaccine!

When the vaccine became available, I wanted it yesterday. There were priority lists. My wife got her first shot in February 2021. I kept checking places for availability but found none that didn’t involve traveling hundreds of miles.

Finally, I logged onto the CVS website again on March 1 at 6 a.m., and Pfizer vaccines were available the next day! I got my first shot, then my second three weeks later. Minimal reactions other than a sore arm for a day.

So on April 6, my kindergarten friends Bill, Carol, Karen, and our friend Michael went to an outdoor restaurant. A sign of normalcy!

I went to a few movies in person, and maybe a half dozen people were there.

The library was quasi-open, and the FFAPL offered remote book reviews online or in the Bach branch garden. It was hard to hear outside because of the wind and, sometimes, the neighbors.

The church is back!

Finally, in June, the church began meeting again, masked, distanced, but in person! We had a coffee hour in the parking lot. Then in October, the choir started rehearsing, though we didn’t sing at service until late November. We did sing on Christmas Eve. I was so happy I probably wept.

But after the holidays, the surge put us back to red/orange, and the church went back to remote. I thought I’d be okay, knowing intellectually it wouldn’t last long, and it didn’t. But I did end up in my sad place for a time.

Since then, and possibly before that, I’ve been checking the COVID status of Albany County and nearby Rensselaer County, which have been in lockstep. I’ve also been obsessively reading related medical news, such as this: RSV Vaccine Succeeds in Phase III Trial of Older Adults.

Fortunately, we sang again in person by February 2022, though Black History Month adult education, which I was in charge of, was primarily remote.


In August 2022, my daughter, my wife, and I all got COVID, probably the Omicron variant. It wasn’t awful, but it was inconvenient.

That’s essentially it. I’m seeking to get past it all. I still refer to events as before or after COVID, and I usually have no idea what happened when after March 2020 unless I look it up. Heck, I probably forgot several things.

Still hate ZOOM, and I use the term generically, for meetings, especially events. My ability to focus in front of a screen with 13 or more rectangles is diminished.

This was the year that was


That Was The Year That WasIt’s time for my annual look back at the year that was. The questions were stolen from Kelly because why not?

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

To part one, not so much if I made them, which I may or may not have. Regardless, the list of things I want to finish, if anything, has gotten longer. So making more of them would be foolhardy.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Someone named in part after me had a third child

Did anyone close to you die?

Four people were in the choir:  BettyMike, Nate, and Susan. KenJimPaul, Mary, and Kay. I never mentioned my wife’s aunt Effie Oliver, who I was very fond of. Nor did I discuss my father’s favorite cousin Sheldon Walker. I feel as though I have forgotten someone.

What countries did you visit?

None. Maybe in 2023.

What would you like to have in 2023 that you lacked in 2022?

This is what Kelly wrote last year. “An end to the pandemic, and a feeling that my country is moving toward rationality and a renewed commitment to thinking collectively and valuing democracy.” I’ll still buy that.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I didn’t get as detailed about how sick my wife had been in October, though I wrote about it in two posts. Anyway, taking care of her – changing bandages, making meals, whatever. My MIL is pleased with how well I cared for her daughter, so that’s nice.

What was your biggest failure?

I think not getting to the genealogy stuff.

What was the best thing you bought?

A portable white noise machine.



Whose behavior merited celebration?

Anyone who tried to protect democracy. The Jan 6 committee. Librarians.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The Supreme Court. Most federal Republicans. The newly re-elected governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). I could name LOTS of names, but I don’t have the energy. But I will select one: Lindsay Graham, a spineless worm. (Or is that an insult to worms?)

Where did most of your money go?

My daughter has gone to college.

What did you get really excited about?

Singing in the choir. Albany was COVID-green far too infrequently, but I relished it every week.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

I’m working on this apparently popular theory that you can fake it until you make it. So I’m working on at least pretending to get happier, even though it feels… wrong.

Richer or poorer?

My daughter is going to college.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading more books: I read stuff online, in magazines, and newspapers, but books fall by the wayside. Also, taking more naps.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Deleting political emails because I’m always inundated.

How did you spend Christmas?

With my MIL, eventually.

Did you fall in love in 2022?

Yes, actually

How many one-night stands?

Same as last year


What was your favorite TV program?

I’ve watched almost no television except Abbott Elementary, The Good Doctor, JEOPARDY!, and news programs. No time.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

If that one guy would just GO AWAY…

What was the best book you read?

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, which had sat on my shelf for a few years.

What did you want and get?

A Democratic US Senate

What did you want and not get?

A Democratic US House of Representatives, not that I was expecting one.

What were your favorite films of this year?

I have a difficult time seeing films on TV or the computer. That said, I’d pick  CODA. I did see and enjoyed SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, She Said, and Devotion at the cinema.

What did you do on your birthday?

It was a Monday. Optimally, as little as possible. I really don’t remember. I probably wrote a blog post.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?


Assuming facts not in evidence

What kept you sane?

Music, always. Also, this here blog and the interactions it’s led to.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine. Rightly the TIME Magazine Person of the Year, though, as someone said, the cover looked like something designed for an MCU poster.
Nancy Pelosi. Wrangling a herd of cats is not easy. I saw Paul Ryan, one of her predecessors as Speaker of the House, on ABC News acknowledge that she did a good job, though he disagreed about her priorities.
Taylor Swift. I only have two of her albums, but she markets herself very well and uses her power for good, not evil.

What political issue stirred you the most?

The threat to democracy itself. And it’s not just in the United States. The attempted coup in Germany, the retrograde leadership in Hungary, and the chunk of votes that Marine Le Pen got in the last French elections.

Related, the power of the lie and the astonishing willingness of some people to believe it.

Who did you miss?

The weird thing even now is that you don’t see folks. Several people from my church are still attending online.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2022:

For me, in-person is SO much better. Better than plays online, ZOOM meetings, et al.

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