a valuable life lesson learned in 2023

How does a weary world rejoice?

One more question: 

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2023:

Repeating what I’ve said before, The trouble with normal is it always gets worse. After the UNLV shooting, in which three people died, an NBC reporter interviewed a witness. The reporter said, “Incredibly,” the witness was also present at the 2017 Vegas shooting at which five dozen were killed and hundreds wounded. There was nothing “incredible” about it. It’s just guns in America.

Someone fired a shot around a Jewish temple in Albany, NY, on December 7, the first night of Hanukkah, which led the NBC Nightly News. No one was hurt, and the shooter was quickly apprehended. But the Israel/Hamas/Palestinian war has stirred long-simmering anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim,  anti-Palestinian bigotry, which we’ve seen everywhere from college campus to the streets of bucolic Burlington, VT, where three Palestinian college kids were staying because it was perceived as safer than being in the occupied West Bank. They were shot, and one likely will never walk again.

People can’t keep saying, “It can’t happen here.” I searched Wikipedia for Maine shootings, and I had choices: the one in 1993, the one in 2006, or the two in 2023.


Then there’s the political turmoil. djt will be the Republican nominee, even if he’s convicted of one or more cases against him. The Atlantic is so terrified it had a whole issue dedicated to it.

Even if he’s not in office, his minions dominate the House, starting with the Speaker, Mike Johnson. And trumpism is baked in – book bans being the most on-the-nose example – and we can’t even count on the courts, certainly not SCOTUS, to stop it.

Add to this the ecological precipice we’re on and refugee crises worldwide, and you can call me Debbie Downer.

What is the remedy?

Still, I have hope because hopelessness is too hard. No hope means not getting out of bed in the morning. You do what you can. If that’s irrational, so be it.

How do I get there? And I see this as an ongoing process, not that I’ve arrived. For me, and it wasn’t initially a conscious decision, I’ve been embracing a series of sermons our pastors have been presenting during Advent and Christmastide collectively titled: “How does a weary world rejoice?”

“We acknowledge our weariness.” I’m very good at THAT. The first two sections of this post are precisely why I am weary. And I left a few things out.

“We find joy in connection.” Like many people, the real difficulty with COVID was the feeling of community. I’ve been embracing these opportunities. Thrice this year, I participated in trivia contests, as much for the collegiality as the competition; I’d only done trivia twice before, and one was in 2022. Participating in the Ironweed reading, a potluck, and a carol sing were other examples.

“We allow ourselves to be amazed.” My daughter interviewed me for a class project, which she says she’ll allow me to use in this blog early in 2024. I learned things about her but also about myself.


“We make room.” Our friends gave us their tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra on December 10. I particularly loved watching the joy that one of the cellists was experiencing. At some moment in Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, which I was unfamiliar with, there is a dead silence. It was awesome and unexpected.

It was raining very hard that day. My wife pointed out that I mentioned the wonder of a brief silence twice. It was pouring out. I get JOY when we drive below an overpass, and the sound of the deluge is stilled for 1.5 seconds.  This has been true for a very long time.

“We sing stories of hope.” On Christmas Eve 2020, my church service was online. The pastors were present, but few others. The music was provided by recordings of our choir singing from previous years. Watching me sing brought me to tears, and they were not happy tears but weeping of despair. I don’t take singing on Christmas Eve, Maundy, Easter Sunday, or even a regular weekly service for granted.

“We root ourselves in ritual.” I have Thursday choir rehearsal, Sunday service, and Tuesday book talk at the Washington Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library (moving, BTW, from noon to 2 p.m. this year). Many years ago, a friend complained when I refused to pass on choir rehearsal to do something else. Rehearsing means knowing the music better on Sunday and experiencing the choir gestalt.  

The annual quiz: musical section

Rebecca Jade, Olivia Rodrigo, Jason Isbell, QoS

I usually do that annual quiz that Kelly foisted upon me years ago, on January 1. And I usually do music on Saturday. So I’ve decided to do the musical section today and the rest tomorrow and/or the next day.

What was your greatest musical discovery? 

When you have about 2000 albums, it’s entirely possible to rediscover music that you already own. This happens almost every week.

Then there is the music that I did not think that I wouldn’t buy, then purchased in 2021, such as:
Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies. Care of Cell 44
Stop Making Sense (1984 Film) – Talking Heads. Even though I saw the SPAC show of the tour, I never bought the soundtrack. And I STILL haven’t seen the film. Life During Wartime 
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin. Drown In My Own Tears 
The Allen Toussaiant Collection. Southern Nights.
The Beatles (The White Album) [6 CD] Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da  (Esher Demo)
Rough and Rowdy Ways – Bob Dylan. I bought this in part because I missed this reference watching some quiz show. I Contain Multitudes 
folklore – Taylor Swift. My first Swifty album. Cardigan 
Good Souls Better Angels – Lucinda Williams. Good Souls 
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition conducted by Ormandy

I also recently bought
Love For Sale – Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I was so touched by the 60 Minutes interviewLove For Sale 
Georgia Blue – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Recorded because Georgia went blue in 2020. Honeysuckle Blue 

Of all of the artists my daughter likes, the only one that has actually stuck in the brain in 2021 was Olivia Rodrigo. Part of that is a function that she was the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning segment. It mentioned her participation in the White House’s push for the COVID vaccine.

What kept you sane?

Assuming facts not in evidence, listening to music. Since I wasn’t MAKING music for most of the year – choir finally started rehearsing in October- LISTENING became even more vital. That would include J. Eric Smith’s  Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists, which will spread into 2022; of course, Coverville; plus Kelly’s mostly semiweekly pieces.

And the niece. In 2021, I got to see the fabulous Rebecca Jade, remotely.
Homemade: Part 10 and Part 11 
Peter Sprague: Wichita Lineman and Are You Going With Me and Spring Ain’t Here and It’s For You and Farmers Trust 
Melody League Session with The Sully Band 
Music For The Soul
Jas Miller: Toes In The Sand 

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

Frankly, part of it is tied to Congress’s failure to pass an infrastructure bill earlier, which, given the vagaries of politics, threw away whatever advantage Biden had when the troubles – Afghanistan, e.g. inevitably took place. If it’d been up to me, the Democrats would have taken the bipartisan victory in May/June, and then work on the larger bill afterward.

The last verse of Slip Slidin’ Away:

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable
To the mortal man
We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip-slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip-slidin’ away

-Paul Simon

Silly political quiz and process

NYS presidential primary April 28

voting.booth The New York Times had an online quiz that I filled out a couple weeks ago. It asks you how you stand on certain issues. It then supposedly tells you who your ideal candidate would be, picking from among those still in the Democratic race.

Strictly by the criteria, Bernie Sanders was my #1 pick (10/10), followed by Elizabeth Warren (8/10), Michael R. Bloomberg (5/10), Tom Steyer (4/10), Pete Buttigieg (3/10), and Joseph R. Biden Jr., Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang (2/10 each).

Except, as Mark Evanier noted: “Here’s the problem with a quiz like this. I have to answer each question Yes or No and I don’t think either choice correctly describes my position on most of these questions.” Quite true.

Do you view President Trump’s election as an anomaly? My answer isn’t Yes or No. It’s more like, “I’m not surprised that a lot of Americans wanted what he was offering. I think it’s an anomaly that so many people became convinced he was presidential material and could or would deliver on those promises.”

Moreover, one could find 10, or 100 more questions, meaningful questions, that would totally skew the results.

In the Wall Street Journal, Sheila Barr made The Republican Case for Elizabeth Warren. “She has independence and integrity and is no socialist. She just wants the market to work for everyone.”

Will my vote matter?

But the New York State Democratic primary isn’t until April 28. There’s no way to know who’ll even be in the race by then, besides Mike Bloomberg, who’s self-funding his campaign. My choices will be made by who’s left after the wacky Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire, which, unlike in closed primary New York, allows non-Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary.

Certainly, my options will be determined by Super Tuesday on March 3, when California, Massachusetts, Virginia and other states vote. I feel for supporters of those fallen candidates, such as Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, and Jay Inslee, whose supporters never even got to cast a ballot at all.

The Democrats, because they’re Democrats, will continue to snipe about whoever is the candidate as too liberal or too corporate or too whatever. The incumbent gets four more years, and the recriminations will continue. Incidentally, I think it was brilliant political theater that DJT held rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire in conjunction with the Democrats’ selection process.

I also think that the concentration on Ukraine in the impeachment process ended up hurting Joe Biden in Iowa. It’s likely that some Democrats were scared off by the sniff of scandal and preferred a candidate that wouldn’t have to defend against it in the general election.

Yes, I’m voting on April 28. But unlike some folks, I’m not promising to pick a certain candidate in the primary this far out. I’ve long thought primary voting is “from the heart”. Whereas the general election in November, I’ve already made up my mind.

Q is for Quiz thing

Rode in the back of police car?

RussianDollI’m much more prone to do one of those quiz things when I’ve gone three or four days without blogging, which happens periodically when I am away at a conference or the computer doesn’t work.

This is a way to ease back into the blogging habit, the rhythm.

From Facebook, where one is supposed to put an X if you have done it, but I found that boring. It’s called Bucket List, which I REALLY thought was inane.

But still, I play along. “You’ll be surprised at the responses.” Yeah, right.

Fired a Gun – my grandfather’s rifle, when I was about seven. Knocked me on my keister.
Been Married – more than once.
Fell in love – more than once.
Gone on a blind date – I don’t believe so.
Skipped school- in 12th grade, to go to some antiwar demonstration. In college? Several times in the latter period.

Watched someone give birth – the Wife gave birth to the Daughter.
Watched someone die – my mother. And I hadn’t realized it.
Been to Canada – several times, most recently in 2011.
Ridden in an ambulance – just once, when I was 19.
Been to Hawaii – no. And I was invited. 1995.

Been to Europe – no, and I want to.
Been to Las Vegas – no, but I’m not hankering to do so.
Been to Washington D.C. – several times, most recently in 1998, I think.
Been to Nashville – yes, for a conference.
Visited Florida – at least twice, Orlando and Miami, both for conferences.

Visited Mexico – at least twice.
Seen Grand Canyon in person – no, and I’d like to.
Flown in a HELICOPTER – no.
Partied so hard you puked – yes. But it’s not hard partying, it’s changing liquors.
Been on a cruise – no.

Served on a jury – no. Called at least four times, appeared twice, went through voir dire once.
Been in a movie – no.
Danced in the rain – of course.
Been to Los Angeles – no. Anaheim is as close as I’ve gotten.
Been to New York City – MANY times, most recently in 2013.

Played in a band …in high school – I was a percussionist for one concert. Found it extremely difficult to wait for 30 or 40 measures, not seeing where everyone was.
Sang karaoke – never, actually.
Made prank phone calls – No, and I find doing so really annoying.
Laughed so much you cried – sure.
Caught a snowflake on your tongue – of course.

Had children – one.
Had a pet – several, but a large gap from my 20s to my 60s.
Been sledding on big hill – sure
Been downhill skiing – no.
Been water skiing – no.

Rode on a motorcycle – on the back, once or twice.
Traveled to all 50 states- only 30.
Jumped out of a plane – no.
Been to a drive-in movie – yes, as a child.
Rode an elephant …at the circus– no.

Rode a Horse – yes. First time: June 9, 1976.
Been on TV – locally several times. Twice nationally.
Been in the newspaper – many times.
Stayed in the Hospital – at least twice.
Donated blood – about 150 times.

Gotten a piercing – no.
Gotten a tattoo – no
Driven a stick shift vehicle – tried mightily, but no.
Driven over 100 mph – no.
Been scuba diving – no.

Lived on your own – for years.
Rode in the back of police car – yes.
Got a speeding ticket – no.
Broken a bone – yes, a rib.
Gotten stitches – a few times.
Traveled Alone – yes, for a couple of weeks in 1998 most recently.

Here’s another: Every answer must start with the last letter of your previous answer. “It’s fun. Who doesn’t love a game of Scattergories? Come on! Try it!!!”
Name – Roger
Animal – Rhino
Girl’s name – Olive
Color – Ecru
Movie – Until the End of the World
Something you wear – Denim
Drink – Mead
Food – Dill pickles
Item in the bathroom – Soap
Place – Poland
Reason to be late – Drinking


ABC Wednesday – Round 19

Endangered skills?

I find it online banking so much easier than the paper version.

Satellite-navigationWhen you know you’re going to be unavailable, and you want to write ahead, you do list thingies. Thanks to fillyjonk:

20 Skills Facing Extinction
According to a survey, “younger generations have a lack of interest in things like reading maps, tying knots and remembering phone numbers. They don’t know how to knit, use a compass, darn a sock or write in cursive. Here are the following 20 skills facing extinction.”

1. Reading a map: Yes, I can do this; I often serve as a navigator, going back to my childhood. What I CAN’T do, apparently, is refold a road map properly. But I have loved maps since my grandfather gave me maps from his National Geographic magazines; still have a few of them.
2. Using a compass: I have, but haven’t had much need.
3. Tie a specific knot: Depends. I was excruciatingly slow learning to tie my shoes; I wore penny loafers until I was nine. On one particular job, I had to tie boxes in bundles of 20, and I had a bear of a time; I quit after two weeks. Ah, let’s say no; literally, I was no Boy Scout.
4. Darn socks: I never have.
5. Looking something up in a book using an index rather than ‘Googling it’: I AM a librarian, and in my office is a shelf of reference books, which I find not only easier to use than Google, but far more reliable.

6. Correct letter-writing technique: I DO know this, but haven’t much need of late.
7. Understanding pounds and ounces: I know a ton about this.
8. Knowing your spelling and grammar: Despite the typos in this blog, I really am quite good at this. I’ve even been known to offer correction to others, and they correct me.
9. Converting pounds and ounces to grams and kilograms: 2.2 pounds is a kilogram; knew without looking it up.
10. Starting a fire from nothing: Well, I’ve done it with a piece of glass and dried grass, but not in a long while. But NOTHING nothing? No.

11. Handwriting: I know the rules, but the truth is my handwriting is terrible. Thank goodness for the computer.
12. Understanding feet and inches: It helps to have a young daughter who is learning this anew, but yes, and fathoms, and furlongs, and miles.
13. Knitting: No, nor any of those other fine arts, such as crocheting.
14. Remembering a friend or relative’s phone number. Several of them, if they haven’t changed, including both of my sisters. The problem is that people get cellphones, and get new numbers. Then I NEVER remember the new numbers.
15. Remembering a partner’s phone number. I know The Wife’s cellphone number. I also remember her Social Security number.

16. Identifying trees, insects, flowers: Not my strength, except for the really obvious ones. Ah, a purple flower…
17. Touch typing. I’m a terrible typist.
18. Baking bread from scratch. I’ve done it, don’t particular enjoy it.
19. Taking up trousers. No.
20. Wiring a plug. A qualified no. I’ve actually done it from modeling another, but not my strength.

I also have changed a car tire, though it’s been years. I can figure out square root by hand and occasionally do so, just as a mental exercise. I hate automatic bowling scoring because I’d rather do it myself.

They also apparently listed “10 essential skills for modern life”

1. Searching the Internet: Evidently, I have figured this out, and not just Google.
2. Using/ connecting to WiFi: Done that. It’s fun traveling on a bus and finding the goofy hot spot names.
3. Using a smartphone. Rarely have done this. And I so seldom use my dumb phone.
4. Online banking. Actually, I find it so much easier than the paper version.
5. Knowing about privacy settings online: I probably should do more.

6. Searching and applying for jobs online; I’ve actually been on the other side of this, on search committees. Don’t much like it, but it’s “efficient.”
7. Being able to turn the water off at the mains. Haven’t had the need.
8. Using and following a sat-nav: You mean GPS? I’m inherently suspicious of it, ever since I was in my brother-in-law’s car some years ago and we literally drove around in circles. I like road signs, directions, maps. Mark Evanier has a good example of blind reliance on GPS.
9. Updating and installing computer programs. I’ve done it. There’s usually something wrong, and I have to reinstall.
10. Working a tablet: I like them. I can work them. The problem is that I tend to kill them.

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