Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYE 2

It’s thirty minutes till 2012 here in the Eastern Standard Time zone. I am counting the minutes to the new year, a ritual I have observed for as long as I can remember. New Year’s Eve used to be a lot of fun for me and I remember many of them. Sadly, the last fun one for me was the beginning of Y2K. I had a small party and brought in the new year and century with a few select friends.

I had a pretty good year but fell short of many goals. I am very optimistic about 2012 … it will be ‘my year’ on many levels.

I just re-read my post from the end of last year in which I explained my “process” and declared my keyword for the year. Three years ago it was “play,” two years ago “simplify” and this past year was supposed to be “focus.” Funny how the process post I wrote a few days ago declared “focus” as my word for the coming year. I definitely need it and so I’ll stick with that because I did not do a very good job of it in 2011. I have, however, done well with “play” for the past few years. No regrets about that at all.

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday, in part because it represents renewal. Out with the old, in with the new. For me, it’s out with the negative parts of the old but in with the positive learned experiences and lessons.

Thanks to my very special friends LS, PC and LVB who help me in ways that are hard to put into words. Happy New Year to them and to you, whoever you are. Thanks for visiting.

NYE 1

I'm in a writing and chatting mood today, like I often am on New Year's Eve.  I'll probably post more later and will likely text several friends tonight as midnight draws near.
Meanwhile, here is something I saw on facebook today.
Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Religious Thing

Religion is a personal matter in my opinion and that is why I moved away from most organized religions. I did, however, help start a Unitarian Universalist congregation fifteen years ago. I am no longer a member of that particular group but I still identify with the general principles of the UU denomination. It is a very open faith that explores wisdom from many faiths. Services are often inspired by those of other religions and cultures and some of my favorites draw from Native American beliefs.

A few nights ago I was reading a section I had marked years ago in a book called “The Wisdom of the Native Americans,” a collection of Indian oration edited by Kent Nerburn, a religion and art expert from Minnesota. This part is very much in sync with my beliefs.

The worship of the Great Mystery is silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking. … It is solitary because we believe that God is nearer to us in solitude and there are no priests authorized to come between us and our Maker. … Our faith cannot be formulated in creeds, nor forced upon any who are unwilling to receive it; hence there is no preaching, proselytizing, nor persecution, neither are there any scoffers or atheists. Our religion is an attitude of mind, not a dogma.

What it means to me is this: religion and spirituality are things we decide on for ourselves as individuals and not as a result of somebody else telling us what to believe. We can share our thoughts with others in conversation or group church services, but ultimately it all lies within us each as one person.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Risks

Everything in life involves some kind of risk. We risk our lives just driving to work every day. Travelling by plane, opening the front door, falling in love all involve some element of risk. I am not known as a risk-taker but I have certainly taken my share. I am usually more subtle about it and I tend to favor calculated risks. I want to fully weigh the odds before deciding to risk anything.

This is on my mind tonight because a few hours ago I had my final pre-op doctor visit before eye surgery. The guy who is doing the surgery has a very calm nature and inspires confidence. He also outlines in excruciating detail the risks involved in cataract surgery. I think I heard him say “the risks are very small” at least five times. I asked him if I was turning green. He said no. That kind of surgery is almost routine for most people but I happen to have another eye issue that increases some of the risks for me. Most people have good outcomes with this surgery and most patients are older than I am. Being younger than average and having a mild but incurable degenerative eye disease feeds into the negative side of my obsessive nature.

I read and re-read the informed consent form, asked my usual twenty questions, then signed the document. Knowing me as I do, I will continue to obsess for the remaining twelve days before he digs into my eye, removes one thing, inserts another and closes it. While I dwell on that, I will also remind myself that EVERYBODY I know who has had this procedure came away with good results. Everyone I know who knows somebody who has had this procedure said those people came away with good results. Friends, including one in the medical profession, encourage me and hopefully will to continue their positive thoughts as I annoy the shit out of them with my obsessive worrying. I predict that one or two days before the operation, the balance of my emotions will have shifted to the positive side and I will go there with confidence and achieve the expected good outcome.

Meanwhile I’ll try some humor to calm me and steer my focus away from the risks. After all, the surgery is all in the eye of the beholder. Here’s looking at you kid. See ya.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today Was Better

My first day back at work after the December Road Trip was much better than yesterday.  Things are too busy, as usual, but the work is fun.

I'm tired, so that's all I have to say for now.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Today Sucked

Warning: this post is entirely negative except for the very last part. I apologize in advance. I’ll be better tomorrow.

Today was crappy.

It rained all day.

I miscalculated today’s trek from Birmingham to Roanoke by 90 minutes, then encountered another 90 minutes of delays due to three traffic jams near Chattanooga and two more near Knoxville.

I respect truckers but I hate that I have to share the road with them.

Two of the afore-mentioned traffic delays involved accidents in which 18-wheelers were on their sides.

Some drivers are just plain stupid. Many others are bullies.

I was in a great mood when I started out this morning but that changed 30 minutes into my drive.

In the midst of a miserable drive I started thinking about how busy it’ll be at work when I return there tomorrow.

Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. You know I’m usually positive, so maybe I’ve earned this departure from the norm.

There is a positive.  Except for today, this December road trip equaled last year’s, maybe bettered it. I have awesome friends in North Carolina and Louisiana and awesome family members in Louisiana. I am blessed to have been able to spend time with them. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow I’ll focus on that and it’ll help me get through the day.

The Process Returns

It’s that time of year again, my faithful readers, where I begin my annual “process,” a month long look back and look forward evaluation of where my life is and where it is going. I start around New Year’s and continue through my birthday near the end of January. I have been writing about it since this blog began and have been utilizing this technique for much longer. Some years it serves as great goal-setting and other years it makes for a nice blog post but is ignored starting the next day.

This past year seems like the latter, partly because I don’t remember what I said last year (I’ll look it up before completing this post) and partly because action on one very important personal matter is still stuck in neutral. I know, however, that I spent more time with people who are important to me, which included some travel to Virginia Beach, Asheville and New Orleans. I saw plenty of live music, including concerts by U2, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Duran Duran. I connected with some old friends I hadn’t seen in years and went to a few pro sports events including the Nationals, Redskins and Capitals.

My road trips were interesting, with activities like beach walks, hiking to waterfalls, wine tasting at Biltmore, photography, a play, a movie and endless conversation. My local friend time was enhanced by my decision to drive to other parts of the expansive DC area like Fairfax, Arlington, Silver Spring, Woodbridge and Baltimore rather than just whine about my daily Frederick-Rockville commute rut.

So what’s on the agenda for the coming year? I am just beginning the process but two things top the list for the first three months: eye surgery and finally turning the page on that personal matter I mentioned. Between January and March, nothing else matters to me. Successfully reaching those two goals will affect April and May too. Some time in the next month I’ll figure out the rest of the year, but right now I need to focus on those two things. I don’t remember what my “word of the year” was for 2011, but the word for 2012 has to be “focus.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Home and Home

Well, time for the homeward part of the road trip. This is always the hardest part. I am very much connected to New Orleans and feel at home here but this hasn't been my home for a long time. My home is definitely Maryland but sometimes I don't feel a deep connection there. Even if I could make a good living in New Orleans, which I can't, I would probably still choose Maryland. 

People who move away from their home town or state often develop personalities and lives that are different from siblings or friends who stay behind. When they visit home, they are still connected but feel a bit disconnected. That's my story. I think I retained some of the positives of growing up here and discarded what I believe are the negatives. 

Visiting here and spending time with friends and family from the past help me appreciate them and the uniqueness of New Orleans. At the same time I appreciate the directions my life has taken. I am lucky to have the best of both worlds. 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my New Orleans road trip.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Know I Know

Men can be sensitive and emotional without having to surrender their man card. I am totally secure in that part of my own personality. I am just as much 'cave man' as the next guy but it's usually subtle. I choose to show more of the sensitive side.  Maybe that's a mistake. Tough shit.

All that is prelude to this:  Sometimes I get emotional when I visit New Orleans during the holidays. I was pretty cocky when I left this place decades ago. I knew there was so much more world to see, experiences to live, people to meet and things to learn. I was right. People here can be so narrow-minded and isolated from the real world.

Something I have learned since, however, is that people here instinctively know things others from elsewhere don't know. For example, having a good time is just part of the local DNA. Dancing to music in the street while holding a drink you walked out of a bar with. (bad grammar is part of life here too, by the way).

Acceptance is another one. People here accept flooded streets, corrupt politicians, humidity and mosquitos. New Orleans is in the Central Time Zone but there is an accepted yet unspoken thing you could call New Orleans Time. If you have a 2 pm meeting, don't assume it will start at 2. It might. It might not.  And it may seem that people are lazy and slow and not getting anything done ... till you wake up one day and see how much they did.

I don't really miss this quirkiness all that much in my present life but when I'm here It all floods back into my psyche. That sometimes produces an emotional reaction. Yeah yeah yeah, sensitive schmensitive.

Some of the emotional reaction likely comes from a disconnect between my present and my past. My life could have been very predictable and stable had I stayed here; it was moving in that direction till the end of high school. My adult life proved to be very unpredictable.

My present life is pretty exciting and sometimes I don't realize it till somebody else points it out. You get what you focus on and my goal is to focus on the positive. Allowing myself some emotion when I'm here ultimately results in my acceptance of the influence this place had and has on me. I left New Orleans but it hasn't left me. That's a good emotion. Shedding a tear when I hear the song in this post is a good thing.

I love to share New Orleans.  Friends who read this, be prepared. One day you will  visit here with me and see this place through my eyes. It will be one of your life's most memorable adventures. I'll try not to get too emotional.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Future

Wow, a five-hour gab fest with the cousins. This is the third time in three years my sister threw a small party for me and the cousins on Dad's side of the family. It is always fun to see what paths they have taken over the years and this time we just couldn't shut up. It was great. 

These cousins are all older than me so maybe I'm seeing into the future when I spend time with them. Some of the conversation is about our youth, some relates to our present, some is sharing various 'family secret' items we've picked up along the way. And I got to hear enough about medical stuff to last a lifetime  We all look like our parents did at our present ages, which is kind of amusing too. 

I'm happy to see I'm not the only one without children and some of us do not live in houses we've paid off. Three of us have not retired and two of us probably never will. 

Except for time in the military nobody in the room last night has lived outside of southeast Louisiana except me. I moved away a long time ago and lost touch with them. I am happy to be able to see them again and grateful that they took time to visit. Time is the most precious gift someone can give. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Interesting Lesson

When some people think about New Orleans in the six years since Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the town they think residents are crazy for sticking around and rebuilding. My take is different. I see a lesson in survival. 

I'm writing this while sitting on my sister's front porch in the Lakeview neighborhood, a part of town that sat in eight feet of flood waters for three weeks after the storm.      When I lived in this house as a kid this porch was three feet above the lawn. Now it's eight feet up. Damn flood ain't gonna mess with this house again. 

The street I'm looking at has better blacktop than before Katrina, the sidewalk is now smooth and level, unlike pre-K days when it buckled from uneven settling ground and the grass is green. I still clearly remember this scene six weeks after the hurricane. The street was torn up, the ground was brown with caked dirt leftover from the receding cesspool flood waters and there were abandoned cars in the median, parked there by evacuees hoping the vehicles they couldn't take with them would be safe sitting a foot higher than street level. 

What hit me this morning, however, as I look over this scene is this:  the trees and shrubs in the median are the same ones that were here that week I helped my sister throw away most of the flood-soaked  contents of her house. That week those trees looked dead. But they survived and now they thrive. There are many vacant lots around here but there are also many rehabbed houses. And many new houses. Many of the people on this block came back and rebuilt. Their lives survived. 

That is the lesson and inspiration. If you want something bad enough you can have it. People here have a "let the good times roll" mentality that often masks an incredible tenacity. I guess if you willingly live in a town that sits three feet below sea level and is almost entirely surrounded by water, you learn to survive. Either that or you're too lazy or stupid to move to higher ground. 

I don't plan to ever live here again but I celebrate the positive and continuing lessons learned from my connection with this unique place. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Road Trip Randomness

Today is the first day of winter and I'm wearing a t-shirt.  I woke up in Birmingham, Alabama, where it is 67 degrees at 8am.  Every now and then I miss living in the south.  After a week I come to my senses. 

The fitness room in this hotel actually had more stuff than just a treadmill.  Real weights.  Three mornings in a row of success in my new fitness plan. 

I'll be in New Orleans for the next few days, staying in my sister's guest room which was my room when were kids growing up in that house.  It is an interesting experience because after extensive post-Katrina renovation, the house isn't really the same as it was.  Yet in many ways it is.

I am stubborn yet flexible, cold and hot, emotional and lacking emotion, giving and taking, secure with dots of insecurity, logical yet artistic and all of that comes out during a road trip to my hometown.  Why?

I spent two and a half days in Asheville and did not take one picture with a real camera.  Kind of odd.  Being that wrapped up in conversation is something I don't get enough of.

Haven't taken any pictures in Birmingham either but that's because I only use this as a convenient stop.  And I have an interesting post-Katrina connection with the part of town I stay in.  Otherwise I don't care much about this town.  Sorry.  (not really).

Bet I take a bunch of pictures in New Orleans.  One of the most photogenic places on the planet.

Time to hit the road.  More later.  Happy Winter Solstice.  Happy Hanukkah.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 2011 Road Trip Randomness

Well, I’m on the road again, eating and drinking my way through the south. Here is the first round of random thoughts.

- I totally love Asheville NC. It feels like home. Have now visited six times. Would live there if I could make a living there, but that’s just not in the cards.

- Part of what I like there is a very awesome friend. We are just friends but feel free to use us as proof that straight men and women can actually be friends without any drama.

- Saw the David Sedaris-written one-man play called Santa Land Diaries. Awesome fun.

- Two doctors I saw last week suggested I lose weight and exercise five times a week instead of just two or three. That’s a challenge on a road trip, but so far so good. Most of my breakfasts so far have been yogurt and cereal; most other meals were salad-oriented. Wine and a couple of beers – well, this IS a vacation. But I have used hotel fitness rooms two mornings in a row and will do the same again tomorrow.

- This is my first paperless vacation. No paper reservations, no paper maps, no paper note-taking. Everything is on my iPhone. Cool and scary and the same time.

-  We visited a toy store.  Yes that is a propeller on that cap.  No I did not buy the cap (but I thought about it).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another One

And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from 1 to 92, although it’s been said many, times many ways …..



((Sorry about the commercial))

Monday, December 12, 2011

Naughty or Nice

So what is more fun, naughty or nice?

Most people think I am a nice guy. My own take on me is that I am a nice guy with a naughty streak. That’s funny to me because most people in my current circle of friends and acquaintances can’t picture the naughty side unless they’ve actually been around me during those moments. Those from my past who know what I’m talking about aren’t telling. Hmm, I wonder if Santa knows.

The up side to nice is that it is reliable, dependable and desirable over the long run. Honesty and trust are good qualities. And they’re boring, which is the down side. Naughty is a lot more fun. Or is it? Being nice has cost me jobs and girlfriends. My naughty side has led to the occasional slap in the face or embarrassing conversations. My naughty streaks were often fun, sometimes odd and definitely memorable. I can’t really talk about most of it. Sorry.

Naughty might be more fun but if given the choice, I’ll pick nice every time. Well, almost every time.

The correlation between naughty and nice and presents from Santa seems pretty fuzzy. I have received good and bad presents during both naughty and nice phases. No connection. No cause and effect. Doesn’t matter anyway. While I am grateful for gifts, the only thing I really want from anybody this year is a little of their time. For many of my closest friends and family members, time is more expensive than any gift card or shirt and a lot more precious to me. And it looks like I’ll get what I’m asking for. See, nice can be kinda nice.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back Roads

I'm going to see this guy and six other country music singers tonight, partly for work and partly for pleasure.  As I was watching this video a few minutes ago I was thinking about the two-lane backroad I live near.  Mine is a fairly well-developed state highway but it is only two lanes, it runs througn several small towns (the largest has a population of 3500) and sometimes there are large, slow-moving tractors slowing the pace a bit and reminding us that this county was and to some degree still is filled with farmland.  I sort of like the relaxed life of living here but I can't actually make a living in these towns, so I take two Interstate highways filled with traffic jams to my work place more than 40 miles away.  The commute is killing me.  I will be moving, hopefully early in the new year.  I'll miss the two-lane backroads but I will not miss the commute or the sense of isoloation or the ridiculous distance between where I live and where my real life lives.

Anyway, watch the video.  Pretty cool vid and song.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Good Point

The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.

-A. Einstein

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stand Up and Focus

That pesky holiday depression keeps sneaking up on me. Actually it’s more like regular depression. I think the real cause is that there is just too much on my plate and not enough time to get it done. I’m a bit of a control freak and big chunks of my life are not within my control this month. Way too much to do and way too little time to get it done.

Over the past twenty years I have read at least five self-help books and countless self-help articles, interviewed three different psychologists on my radio shows and even took one of the recorded Tony Robbins courses. All of that advice is pretty much the same and can be summarized in two thoughts: 1) you get what you focus on and 2) every time you fall, stand up.

We can choose to focus on the negatives in our lives and if we do, we will usually find more negatives. Conversely, we can choose to focus on the positives and, well, we will find more positives. That is the advice I give others and usually follow myself. I am self-aware enough to recognize my breaking points and if I’m paying attention, I can spot them before I reach them and do something about it. But sometimes I stumble. When I fall, I should stand up. Again, that is the advice I give others but sometimes as I’m wallowing in a negative pity party, I forget to stand up. Fortunately I eventually remember. Things might be a little blah for me right now but I know I have been much further down in the dumps than this. Every time I have fallen into the negative pit this fall (ironic name for this season, isn’t it?), I have stood up and grabbed onto something positive.

One more thing I remember from some self-help gurus is this: surround yourself with positive people and discard the negative ones. That’s a little harsh but it works. Or if you choose to keep a few negative people, make them a project; try to swing them into a more positive zone. I have a few “project” people in my circle. I don’t think any of them read this blog. And I definitely do have positive people in my circle, and some of the most important ones do read this blog.

I had a real up and down day today but one thing that helped me stand up a couple of times was a song. In fact, my favorite Christmas song, the one I mentioned a few posts ago … The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). I decided to find a few more versions and share them with you. Here is one I heard today. Enjoy. Happy Holidays. I am very excited that I will see at least two of my positive friends later this month.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ghoti

If your native language is American English, you might think it is a fairly easy language to learn. Remember, however, that you’ve had a lifetime to learn the nuances. But try to find logic in some of our language and you might understand why it is so difficult for immigrants to learn it.

Here are a few examples, starting with one inspired by my early morning hunger pains today.

Break fast and breakfast. I believe the terms are related, but the words with identical spellings have different pronunciations. When you eat for the first time after fasting for awhile, you break your fast. Break is pronounced like brayk, with a long a, and the a in fast rhymes with ass. But the 1st meal of the day, when you break the fast of not eating since dinner last night, is pronounced breck, rhyming with wreck, and fast said more like fust … shouldn’t it be spelled breckfust?

Here’s a threesome: Signature, nature and natural. In signature, the nature part is pronounced nah-tur. Actually the t is said like ch ... sig-nah-chur. Nature, referring to the great outdoors, is said with a long a, like nay-chur. Natural, which is related to nature, is pronounced with the na part rhyming with bat … and again the t said more like chnatch-u-ral (the ral sort of like ruhl). Easy, right?

National is another one that defies logic. Na rhyming with bat, tion said like shun, al said like uhl.

Laugh – the gh is like an f and the u is very quiet.

Women – ok, that should be pronounced woh-men but the o part rhymes with sinwimen.

Nation – there’s that ti sounding like sh again and a long a.

Which leads me to the title of this post … ghoti. The gh in laugh, the o in women and the ti in nation. Think about that next time you eat fish.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bucket List 3.0

The ‘bucket list’ concept has appealed to me ever since I first heard the term used more than ten years ago. I have been a list-maker as long as I can remember and it seems natural to list things I want to do before I “kick the bucket.” It is a logical form of goal-setting. Making lists for my career has helped me hit many goals, such as working in several big cities, hosting a radio show heard in multiple time zones, hitting certain income levels; list-making for personal goals, no matter how out of reach they might seem, makes perfect sense to me and is a great first step toward hitting the mark.

I have started bucket lists a couple of times in the past few years but was inspired to share this list this week by a recent blog post from my friend Eliz in Asheville. Here are some of the items I am willing to admit out loud.

- Hike the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon

- Visit the Tuscany region of Italy

- Learn to speak Italian

- Learn to play an instrument well enough to play in public (saxophone, piano or guitar)

- Have a conversation with a U. S. President

- Go cross-country skiing

- Spend a New Year’s Eve in Time Square

- Climb a rock wall

- Write and publish a book

- Write a song that gets recorded by a singer somebody has heard of

- Finish college

- Go on a Blues Cruise

- Narrate a Discovery Channel special.

- Take a week-long landscape photography course taught by John Shaw or David Muench

- Celebrate my 100th birthday

There are other items on my bucket list but they are too weird or personal to share here. So what is on your bucket list? Please share in Comments.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Words To Live By

Jimmy Valvano was a famous basketball coach, most notably during his years at NC State in the 1980s. Being the occasionally clueless guy that I am when it comes to college basketball, I never heard of him … till today. He was also a broadcaster and motivational speaker during his relatively short life. A friend posted a partial quote on Facebook and I made light of it. She responded diplomatically and posted a link to the speech she was quoting.

It is well worth your time to watch this 10-minute video, even if you have seen it before. He died of bone cancer at the young age of 47, less than a year after the diagnosis, and this speech was delivered as he accepted the first Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award about a month before his death. He apparently was an inspiration to the teams he coached but the things he said in this speech are an inspiration to me and others now. These things reinforce some beliefs I hold and often talk about. He sums it up better than I can.

Watch the whole video. This line is my takeaway from it:

There are three things we should do every day … you should laugh every day, you should spend some time in thought every day and have your emotions moved to tears, of happiness or joy. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a full day, a heck of a day. Do that seven days a week and you’re going to have something special.

Sunday TV, Campaigns and Football

My usual Sunday morning rituals include a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and watching parts of TV talk shows. I only watch a few minutes of those programs because they don’t really accomplish anything beyond giving political pundits air time to spew their carefully-crafted talking points.

Case in point: the CBS show this morning hosted by Bob Schieffer. He has been a journalist for more than fifty years, much of it on TV. He is smart, well-prepared and has pretty much seen it all; but like many of his colleagues, fails to dig deep enough. The segment I watched featured a strategist or executive representing each of the two major political parties. Schieffer asked the Republican guest about significant inconsistencies relating to Gingrich and Romney, the current leading contenders for a Presidential candidacy. His response repeatedly avoided answering the questions and re-stated the talking points, which basically is that their strategy is to make Obama a one-term President.

Schieffer asked the Democrat several questions relating to Obama’s inability so far to fix the economy and create jobs. The guest’s answers kept coming back to his talking points, which mostly related to members of Congress who he said continued to block the President’s efforts to fix the economy and create jobs. Schieffer thanked both guests and expressed appreciation for their appearance on the show. Maybe he was being sarcastic. It was obvious to me that the current strategy of both party’s representatives is to blame the other using quotable talking points while avoiding what I believe to be the real issue: politics over results.

Presidential campaigns tend to be more like auditions for the starring role in a four-year television series. We elect the auditioning candidates with the most star power of those who are up for the part. Obama-McCain, Bush-Kerry, Bush-Gore, Clinton-Dole, Clinton-previous Bush. Look who won each of those elections. None of them were great presidents, none of them delivered all they promised (although Clinton probably came the closest) and each of the winners in each race could have won American Idol.

Does a President really have the power to make things happen? To lead in a crisis? They do, but not in their leadership of their administration or Congress. Their strength is in leading the voting public to feel good about certain issues. That results in subsequent action by Congress and others. Clinton had plenty of missteps in office but he made us believe that the economy was the issue and that his background in economics could fix it. He left office with a balanced budget; he also made us wonder if he could finish a whole paragraph without telling some kind of lie. Bush seemed dumber than a box of rocks but he showed true leadership in the months following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He made us feel that our country could find a way to prevent another attack and in some way avenge that one. He played that patriotism card many more times over eight years, but he left us with the economic crisis we are currently in. Obama made us feel we needed change, a changing of the guard, a move to the other end of the boomer spectrum, a new world in Washington. But he doesn’t seem to have a passion for the job and that hurts him now and could hurt him more in the election next year.

Yes, I got all that in a ten minute segment of one TV show. The next segment was about penguins in the Antarctic. Much more fun. Then I switched to the Weather Channel. This afternoon I will engage in another Sunday ritual … watching the Washington Redskins lose another football game. I skip the post-game news conference with the coach – he seems to have the same “non answers” that are so common here in the Washington area.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sharing a Song

This is one of my favorite songs on Coldplay's new CD.  Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ho Ho Ho and Bah Humb….

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to admit having the problem. So rather than trying to ignore it, I’ll just come right out and say that I’m struggling with holiday depression. I go through this every year, so I’m used to it. Fortunately it comes in waves, usually just a few days or hours at a time, and not the months-long emotional adventure it used to be.

I’ve studied it, read about it and interviewed experts on my radio shows. I know plenty about holiday depression. In my case, part of it is a lingering set of mismatched expectations. I grew up in a stable, predictable family environment in which each holiday season was pretty much like the previous one. Mostly it was good, enjoyable and pleasant. Things changed in my adulthood, as it does for most people. My life is generally good but I’ve had periods of instability, unpredictability and dysfunctional family and personal situations. Those emotional and situational extremes fight with each other.

I don’t really expect the holidays to be great but I do want them to be. Last year I decided in advance that I was going to have a great holiday season, I defined what that would include in terms of people I would spend time with and activities I would engage in. The result? One of the best holiday seasons I’ve ever had. I spent time with two of my best friends, my sister and some of her friends, a former best bud from high school and two different sets of cousins, some of whom I had not seen in decades and whose children I had never met. All of this happened on a road trip and I didn’t have even a second of holiday depression for those nine days.

A similar road trip is on my agenda for this month. I’ll spend time with some of the same people and do some of the same things. There is a little bit of sadness in the cousin circle, including a death and a cancer diagnosis, but I think there will still be some joy in that setting. Maybe I’ll be the one to encourage that. It will be an awesome nine days right in the middle of the season. I’ll probably feel great for weeks after. But right now, tonight and maybe for the next couple of days, I’ll accept that I feel blue and am experiencing some holiday depression. For me, depressing that feeling would make things worse, so I am admitting the problem to myself (and I guess to you) and that should help solve it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Holiday Spirit

I'm trying to get into the holiday spirit.  Music usually helps.  This is my favorite Christmas song (although my 2nd or 3rd favorite version - but his recording is the most famous version).  Merry Christmas.  Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

16 Puns

Timing is everything and maybe so is laughter. I was in a bad mood at work this afternoon, took a break to check personal email and found a note from a friend that contained a list of puns. These are the ones I laughed at and that laughter pulled me out of the bad mood. Enjoy. And laugh.

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other,

'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'

11. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

12. A backward poet writes inverse.

13. In a democracy, it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your count that votes.

14. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

15. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'

16. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'

Monday, November 28, 2011

Random or Fate

Friendships are often random and “just happen” but sometimes you get an opportunity to actually design a friendship. Meeting this person might start as a mix of randomness and fate but when it becomes obvious that a genuine friendship connection has been made, two people can determine exactly what defines that friendship. Some of it might still be a natural evolving process but it is shaped by communication and mutual agreement.

Can a real friendship develop online? I believe some of that growth can happen in the cloud but real friendship usually involves at least some in-person time and a sharing of experiences unique to those two people.

Some of my best friendships began in person and the internet has enabled them to continue across time and distance. I’m mostly thinking about my closest friends from my teens and twenties. I am currently in touch with most of the ones that really mattered.

Funny thing is that one of my closest friends is someone who I met online, eventually in person and now we maintain a deep friendship through a combination of both. Most of our communication over the past few years has been email, chat and text but we’ve spent some time in person too; and the friendship is strong and real. Developing friendships that way is not something I could have imagined. We have designed our friendship, defied some rules of male-female friendships and honored others, set boundaries in some obvious areas and developed a great communication style that is uniquely ours.

My longest-running close friendship began through a funny mix of fate and randomness. I flunked chemistry in high school and had to take it again in summer school. She was in my class.

Regardless of whether it is fate or random or both or neither, friendships mean a lot to me. I do what I can to keep in touch with friends. Online friendship maintenance is great but I’ll always chose the in-person option when I have that choice.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ignoring the Obvious

The ‘politically correct’ mentality that leads businesses and local governments to avoid using the word Christmas annoys the crap out of me. Those who say that saying the word Christmas in connection with this time of year because it might offend somebody completely miss the point.

No matter what you believe or do not believe, Christmas is obviously named for a person, a very influential and well-known person. Whether Jesus Christ is your lord and savior, a messiah, a prophet, a historical figure or some random eloquent speaker from two thousand years ago with a good public relations agent, you can’t ignore the fact that his birthday is celebrated all around the world and that day is named for him.

Christians believe Christmas is a celebration of the widely-agreed-upon day of his birth (no existing document verifies an exact date). A large number of non-Christians acknowledge Christmas Day and the Christmas season as a time to celebrate peace, love, family and friends, things they all believe in whether they believe anything else he said or not. In America, Christmas is a federal, state and local holiday with religious roots that is now a commercial and government holiday inspired by religious themes of peace, love, family and friendship.

This year’s trigger for my annual rant on this topic is an ad for Target announcing their sale on Holiday Trees. What?!?! “Holiday” trees? They mean Christmas Trees, don’t they? I don’t think there is a tree for holidays like President’s Day, Labor Day or Memorial Day. Is there an Independence Day tree? Why would anyone not call a Christmas Tree a Christmas Tree?

I’m no religion expert, but I’m quite certain that Jews don’t celebrate Hanukkah with a tree and Muslims don’t celebrate Ramadan with a tree. If you are Jewish or Muslim, you are not likely to be interested in a plastic, triangular-shaped tree to be decorated, lit and displayed the corner of your family room for one month each year. So that sale isn’t really for you anyway; it’s for people who celebrate Christmas.

If you are not a Christian, are you really going to be offended by the word Christmas? If so, then I guess you’ll be at work December 25th each year while everyone else isn’t.

Being an American means you have the right to celebrate or not celebrate whatever you want. Public acknowledgement of our wide variety of beliefs and traditions is a good thing, an inclusive aspect of our multi-cultural salad bowl. Many groups of people, in the past and the present, celebrate around the time of the Winter Solstice. The Hopi Indians’ Soyaluna Ceremony, for example, is a sacred prayer-offering ceremony in which they pray for the New Year and wish each other prosperity and health. Hmmm, sounds like Christmas.

I believe it is important to not leave anyone out, but that does not mean ignoring anyone either. Avoiding saying the name of a celebration originally based on the dominant belief system that our country is formed on is ridiculous, especially now that the name is so much more inclusive than its origin.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Randomness

Macy’s opened at midnight last night/this morning. I was asked to be the driver on a little ride to the nearest one, a request which I initially turned down. After looking on their web site, however, I decided to go, partly because there were some sale items I wanted, partly because the crowds would probably be less than the middle of today and partly out of curiosity.

My observations:

The crowds were less than they probably are as I’m writing this at noon, but by 1:00 a.m. the store was definitely crowded.

The stuff on sale looked better online than in the store, so I only bought two things: flannel sleep pants that I’ll probably use a lot and a Jerry Garcia tie that I might only wear a couple of times a year (but it was half price).

For the first half of my sixty minutes in the store I was sure we were the only shoppers over the age of twenty. It was apparently teen date night.

Five other stores in that mall were also open, including Radio Shack and Victoria’s Secret – which both appeal to me for obvious different reasons.

The story teller in me is glad I did this. The pragmatist says ‘check that off the bucket list and don’t do it again’.

I have been in four malls during the past three days and have yet to buy a gift.

Now we have Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a new one this year called Small Business Saturday. I plan to support the new one tomorrow by shopping at a quirky store near where I currently live. I might even buy a gift there – they have products you don’t usually see at a typical mall.

So there you have it. I do not plan to leave my house today. No travel traffic, no mall traffic. I will clean my house, open a bottle of wine and drink some of it while I watch LSU beat Arkansas on television. Happy Holidays. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Looks Fake but ...

Clouds are amazing things, aren't they?  I took this yesterday with my iPhone, while in my car at a stop sign.  The clouds look fake but they are real.  The only enhancing on this shot is a little bit of added contrast thanks to Photoshop.  The little crescent shaped black thing in the middle-right is a smudge on my windshield.

Happy

Happy Thanksgiving Day !!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Outlet Mall Randomness

Yesterday I visited a “snooty” mall and a “normal generic” mall. Today’s little shopping adventure involved going to a nearby outlet mall.

I shop here several times a year, always visiting Eddie Bauer and Reebok/Rockport and usually buying something at one or the other.

All I wanted today was shoes, specifically casual shoes in some shade of brown with a sole that might not be slippery on wet pavement like the shoes I am about to throw away because they are slippery.

Reebok and Rockport did not have what I wanted, which is a first. I’ve always been able to find what I’m looking for there.

Nike, Bass and one or two others did not either, not in my size anyway. Am I too picky?

Last time I tried on Timberlands was ten years ago. They never fit right. But I walked into their outlet store anyway, just to see what they had. I walked out with two pairs of casual shoes in shades of brown. Maybe I found a new brand today. Maybe I was duped. I’ll let you know in a few months or the first time I slip on wet pavement.

In an attempt to avoid holiday traffic on I-70, I tried to take a parallel non-interstate route home. I got lost in Hagerstown because I assumed two things: that I knew where the other highway was and that there would be signs directing me to the other highway. Silly me.

This post is NOT an ad for any of the brands I mentioned nor is it an endorsement. I just want to be clear about that.

Yes, I know that just because something is at an outlet store does not mean it is the same style or quality as that same brand but sold at a lower price. I do know that some products are made specifically for the outlet malls, often at a slightly or greatly reduced quality level. But I have been generally happy with purchases of my favorite brands at their outlet stores, so I keep going back.

I would never be confused with a guy who has style, but I do sort of have “a look.” Jeans, khaki and brown cargo pants, long sleeve t-shirts in various shades of blue and rust, plaid shirts or solid-color Henley shirts. I should call it “suburban 45-year-old.” Think that’ll catch on?

I do still have a closet full of Hawaiin shirts, just in case that style comes back. Or in case I just feel like wearing them. I don’t really care that much about style.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mall Randomness

Like many people, I have brand preferences in certain product categories. For clothes, I usually buy Eddie Bauer and Dockers and if I go to a typical mall I usually shop at Macy’s. My first stop at a local outlet mall is the Eddie Bauer store. Those choices probably put me one or two notches above the very middle of middle class, but I am just as much at home in Wal-mart as I am in Macy’s.

All of that is a setup for these random observations about two malls I visited today:

First stop was a “high end” mall I hadn’t visited in years and I entered through Bloomingdales, probably the most “common” of the stores there. Every sales clerk who said “can I help you” seemed snooty; maybe it was obvious I was wearing Bauer.

I immediately checked out the “sale” rack of men’s shirts. Regular price: $135. WTF?!?! Even at 30% off, the price was still $95. No way. I don’t pay even half that much for ordinary shirts.

Bloomingdales oozes elegance, yet there was a stock clerk hauling boxes of stuff through the aisle on an old, rusty hand truck. And in another part of the store I had to walk around an aluminum ladder left in the middle of an aisle. I’ve worked retail before and those two things aren’t (or weren’t) tolerated even at Sears.

The food court in this mall had none of the usual franchise eateries. A pleasant surprise.

Next stop was a “normal” mall. By that, I mean a mall with all the predictable stores you see at nearly every mall. I entered through the only upscale store there, a Nordstrom’s. Didn’t bother to even look at prices.

The food court had a McDonald’s, Subway, and, you guessed it, a Panda Express.

The Macy’s there had lots of stuff on sale but I only wanted shoes, and I didn’t see what I was looking for. I shop at this particular Macy’s six or seven times a year, but for the first time I can remember, everything in the men’s department was moved around. I actually got lost trying to find my way back into the mall. Geez.

The last time I was in this Sears store was to buy a TV more than ten years ago. Everything in that store is in exactly the same place it was back then. The only difference: the TV and home electronics department now is surrounded by plexiglass walls with theft-deterrent alarm thing at the entrance.

The dreaded “black Friday” is three days from now yet this mall was packed, at 2pm on a Tuesday.

It was a big deal for Macy’s and Penney’s to open at 4am the day after Thanksgiving last year. Signs in the mall this week say Macy’s will open at Midnight.

This shopping trip had nothing to do with gifts. I was only shopping for myself today. This adventure was another reminder that online shopping is a lot easier.

Unlike most men, I actually like shopping, but I am a very focused shopper. I know what I want before I go; I find it, buy it and leave. If I browse, it is usually to check out other things I regularly buy that I didn’t plan to buy that day, just in case something I want is on sale.

Ladies, do you like men to wear cologne? I got a whiff of some powerful scent reminiscent of one I used to wear and thought I was going to pass out. Is there really any appealing men’s cologne?

My goal today was shoes and maybe a shirt. I bought neither. I did get iPod headphones and some blank DVD-Rs. I could have found those items at Wal-mart.

So there ya have it. I wonder why I was mildly depressed as I left. Maybe because of the pouring rain. Or the disconnect between the festive holiday decorations and the grumpy store employees. The three traffic jams I encountered on the way home didn’t help. Hopefully that’s the only depression I experience this holiday season. I have an awesome holiday road trip planned; no malls are on the itinerary.

This Day in History

Do you know what November 22nd means to some boomers? Those who know might remember details of that day in the past. Some won’t remember or care. Gen X or Gen Y might think it means Thanksgiving is coming.

I remember my parents talking about the day President Franklin Roosevelt died. His death was tragic but not caused by a person. He died from a stroke on April 12, 1945. I don’t know if my parents remembered that date or not.

November 22, 1963 is a day I remember surprisingly well. I didn’t understand what it meant at the time, or why so many adults were crying and nervous. Teachers were having hushed conversations in the hallways at lunch time. An announcement was made that school would be closing early, which seems like happy news because it was Friday and that meant an early start to the weekend. But why were the adults so sad?

At 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963 United States President John Kennedy was shot and killed on the streets of Dallas, Texas. People loved Kennedy, even people who voted against him and didn’t agree with his politics. He represented youth at the time and a departure from politics of the past. I didn’t know any of that at the time, of course, because I was too young. I mostly remember that he and his whole family were on TV a lot, trend-setters emulated their sense of fashion and comedians imitated their Massachusetts accents.

I didn’t really understand what a President was but I knew this guy was important. I did know what ‘thou shalt not kill’ meant so I knew that it was a bad thing because somebody killed him. The unfolding story dominated all the TV channels. The suspected assassin was captured, and awhile later was escorted into jail in front of cameras. My most vivid memory of that time is from Sunday, however, as I watched somebody step out of a crowd on live TV and assassinate the assassin. Talk about reality TV!! I think my parents turned off the TV after that. We had all seen enough that weekend.

So here we are, 48 years later. November 22nd still stands out to my eyes on a calendar, but the day goes by almost unnoticed to most people I know. Media coverage ramps up on zero-year and five-year anniversaries, but the 48th may go mostly unnoticed. Except by curious me. And now you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eyes

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, what happens when the window gets foggy?

I have been thinking about my eyes a lot lately. Why? Because I am fifty days away from cataract surgery. That makes me feel a lot older than I am. Medical treatments like that are more often associated with 80-somethings than with 50-somethings.

I first wore glasses in 7th grade and began wearing them nearly every day fifteen years ago. For the past year I have worn them nearly every waking hour of every day. My vision is rapidly deteriorating, which is what led to the decision to finally have this surgery.

Loss is the biggest single issue we face as we age. Loss of friends and family through death, loss of youth, loss of various body and mind functions. We start losing brain cells in our late teens, so this should come as no surprise as we reach 40, 50 or more, but acceptance doesn’t equal liking it.

Loss of vision scares me more than loss of mobility, hearing, money or libido. Fortunately, of those five, vision is the only one in jeopardy right now. Vision seriously impacts all but the last of those. With glasses, I can see well enough to drive, work and read. It is difficult to do any of those things without them. Even with the glasses, there are issues related to the cataracts. The decision to have surgery done happened when it begins to affect quality of life. I am there.

Cataract surgery is considered almost routine now. I know two people who have had the operation; one was 52, the other was 80-something. Neither had complications and both were happy with the results. One of them was 52 at the time of the operation a year or two ago.

The eyes, like many other parts of human anatomy, offer redundancy. We have two of them but we can see with either. I need the surgery in both, so you can see why I am concerned. First operation is scheduled for January and the second will likely be in March. I have a wait-and-see attitude about that second one; I want to be sure the first one was successful. Part of the operation involves a plastic implant, so there is no going back.

I have interviewed two sight-impaired people on my radio shows and they function very well with limited vision. One was actually blind. They each represented support organizations for people with vision issues. But their lives are definitely a struggle. I probably could not do my current job without sight. One of my non-job passions is photography and another is writing. You see the obstacles with both, don’t you?

If you know me in person, then you know I can be obsessive about things and sometimes project myself into possible future scenarios, some of them negative. When I was in the hospital years ago after breaking a few things in a fall down some stairs, I was imagining myself not being able to walk. I scared myself needlessly. For several months I did need crutches and later a cane, but within six months my walking was perfectly normal. I even tried running again, although that is more of a struggle.

So now I imagine life without sight and it scares me. Even limited vision scares me. Just the other night I had trouble reading a recipe and seeing chopped onions on a white cutting board was a challenge. Odds are overwhelmingly in favor of completely successful surgeries. In fact, I probably won’t need glasses for distance any more. Those odds do not stop me from being concerned and a little obsessed with the slight possibility of a negative outcome.

I feel a little foolish even telling you all of this. My optimistic side assures me all will be fine. Maybe I’m just saying this stuff out loud to give you a little glimpse through the windows into my soul.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who Are You?

Have you ever seen those self-help books or web sites that ask you to define who you are? If you’re like most people, you instinctively answer with a description of what you do. That is probably the point of those self-help queries … you are not ‘what you do’ you are ‘who you are’.


In our American society, however, we are often defined by what we do for a living or by our primary hobbies or interests. I am a radio commercial producer, talk-show interviewer, former DJ working for the biggest owner of radio stations on earth who is also an avid photographer, traveler, car enthusiast, blogger and would-be musician. But that is not really who I am, it is what I do.

So who are you?

I have a life-long friend who if asked that question, might say she is a teacher, mother, wife, female gear head and music enthusiast. But that is what she does or is interested in. My take on who she is: an adventurous, moderately risk-taking, caring educator who is passionate about life, love and music, an idealistic but realistic dreamer with a good heart and a desire to make select people in her life happy.

Another friend could answer the original question by saying she is a self-employed animal caretaker, rescuer, storm chaser, former quality control specialist and hotel front-desk employee. I see her as someone who is curious, passionate about all animals, caring and an idealistic dreamer and music-lover with a good heart and a desire to make select people in her life happy.

Yet another friend might say she is a psych tech, nursing school student, blogger, former bartender, socializing people person, and music and photography enthusiast. Those are things she does. My take: spontaneous yet grounded adventure-seeker, outwardly friendly but inwardly selective about friendships, artistic, thoughtful, creative, a music-lover with a good heart and a desire to make select people in her life happy.

Do this exercise for yourself about yourself. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Who am I? I think I am a curious and idealistic-yet-realistic story teller, people connector, stubborn grounded free spirit who both sets and breaks boundaries, an artistic photography and music-lover with a good heart and a desire to make select people in my life happy.

Hmmm, I think I see a pattern connecting me and my friends. There is probably another blog story in that observation.

Tell me who you are in the comment section.

And if you are one of the three friends I mentioned in this post, tell me (privately) if you see yourself the way I see you … and tell me some more about your own impression of who you are.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Morning TV Randomness

Watching cartoons and old cowboy movies on television was a Saturday morning childhood ritual for me. There were only three or four channels at the time, so there weren’t many choices. This morning I made a partial list of viewing options on the hundred or more channels I currently have.

- Grease 2 (Michelle Pfeiffer – yummy)

- A History Channel show about salvaging a giant B25 World War II bomber sunk in 300 feet of water in a South Carolina lake.

- Countless news channels, two of which seem more like infomercials for left and right wing political interests.

- A Law & Order episode from 2008.

- College football previews and an interview with the LSU coach talking about his 10 – 0 record so far this season … and how they will beat the crap out of Arkansas next week. (OK, I made up that last part – I have a friendly bet riding on the game).

- Deer hunting tips

- A 30-minute program about a vacuum cleaner

- Celebrity hair-styling tips.

- Paula Dean making Thanksgiving cupcakes

- A John Wayne movie.

So which show did I stop on? I considered the John Wayne movie, for nostalgia reasons, and the Grease 2 channel, for Michelle Pfeiffer reasons, but I landed on the History Channel. Wow, they successfully removed the B25 from the lake, where it had rested for more than 60 years. Yes, I wear my geekiness with great pride. But I’ll be covering my Saturday morning hair with a baseball cap before leaving the house to run errands. I don’t want to go out looking like a brown-haired Smurf.  Maybe I should have stopped on the hair styling tips channel.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not Bragging, but ...

Nothing new to say today.  I'm in the middle of writing a couple of posts, but meanwhile here is a little gem relating to my Italian heritage.  Caio.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Job Stuff

I wonder what it's like to have a 9 to 5 job in a business that is only open during those hours. Or a job that is mostly in the moment, one that stops when you leave for the day and doesn't have work that has to be done in advance of vacation, like retail sales clerk or burger flipper I've rarely had a job like that.

My business, media, is alive 24/7. My duties continue whether I'm there or not, so much of what I do has to be done ahead when I'm going to be out of the office. I'm not complaining; I love my job. But I hate the week before a vacation because I have to do two weeks work in one.

I go through this angst every time I'm coming up on a week off. I'll be fine as soon as vacay begins. I'll say this again: I do love my job.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Was One Too But Don't Thank Me

When I see the tributes and thank you messages to vets around Veteran’s Day each year, I usually embrace the message and in some way add to the salutes. I want to praise “them” for their service. Then in the middle of it all, I remember that I am a military veteran too. I do not usually include myself in the praise.

I have served my country in many positive ways over the years but my military service is not one of them. I hated the military at the time and most of what I thought they stood for then. I enlisted in the Army but only because I thought I lost my college deferment because of bad grades and I mistakenly believed I would have more choice if I joined rather than being drafted. The draft ended soon after and I would never have had to go. Fate works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

My three-year enlistment lasted only one year. The details are my business and I’ve only shared them with a few friends. Let me just say that it was perfectly legal and I was honorably discharged with access to full VA benefits prorated for the amount of time I served.

I will say that I did not and do not believe in killing. Something I understand now that I did not get more than three decades ago is that sometimes there is no other way. Our brave military men and women sometimes have to kill to keep us free. I don’t like it but I understand it, accept it and benefit from it. They put themselves on the line for the rest of us and deserve our respect for that. I and others serve our country in different ways that are just as valuable. Another thing that has changed inside me over the years: while I still do not believe in killing, I will gladly beat the shit out of someone who harms me or someone close and I won’t regret it a bit. I just hope I’m never in that position. I have the right to hold this complicated set of beliefs, thanks in part to veterans; try not to judge my for what I believe.

Another military veteran with complex reasons for his service was my Dad. He joined the Navy at the very end of World War II for reasons similar to mine. He did serve his full two-year enlistment. He almost lost his life but not because of lingering post-war gun fire; his ship almost went down in a typhoon in the Pacific. Other ships did sink in that same storm. Fate again?

I wonder what it means that my Dad died on Veteran’s Day ten years ago. There are plenty of reasons for me to remember him and the day he died, but the public spotlight on that day each year makes it even harder to forget. It is such a public day yet he died very privately in a nursing home room with only his wife and his two children at his bedside. That month we were still in the process of arguing with the VA over benefits he earned that would have helped pay for his medical care. How ironic that the VA paid for a year of my education and helped me buy a house yet they threw up obstacle after obstacle to avoid paying for some of his needs.

Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, in my opinion. I learned a few things during my unremarkable Army year: the value of physical fitness, the buzz of marijuana, the positive side of discipline, how to correctly peel a potato, how to befriend the only black man I had had deep conversations with up to that point in my life, how to scale a solid 7-foot wall, how to clean a gun, how to clean a gunshot wound, how to clean a latrine, how to defend myself with words, how to stand up for something I believed even though I was the only person in a room full of 40 men who all thought I was some kind of unpatriotic freak for having those beliefs.

And since that time more than three decades ago I have also learned to accept and respect all men and women in the military for what they do and who they are, for how their actions help make us free and for the bravery some of them show in the face of situations that even the best training cannot fully prepare them for.

If you are a veteran, I thank you for your service, whether you spent your whole time stateside as a cook, driver, mechanic, doctor or band member, or you ran headlong into certain death in a jungle or a desert and returned missing limbs and parts of your soul. But don’t thank me; all I did was sweep floors, move furniture and type sympathy letters to families of those who didn’t make it. I learned to respect and support you and what you do over the years, but you taught me that. You can thank yourself for the lesson.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blame It On the Asteroid

An asteroid flew by Earth earlier this evening, coming closer than the moon. Even though it was “only” the size of a city block, and not nearly as large as planets or the moon, it did have some influence on human and environmental activity on our planet. Or at least some people think so. I heard about a coastal flood watch on the Chesapeake, for example, even though there has been no rain in the area for days. That could be blamed on the gravitational pull of the asteroid.

I wonder what else we can blame on this potent little astronomical body.

Today was an odd day for me, with some normally predictable behaviors just slightly askew. For one thing, I didn’t have lunch till just past 3pm. I am obsessed with having lunch around Noon or 1pm, but I had to record an interview at Noon, this session is usually 30 minutes but today it went 50, which kicked it up next to my 1pm meeting, which is usually 45minutes but went a full hour, followed by my completing two more overdue projects, taking another hour. Whew. So I walked across the street to a carryout place I eat at once a week. I have ordered exactly the same thing there almost once every week for more than a year. This particular lunch special costs $5.50 … until 3pm. It was 3:08 when I ordered, so now the exact same meal costs $7.50. Hmmm, can I blame that on the asteroid?

The caller ID on my work phone displays names if the call is placed by a co-worker inside the office area, but only the number is shown if the call comes from outside. I’m crazybusy most of the time, so I usually do not answer outside calls unless I recognize the number. In the middle of something else, I got a call from area code 404, which I know to be Atlanta. I rarely get calls from Atlanta and when I do it is usually one of two corporate people and I really do have to take those calls. So I answered it. It was not one of them. It was from a local college student’s cell phone; she’s from the Atlanta area. Normally someone else could take the time to answer her questions, but there I was spending time I didn’t have, helping her with a project. Blame it on the asteroid?

Got a text this afternoon from a friend who thought I’d appreciate how odd it was that she got a medical textbook about drugs, a Tom Waits CD and a package of printer ink she ordered, all at the same time. Yes, that was odd. The asteroid?

I used to pay attention to astrology; hey, I’m from the “what’s your sign” era. I don’t believe in the daily horoscope but I do think there are factors beyond coincidence that connect zodiac signs with personality characteristics. And behaviors do seem to be affected by a full moon. I view these things with a mix of belief and skepticism.

I am a little bit of a space geek too, so hearing about the asteroid on Monday, then observing these mildly out-of-sync events on Tuesday, leads me to accept the possibility that Asteroid 2005 YU55 played a small but noticeable role in the oddness of today.

Oh, and my computer locked up for a few minutes while I was reading information on Space dot com. Can I blame that on the asteroid?

And I was trying to upload a picture to go with this post, but it kept locking up.  Do I blame that on the asteroid?  Or blogspot/google?

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Aging Prayer

Dear Lord, when I'm 75 please don't let me be one of those people who is so interested in that thing across the hotel lobby that they stand up from their chair and walk across to get a closer look without realizing they just walked right in front of three other people. Just sayin'

Amen

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cool Quote

Nothing is impossible. The word itself says "I'm possible."

- Audrey Hepburn

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kids and A Learning Op

A work friend is going through a rough patch right now. He has finally convinced his mother that she needs more help than the family can provide, and they are shopping for assisted living or a nursing home. I am a long way from that for myself but listening to his story reminds me of what my sister and I went through when faced with similar choices for our parents; and that puts an image of my own possible future in my head. I don’t like the image, in part because I don’t have children, which means I probably won’t have the type of support my parents had from us or my friend’s mother has from him and his siblings.

It seems like everybody I know who is over 30 has kids, but when I think that through, I realize there are several people in my friend circle who do not. Sometimes I ask them if they regret that. Some are childless by choice, some by circumstance. My situation began because of circumstances, mostly short-term failed marriages, and eventually by choice. I don’t regret it but I do wonder how life would be different if I had become a parent.

Still holding hands in their 80s
The decision to move my parents into a nursing home came ten years ago. Medical and financial conditions played a role and the timing was such that we moved both parents in at the same time, which fortunately meant they could share a room. Dad died there two months later and Mom lived there nearly five more years. Mom’s quality of life there was not all that good but one thing that kept her spirits up at least a little was my sister’s nearly daily visits that whole time. That was a hell of a burden for my sister, but she rarely questioned it and it really was her choice. She lived ten minutes from the nursing home, so that helped reduce the inconvenience a little bit.

I wasn’t nearly as supportive, at least with regard to time. I live 1200 miles away. I could have visited more often, but I didn’t … maybe got there once or twice a year. To this day I feel guilty about that. Let me stop you before you remind me that I was supportive in other ways; I know I was, but it doesn’t reduce the guilt all that much. My parents and my sister did not do anything to make me feel that way; the guilt is self-imposed.

As with most things in my life, I look at this as a learning opportunity. Since the death of my parents, I have become more sensitive to the needs of other family members and friends. I provide whatever support I can, emotionally and sometimes financially. I don’t do these things out of guilt, I do them because that is who I am. I was always helpful to people but have become more so as a result of these life experiences. I don’t say that here to gain praise; I say it to share what I have learned and to encourage you to learn from my experiences and take actions in your life while you can.

Parents are teachers, whether they try to be or not. Their obvious lessons help us stay alive and healthy. If we become parents, we teach our own children some of those same lessons. If we do not become parents, we may still have the opportunity to teach others or maybe the chance to provide advice and emotional support to a younger friend facing tough choices about his parents.

Sometimes we even wake up in mid-life and realize that our parents still teach us long after they are gone.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Big Bucks

Lottery fever is in the news this week because the Powerball jackpot is $245 million tonight. The odds of winning are ridiculously small (1 in 195 million) but everybody suddenly plays anyway. Why not play when the local jackpot is only a million? That’s a lot of money to most people too, isn’t it?

So what would you do if you won $245 million?

My plan is funny because very few people would know I won, at least not at first. I'd tell my sister, a couple of very close friends and my accountant. I'd keep my job but eventually cut back to just the parts I like. I wouldn't buy crazy expensive stuff but I would buy several properties, one here as my primary residence, one on a beach, one on the river in New Orleans and a couple in other places I like to visit. I'd pay off all of my sister’s debts and some big bills for a few close friends. I’d probably buy a 2nd or 3rd car. And take quiet but insanely expensive vacations. Fly 1st class, of course. Buy box seats at concerts and sporting events and treat friends to that stuff.

I would NOT buy a Bentley, $5000 suits or $500 shoes. I would avoid publicity at all costs.

I WOULD find a way to help fund some non-profit organizations that mean something to me.

Great to think about this stuff, isn’t it? However, I guess I actually have to buy the lottery tickets to have any chance of winning.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who Has Time to Read

A friend had a great idea a couple of years ago – a travelling book. She sent me a book with instructions to write my name, town and the date inside, and then send it along to someone else who might want to read it. Her plan was to try and keep track of it to see where it travelled, hoping it would eventually find its way back to her. It travelled from her in North Carolina to me in Maryland to two friends of mine in Wisconsin, back to me in Maryland, back to her in North Carolina. I inquired about its whereabouts yesterday and she told me it was travelling around … in the back of her car, mostly because she hasn’t had much time to even send it along to another destination. Meanwhile I sent her a book with the same instructions. That went to a co-worker of hers who is now a former co-worker and she doesn’t know its whereabouts.

The point is this: Who has time to read anymore?

She and I are avid readers but neither of us have time to read these days. I love to read and almost always have a book in progress, but at two or three pages a night, it takes way too long to truly capture the sense and flow of plot lines in fiction and connective facts in books about biographies, history or urban planning, three of my favorite topics (nerdy, I know).

So far in 2011 I have completed two books. That’s it. One was a pretty good mystery, Tell No Lies by Julie Compton, a relatively new author I met by way of this blog and hers. We found each other because we are both Dave Matthews fans and wrote some things about him two summers ago. The other book I finished was Rogue Angel, not my usual read but it was somewhat mystical, sci-fi-ish. I used to read lots of sci-fi novels, mostly Asimov and Bradbury.

Currently on my nightstand, being read two pages at a time is Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. It was one of five or six books I bought during the Border’s Books going-out-of-business sale. Others waiting in the wings include Christopher Moore’s Fool, another Mayes book, a reference book about Native Americans and a goofy book about designing a man cave. Other books gathering dust on my shelves include two from Dan Brown (author of DaVinci Code, which I did read a few years ago), some more books about Italy and another about time management. I should read that last one first, shouldn’t I?

I think I’ll be done with all of these by 2013. However, I am mildly addicted to book stores so I believe I will soon have many more books on the shelf waiting for my eyes.

What about you? Do you like to read? Do you have time or make time to read? What are you reading? While I’m thinking about it, thanks for reading this blog.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Power Outage Randomness

Heavy wet snow from a rare October storm accumulated on tree limbs and power lines Saturday, leading to a power outage in parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeast, including my part of Maryland. I began writing this post three hours into the outage and here are my random thoughts, roughly in a timeline starting late Saturday afternoon.

- Every time I walk into another room this evening, I automatically flip a light switch, even though no lights are on.

- Cable and internet were out earlier in the day. Thirty minutes after they came back on the power went out. But my iPhone still connects to the internet.

- I am writing a draft of this with pen and paper. How odd.

- The outside temperature is in the 30s. It was 72 inside before the power went out and not it’s in the low 60s. I’m lucky to have a fireplace. I might be sleeping on my sofa tonight.

- Dinner tonight: cold jambalaya.

- Hmmm, I think I now know why farmers in the pre-electricity days went to bed so early. And why they had so many children.

- Drinking merlot by the dim glow of a battery lantern.

- I tried sleeping on the sofa in front of the fire. Probably slept in 20-minute segments. Just when I was finally sleeping deeply the lights came on. Now I’m wide awake at 2 a.m., but grateful the power is on again.

The 8 ½-hour power outage on my street was a major nuisance, but probably not any person’s fault. The cause was likely weather-related. The chilling thought in my head right now, however, is this: What would life be like for days or weeks if terrorists knocked out a regional power grid? We take abundant electricity on-demand for granted and we’re pissed off when it takes hours to restore power when it goes out. Eight hours in the dark should remind us how lucky we are to have what we have.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Totally Random 7.1

Usually the vacation effect takes weeks to wear off but this week it only took a day. I’m ready for my next vacay already.

Aging isn’t for the young. I don’t think they could handle it well. They’re just not strong enough.

I like the new Coldplay CD. The new Toby Keith CD is sitting on my desk waiting for my ears. Bet I like that one too.

Snow is predicted this weekend in my part of Maryland. It’s still October!! Mother Nature, what’s the hurry?

I’m never sick, but this summer I had two colds and skin cancer surgery. Today I tripped in a parking lot and bruised my knee. And I need eye surgery. None of this is unusual but it is way off the chart for me.

Favorite line in a current country music hit by Alan Jackson: “I’ve got a bug in my margarita; seems bad luck won’t leave me alone.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laughable

Don't read anything into this one way or the other, just laugh if you think it's funny.  I don't have anything else tonight anyway.  More L.A. stuff coming soon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travel Randomness

I'm sitting in an airport, bored and inspired to write. Here are a few random thoughts:

My vision is a bit challenged at the moment but I'm happy to report that I can see the Starbucks logo from six gates away.

Dulles Airport is surprisingly empty.

This airport is also bigger than I remember it from the last time I flew from here. They've done plenty of remodeling since 1996.

Welcome to my first post written on my iPhone.

To my friend 'Eliz': I found the bar but decided 10 am was a little too early to utilize their facility. I'll be sampling plenty of adult beverages this weekend.

Hard to believe I'm going all the way from the east coast to the west coast just for the weekend. I should have added some days.

Traffic I'd so unpredictable in DC that I allow hours for problems. There were none ... no traffic jams, no wrong turns, no long lines at security. I still prefer being ridiculously early than missing a flight like I did a few years ago because of a 3-hour traffic tie up.

OK, that's enough randomness for now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Duran x 2

I like 1980s rock but I don’t really know why. Favorite music is often associated with a person’s developmental years or through some other emotional connection. My emotional development decade was the 70s and most of the 80s music I like I first discovered in the 90s or early 2000s. Maybe there was an emotional connection because of the awesome DJ job I had in the early 90s in which I played some of that 80s music too or maybe it’s just great music that I finally found.

Duran Duran is one of those bands I ‘discovered’ in the 1990s. I especially like their 80s music, which I don’t really remember from the 80s. They are touring this year in support of their new music and I saw them a few nights ago at Constitution Hall in Washington DC.

I took 25 pictures and a few short videos with my new phone but all were deleted with a software upgrade the next day. Wow, remember when phones were for making phone calls? Anyway I retrieved one 50-second video (further below) and this one picture of a friend I met at the show. There were supposed to be three of us but the third dropped out at the last minute. We sent her this picture; our hands are where she would have been in the picture.



Here is my little video.  Scroll all the way down this post to see a real video of one of my favorite DD songs.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Phone Randomness

I work around technology all day, mostly audio editing software and digital cameras. I am comfortable with tech stuff but I am not an early adopter. I prefer to let other people work out the bugs. I also want to see if the devices or formats will still be around in a few years … remember beta video recorders? 8 track tapes? One day we’ll add Blackberry to that list. But over the weekend I upgraded my cell phone from this 3-year-old flip phone ….



… to this iPhone 4:



Random thoughts:

- It’s not the brand new iPhone 4s, it’s “merely” the iPhone 4 that’s been on the market since February.

- When I first decided to get a smart phone, which was almost a year ago, I thought I’d get a Blackberry because they were dirt cheap with a 2-year renewal. My procrastination led to choosing a Droid (four months ago). After spending a week with a fancy new iPod, a gift from my employer, I decided to get the iPhone.

- The iPhone is basically an iPod that makes calls too.

- I can put the 1300 songs that are on the iPod onto this phone, take pictures and videos, surf the web, text … I’m not sure I”ll have time to actually make calls on it.

- No, this is not a commercial for my new phone. I’m just sharing my surprise at how much I like the device so far.

- At least 15 of my co-workers already have iPhones and they will laugh at me and congratulate me at the sme time for finally leaping into the 21st Century.

- This is the first cell phone I’ve paid for since 1996. All the others were free with a 2-year renewal. And this one was significantly discounted because the new version just came out and because my company has an even greater discount.

You should not feel guilty or in any way inferior if you do not have one of these. Even the most basic contemporary cell phone does what it is supposed to: make calls, keep you in touch with people and help in an emergency. The rest of this can be helpful but it is almost overkill.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So True

Saw this on a friend's Facebook page.  Thought I'd share.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A General Observation

Just a general observation to my friends:

Email and Facebook are great if that's the only way to keep in touch, and sometimes it is.  I have been able to keep many friendships alive over time and distance using these digital tools.

But I'd prefer to be sitting next to you sharing a glass of wine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Two Doctors and the Blues

High Laurie, who plays Dr. House on the TV show House, is a musician. Who knew? And his new album includes this song with legendary New Orleans performer Dr. John singing. Two ‘doctors’ singing the blues!! Enjoy.