Monday, January 30, 2012

Nuthin’ But A Number, Sort Of

Over the past few years I’ve made tremendous progress with the few personal issues I have, but I’m still not comfortable revealing my age. That is almost my only remaining issue. If you’ve known me 35 years or more, then you know the number. If you’ve known me less than ten years, you probably don’t know it; I’ve made one exception to that and sometimes I regret that. Sorry, it’s complicated.

I’m usually the first to point out that age is just a number, but age discrimination runs rampant in our society, in my opinion, and that is especially true in my profession (media). Of the hundred or more full time employees in my division of my company, only five or six of us are over 50. The very top boss isn’t out of her 30s yet. People make too many assumptions, wrong ones, about age and I refuse to be caught in that trap.

Sadly, age paranoia is something I learned from my Mother. She wouldn’t even tell me and my sister her age; we found out when she was in her 50s because of something written on the back of an old photo. She always appeared twenty years younger than her age and she was happy about that.

One day I do want to be a role model for creative aging. I’ll proudly tell people my age and they’ll be amazed. That, of course, is the problem … everybody, apparently including me, has stereotype expectations and assumptions about how people should think and behave at various age levels. As far as I know, the only thing I can’t do now that I could do at 35 is run a 10k race, and that is only because of a lingering injury. I plan to work around that in the next couple of years.

Anyway, today is my birthday. How old am I? One day older than yesterday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You Do Know How To Whistle

OK, I admit it: I’m a bit of a geek about old movies, especially Bogart movies. I was in a film club in high school and we spent time analyzing movies. Movies made in the Bogart era, mid 1930s to mid 1950s are stylistically different from movies made in the mid and late 1960s, which are much different than movies made today.

Each style has its merits and represents in some way the general social tone of its era. Today’s films show off technology and often seem made for sequels, with endings that tease another chapter in the plot line. Many movies made in the 1960s do not have happy endings; Cool Hand Luke is a pretty good example of that. Movies in the Bogart era mostly made some point and most ended with some hero winning some kind of battle or walking away into the sunset, metaphorically at least; Casablanca comes to mind. That is simplistic analysis but you get my point.

Casablanca is my all time favorite movie. I’ve seen it at least twenty five times and have read many books and articles on the making of that classic. It is certainly not without some flaws in both plot and style, but there are so many great elements in it, including memorable lines, drama, comedy, music, quirky characters and social commentary. In the end, Bogie’s character “does the right thing” and gets drawn into “fighting the good fight” for a cause. A bit of trivia … Ronald Reagan was considered for the lead role at one point in the casting process. It never would have become a classic. There were numerous directors hired and fired during the shoot. Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had some on-screen chemistry but had none off screen; some accounts say they didn’t like each other.

Two of the most famous and quotable lines in Casablanca, both spoken during pivotal plot points in the last few minutes, weren’t decided till after the scenes were shot and the movie was almost completely edited. When the German guy is shot by Bogart’s character Rick at the airport, Police Captain Renault explains it away by shouting “round up the usual suspects!” That line was an afterthought. And the very last scene, when Rick and Renault are walking away into the fog, Rick says “this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” That line was not in the original script and the directors had to get Bogart to comeback months later and voice that line.

I am thinking about all this today because I just watched the last thirty minutes of another Humphrey Bogart movie called To Have and Have Not, based loosely on a Hemingway novel. Like Casablanca, this one has drama, comedy, quirky characters and political intrigue. Oh, and a beautiful female love interest for Bogie’s character, played by an incredibly hot 19-year-old actress co-starring in her first movie. Yep, Lauren Bacall was only 19 then. Their characters fall in love quickly in the plot, maybe an unrealistic scenario for today but “normal” for 1944, and the real life Bogie and Bacall relationship began on the set and ended in marriage a year later, her first and his fourth. Did I mention he was 45 at the time? Hmmm.

A little trivia and observation about that movie: Bogart’s character was a boat captain named Harry Morgan … Captain Morgan. Walter Brennan played his often drunk helper … his drunkenness leading him to be called a “rummy”. Captain Morgan? Rum? Anyway, that movie has a few memorable lines two. This video contains my favorite:

A little more actor trivia: Bogart was born on Christmas Day in 1899, died in 1957, a few weeks after his 57th birthday, from esophageal cancer probably related to life-long smoking. He appeared in 75 movies (I think I’ve seen about 20 of them). Bacall is still alive, now age 87. She has appeared on screen in movies as recently as 2008 and off screen in 2010.

Slight Correction

I made a mistake in my previous post. The primary is Tuesday.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

That Guy Again

I was tempted to post this after hearing the results of today’s Florida primary, but why wait?

In case you hadn’t figured this out yet, I think Newt is a ridiculous phony who would be dangerous for the country if elected President. One part of me actually wants him to be the Republican candidate because that would guarantee Obama’s re-election. But another part of me wants the election to be about fair choices between two decent candidates.

You also know I voted for Obama last time and although it is not a certainty, it is likely I’ll vote for him again. My biggest disappointment with him has been his lack of standing up and fighting. However, it looks like he’s warming up to that idea. I read this earlier in the week (sorry I don’t remember where):

Obama also pushed back on Gingrich’s oft-repeated “food stamp president line,” saying, “I don’t put people on food stamps. People become eligible for food stamps. Second of all, the initial expansion of food-stamp eligibility happened under my Republican predecessor, not under me. No. 3, when you have a disastrous economic crash that results in eight million people losing their jobs, more people are going to need more support from government.”

I’ve been saying this for as long as I’ve known anything about politics or government assistance programs: the problem is not food stamps, the problem is incompetent people who run those programs and some of the people who take unfair advantage of the programs.

I do believe the government should help people who really need help. Some people abuse the system and those people should not be allowed to take advantage of assistance. Some government employees mismanage the programs; those people should be fired.

There was a point in my life, specifically the sixth month of unemployment in the early1980s, when I was probably eligible for food stamps. I was on the verge of losing my home and probably could have declared bankruptcy. I could have begged for help, I could have moved back in with my parents (as a 25+ adult). Ultimately at the last minute I accepted an offer for a job I didn’t really want. If I had waited one more day to make that call the job opening would have been filled and my whole life could have turned out radically different than it did. Most people who need assistance programs like food stamps are not as lucky as I am and do not have the same opportunities I do. And I’m pretty sure most people on food stamps would rather not be.

To all those people who think ALL government programs should be scrapped … feel free to give me your Social Security payouts when I’m in my 70s. You don’t need those government programs, do you?

Geez. It’s about balance, people!! Manage the programs! Fix what’s wrong! Eliminate the wasteful ones and correct problems with the effective ones! Government can be a good thing for us and part of that depends on who the leaders are. We have the right to choose them. When it comes time to vote, don’t sit on the sidelines. Do get out there and vote. And please vote for somebody with integrity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Please explain this to me ...

It has taken me ten minutes to navigate the "new" Google/Blogger/Gmail/YouTube login just to get to this page ... and it would have been longer if I had the time to read all the new allegedly simplified policies.  All I wanted to do was see if a friend was successful in posting a comment; she has had trouble getting to that part of my blog.  Now I know why.

I am not resistant to change.  I don't have a problem with the same company owning most of my online life ... i.e. Google, Blogger, Gmail and You Tube ... I have some kind of presence on all of those ... BUT I want simplified things to be simple.

Google People ... in case you don't know this, there are other search engines, other blog sites, other email services and other video posting sites.  You own a lot but you don't own it all.  If I was trying to make money using any of your products, I would be seriously exploring other options right now.  Just saying.

Interesting Quote

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on

- Henry Ellis 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Questions 5

And the last in this series ...

Do you care who wins the Super Bowl this year?

Do you follow any teams? Why? City pride? Sexy athletes? I follow some teams and mostly for city pride. I've lived in six different cities so sometimes it is tough to pick one over another. My current faves are Washington DC teams, partly because that's my current home town; or more like home region. I still like the Cowboys, the Packers and of course the Saints, my original hometown team. I lived in Chicago too but not long enough to love a team. I like the Baltimore Ravens too but they came into existence after I moved away (a whole 35 miles). Teams tend to have interchangeable players and sometimes interchangeable cities. Before Baltimore had the Ravens they had the Colts, who are now in Indianapolis. The Washington Nationals used to be the Montreal Expos before they became DC's first major league baseball team since the Senators became the Texas Rangers decades ago. So who is your team??

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Questions 4

Would any of the current Republican candidates be a good president?

On Sunday I watched the entire Meet the Press and heard commentary about the election. Consensus of those panelists is that Newt won't be the nominee. My real takeaway, however, was the positive feeling I have about a popular Repub who is not running ... New Jersey governor Christie. He's the guy to watch in the future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Questions 3

Is your attitude about snow different when it happens in November than when it happens in January?

A friend posed this question as I was text-whining about snow last weekend. Hmmm. It always snows here in Maryland during January but it doesn't snow in November every year. It did snow here last November and I was probably whining about it. Does it snow in November where you live? In January? At all?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Questions 2

Are you afraid of dying?

The older you get the closer you are to the only certainty in life: death. Family members start dying, maybe friends too. You start to see the reality of mortality. Does that make you fear your own mortality? Why? Sometimes that thought scares me to death, so to speak. I think it is because there is so much more life to live. I'm just not done yet. And hopefully I have plenty of time left. Your thoughts?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Questions 1

I'm doing a series for the next few posts. Here is the first one.

Where do you buy gasoline? 

Do ads touting the qualities of various brands influence your decision?  Or do you choose the gas station on the right side of the street with the low price?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt? Seriously?

So THIS is who the conservative, evangelical, tea party, righties of South Carolina want to run our country? The guy who while publically criticizing President Clinton for having an affair was having his own affair at the same time? The guy who as Speaker of the House CAUSED the government gridlock?

I can write off one state, but heaven help us if voters in other states pick this sanctimonious phony too.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I love most music but my favorite is blues. A legend of that genre died today. Etta James had a powerful voice and this signature song from early in her recording days makes that point.  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Float like a butterfly

Ali recently
Muhammad Ali turned 70 this week. He has lived with Parkinson's disease for nearly half his life. He won many fights during his boxing career but this is a battle he will never win.

Back in the 1980s I had never heard of Parkinson's; then my Dad was diagnosed with it. It started with a small occasional shake in his hand. Over the next fifteen years it robbed him of his hobbies, his retirement, his self esteem, his mobility and his smile. Eventually it killed him.

Seeing a recent photo of Ali brought a flood of memories back ... thoughts of how vibrant he was during his career, like my Dad, of his sneaky sense of humor, like my Dad's, of how some of those characteristics peeked through the progressively worsening disease, again like Dad.

Some negative health issues are preventable or manageable but others like

Parkinson's are not. There is no cure, although there is a little progress in managing symptoms. It helps when famous people like Ali (and Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno) allow us to see what they are dealing with, but until we deal with a debilitating issue ourselves in some way, diseases like Parkinson's seem like other people's problems.

Muhammad Ali hasn't always led a perfect life but he is definitely a fighter in more ways than just his boxing career. In my opinion, that makes him an inspiration.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Stuff

- Yesterday a co- worker said to me, "Aren't you too young for cataracts?" I said "Yes."
- I was in a meeting today with eight co- workers and I am pretty sure four of them have ADD. Is it contagious?  We have an agenda for the meeting and try to follow it oh look there's an ambulance what time does it start my ears get cold. 
- Is standing in front of a snack machine when you're on a diet anything like standing in front of a bar when you're an alcoholic?  Face the demon but don't succumb to the temptation. 
- Speaking of addictions, I heard recently that there might actually be something called iPhone addiction. I would believe that.  From personal experience. 
- I've lost the first few pounds of the twenty but it's taking more time than I had hoped. 
- This is the second post of assorted observations in which I didn't use the 'R' word (as in the name of this blog).  Sometimes I embrace a challenge. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have been writing about my self-discovery journey for a few years. The project has been mostly successful, with just a few loose ends remaining. But I have been thinking about a companion project that is more like a reinvention.

I have a much better understanding about myself and the various beliefs and personality traits that make me me. A possible next step is to change the balance of those factors, specifically which ones I show. That might be just a little too much strategy. After all, I am who I am and anyone who is close to me eventually sees the whole picture. Part of the self-discovery was for me to see the whole picture myself and change some parts.

Have you ever gone through this yourself? Do you know who you are? What parts do you share? Do you want to be somebody else? Do you want to change the way others see you? Do your closest friends ever see the whole you?

I see myself as a moderately interesting man who leads a very interesting life. I make a good living, have a fun job, get to meet famous people, have been semi-famous myself a couple of times on a small local level. Sometimes I’d like to be seen as a very interesting, fun, exciting man. I’d like to walk down the street with a small entourage and be greeted by every fifth person because they know me. I’d like access to special places that others can’t go, like the West Wing (where I actually did go once) or backstage at the Kennedy Center (or the Kennedy Space Center).

On the other hand, I am more of an observer than a participant. That is my own choice. Part of my job is public but most of my personality is not. I am an open book about my personal life, up to a point, but I have a line over which only a few people are allowed to cross (and none of them have really even tried).

So should I reinvent myself?

I probably won’t. “Slightly modify” is closer to what I will likely do. I might change the balance of what I show off but at the core I will remain the same.

The first leg of my self-discovery journey is mostly over. The second leg will be to take what I now know about me and open myself to showing more parts, to display a bigger picture. I have the confidence to do that more now than ever. This next chapter could be very interesting. Some people won’t even notice. Others may be surprised.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Timely Quote

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Sunday, January 15, 2012

There she is, Miss ...

I took a channel surfing break from football last night and stumbled on the Miss America competition. Wow, I haven't seen that in years. I used to watch it as a kid, before I could fully appreciate the result of watching fifty scantily clad females parading before my eyes. Mom, Dad, my sister and I would try to predict the winner.

On one hand, how could I not watch two hours of beautiful women today? On the other, why would I watch this obviously phony throwback to an era when women were objects?

Some contestants do actually go on to have careers that show off more skill and intelligence than what we see during the pageant. Some examples:
Leanza Cornett 1993

Vanessa Williams 1984 - singer/actress

Gretchen Carlson 1989 - Fox News anchor

Debbye Turner 1990 - CBS reporter

Leanza Cornett 1993 - actress/TV show host (Entertainment Tonight, Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire and dog shows on Animal Planet)

Delta Burke 1974 - Actress (Designing Women)

Phyllis George 1971 - TV host and anchor (CBS Morning News, NFL Today, Rose Bowl Parades)
Leanza Cornett now

Mary Ann Mobley 1959 - actress

Lee Meriwether 1955 - actress (Barnaby Jones, Mission Impossible, Dr. Kildare)

By the way, I met a former contestant once. Shannon Bream, a Fox News reporter/anchor who interviewed me for a story when she was a reporter for the local NBC station, was Miss Virginia in 1990 and finished in the top 10.

Two past winners were from the Washington DC area, where I now live, and one from nearby Fredericksburg VA. None were from my hometown New Orleans or any other city where I’ve lived, although two were from Denton TX near Dallas (I lived there for a few years). Some are from places (or near places) where I have friends: three from Denver, two from Honolulu and one from Asheville NC.

The whole thing started in 1921, ironically just two years after women got the vote. The original event was staged to draw visitors to Atlantic City after the summer season. I think the swimsuit part was the most important judging criteria for decades but two-piece suits weren’t even allowed till the late 1990s.

Everything on TV except sports is now slick and precisely timed, so the show ended right at 11 (or more precisely as 10:57). The winner announcement came just moments before the end so the traditional long walk was much shorter and I barely heard that familiar song. The host used to sing it … “there she is, Miss America, blah blah etc etc.” Now it is pre-recorded and short.

Do pageants like this still matter? Did they ever matter? In some ways they can be career launchers but in other ways they are mostly an excuse to show some skin. It seems that would draw a male audience but I think I might actually lose points on my man card just for watching ten minutes of that show instead of the Broncos-Patriots game. Although shouldn’t I get some points for favoring 20-year-old women in swimwear over 20-year-old men in helmets?

By the way, last night’s Miss America Pageant had higher ratings than the game. Maybe Tebow should have worn a Speedo. (I would have immediately switched to the Weather Channel).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oh Well

My New Orleans Saints got into the playoffs again, which is still relatively rare when considered over their whole time in existance.  But they lost tonight to the San Francisco 49ers.  The lead changed three or four times in the last four minutes, making it a very exciting game. 

And my lucky hat didn't help. 

Next year!  Geaux Saints!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is It or Isn’t It?

3pm Friday:
“Hey, where is everybody? Oh, I forgot, the office closed early for the holiday.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January, close to the civil rights leader’s birthday. It was first observed as a federal holiday in 1986, a state holiday in many states over some time and observed by all states by 2002.

3:30pm Friday:
“See you Tuesday.”
“Tuesday? Don’t you mean Monday?”
“No, Monday is a holiday. See you Tuesday.”

But many businesses did not observe it as a ‘close the office’ holiday but rather as a floating holiday or an optional holiday for employees, along the lines of Veteran’s Day. I don’t remember when my company began to close the office for this day, but it doesn’t seem that long ago. I do know it’ll be closed this year and our offices were closed early today in honor of the three-day weekend.

So, do you think it is a holiday or not? And should it be? Or not?

Anyone alive in the first half of the boomer era knew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a highly visible leader in the civil rights movement right at the beginning of the TV news era and in the middle of a volatile time in American history. He was a preacher and preached a non-violent but persistent approach to gaining rights for all Americans not just the white ones. He was gunned down on April 4, 1968 and seven days later President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination relating to the sale and financing of housing. African-Americans were the part of the U.S. population most affected by this and similar legislation but these law and the rights associated with them were and are for all Americans.

Early on, I remember many white people saying MLK Day was mostly an observance for black people. That is kind of a knee-jerk reaction and I might very well have felt that way at one time too. But this man, more than any before or since, was a true leader and inspiration, equal in his own way to other American historical figures for whom we celebrate with holidays. In my opinion, this should be a holiday, as much for most businesses as it is for government offices and schools.

With that said, however, I’ll mention that I am going into work on Monday. I didn’t really sink in till today that this truly is a holiday weekend and I could have planned better but I am behind on many projects and need a quiet day to catch up. I work in a 24/7 industry so I don’t take all the holidays, by the way; I usually work on President’s Day and Veterans Day but I take the more traditional holidays.

Next year, however, I think I will take King Day off and participate in a Day of Service activity of some kind. For one thing, he was around in my lifetime. For another, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" That seems to me to be a great way to honor an American leader and hero … much better than shopping the King Day sales.

Assorted Thoughts

Normally I would use the word ‘randomness’ in the title of this post but a friend suggested that I stop using that word. I’ll take her up on the challenge, for now.

- I continue to be in awe of medical science, specifically with respect to eye issues. The sharpness and clarity of what I see through the eye I had surgery on is amazing. The word ‘focus’ in this picture is on a bulletin board above my desk at work and it is now actually in focus … through that eye … not through the other one.

- It’s kind of cool that my keyword for the year is ‘focus’ and the first major thing I did this year is have eye surgery.

- The New Orleans Saints are in the playoffs. Maybe they’ll be in the Super Bowl again. Geaux Saints!

- Only forty days till NASCAR season begins. This is the year I will finally get to a race … I hope. A new work friend has some very interesting access and he knows I’d like to join him on some of those adventures. Maybe I can be his photographer.

- This winter has been warmer than normal so far, but snow is in the forecast. I really do not want snow this year. Can’t it just wait? Next year would be great. Not this year.

- OMG, today is Friday the 13th!  Anything happen to you?

When I sat down to write this post I had a lot more to say, but now I can’t remember any of it. So I guess that’s it for this post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Education 101

A co-worker and I were having one of our regular winding, long-winded conversations the other day and at some point the topic turned to education. He was wondering why some states have education systems that are so much better than others. I mentioned that Maryland, where we are, is usually on any list of high quality education and the bottom of the list usually included Louisiana (my home state), Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Two of my best friends are products of Louisiana and Arkansas educations and they are pretty smart, so maybe lists don’t mean much.

By an interesting coincidence, I got an email today from a Maryland Congressman congratulating Maryland for coming out Number One on a just-published list of states with the best overall education systems. Yeah us! So I dug a little in search of the whole list. I was wrong about most of it.

The states I thought were at the bottom were not. Mississippi is close, at #45 and Alabama is #32. Louisiana is just above mid-point at #23 and Arkansas is near the top!!! Number 5!!! I was way wrong on that one, wasn’t I? My friend’s home state Minnesota is #37 on the list and Ohio, the state he lived in before moving to Maryland, is #10. I also have friends connected to Wisconsin (#18) and California (#33).

The top five: Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Arkansas.

The bottom five (50 states plus DC): #51 South Dakota, #50 Nebraska, #49 DC, # 48 Nevada and #47 Idaho.

The full list is at the bottom of the pages on THIS LINK.

Rrriiiinnnggg!!!!!!! OK class, that’s all for today. For your homework, read a book, any book. Learn something. Class dismissed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Funny but Not Funny

Republican candidates in the primaries are providing great drama and comedy these days. I wish they were actually giving us truth and problem solving. I normally don’t care about Republican presidential candidates but this year is a little different.

I nearly always vote Democrat but that is not an automatic choice. I truly believed in Obama last time and I have not given up on him, but I am at least looking at options. Until recently there was exactly one acceptable Republican candidate but now I don’t know. First, my view on the UNacceptables. Bachman – geez, I am so glad she dropped out. This is not her time and maybe it never will be. Gingrich – Godfather of Gridlock. Come on, doesn’t anybody remember the shit that pompous hypocrite caused when he was Speaker of the House? A dangerous man to be Chief. It bothers me that there is even a chance. Perry – stay in Texas, dude, nobody outside of that state believes a word you say. Santorum – believable, but I don’t especially believe I like his views. Paul – he is more ‘maverick’ than Palin was and is very authentic. But I just don’t know.

That leaves the obvious – Romney. Some Republicans are finally realizing that he is the ONLY person in the whole current Republican field that can beat Obama and some people are voting for him in primaries. He is not necessarily better, just electable. He seems sincere to me and he might also be one of the few who might pay attention to somebody other than the bosses of his party. But I do have a problem with him. The recent stories about his performance as CEO of an investment group that bought troubled companies, fired lots of people then sold the companies reminded me that the very same group bought the company I work for, fired 10 to 15 percent of the employees and restructured everything into a lean, mean company with thousands of seriously over-worked employees. Hey, we needed some restructuring and there was definitely plenty of inefficiency, but they went too far. Was he the guy in charge when that process began? Hmmm. I do not have a problem with his religion, as some people do, and I do not automatically believe his so-called flip-flopping is an issue … changing one’s mind when presented with new information can be a good quality. Does he flip-flop on core values? I don’t know. Do we know what his core values are? Maybe, maybe not. Do we know what President Obama’s core values are? Not sure. I don’t see either of them as being bad for the country, I just don’t know much about their real beliefs. That is the core of the problem with American politics, in my opinion … it’s all a game and everything is based on electability, saying what advisers say we want to hear. That kind of brings me back to Ron Paul, a candidate who seems to be running his own show. I’m just not sure I like his script.

I laugh at every debate. I watch these candidates trying to craft their message. I feel sad that solving problems often isn’t center stage. Presidential elections should not be drama or comedy. Obama didn’t cause our current problems and neither did Bush. It’s much more complex than that. I have a gut feeling that Obama is working things around in such a way that some problems will get fixed before the November elections. My prediction from a few months ago stands: the race will be between Obama and Romney, the Republicans will continue to shoot themselves in the foot, they won’t be able to make a case that their guy is really any better than the incumbent, Obama will win by a very small margin and the Repubs will find a clearly strong candidate by the next time. Hopefully both sides will start to focus on problem-solving and stop giving us drama and comedy. This stuff just isn’t funny.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eye Sight

I am no rookie when it comes to understanding vision issues. For one thing, my Mother had eyesight problems for as long as I can remember and was nearly blind when she died. For another I have interviewed people on my radio shows who were experts on limited vision, including executives with Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and an organization that provides reading services for those with vision impairments. My current experience with cataract surgery, however, has sharpened my view on the subject and given me a deeper perspective on how important sight is to our lives.

My surgery yesterday was successful. I now have 20/20 vision in the affected eye for anything further than three feet away. For the first time in more than ten years, colors are bright and crisp when viewed through that eye. The photographs on my photo blog look completely different to me now. The page I'm writing the first draft of this post on looks bright white on my computer monitor through one eye, muddy off-white through the other.

All of that is encouraging but also temporarily complicates my life because none of my current prescriptions for glasses are correct. I will need different glasses for reading books that for reading a computer monitor and can read neither in the good eye without glasses. In the bad eye, nothing is sharp beyond one foot and I can’t read anything with or without glasses unless it is six inches away. The current plan is to get the surgery in that eye too, but not for a month or two or until I am certain the first one healed correctly. Meanwhile everything relating to glasses is temporary. Tonight I will buy drug store readers that correct my good eye for reading at computer monitor distance because I can’t do my job without being able to use a computer.

The funny part is that I can now drive without glasses, relying on the new good eye for most visual cues. Tonight I’ll learn if my previous glare problem is gone or not.

Have you ever through this through for yourself? Have you imagined what life is like with vision problems? If you are reading this, you have some sight, but are you reading it with glasses? Close to the monitor? On a smart phone? What about the impact of vision daily life? A small sample of items you regularly encounter that require some level of vision: your job, a map, a smart phone, a recipe, warning labels on drugs, job applications, a speeding ticket, health insurance forms, vending machines, bus or rail system fare card kiosks, a watch, a TV remote, a rental agreement, your kid’s homework, walk/don’t walk signs at intersections, oncoming traffic, elevator buttons, currency. There are many adaptive systems for vision-impaired people but sighted people are still the majority and often we don’t realize the difficulties related to loss of vision till we lose some of our vision.

Fortunately for me at this moment, most of my vision issues are related to convenience and are all correctable in the short run. By this summer I will not need glasses at all for seeing anything beyond three feet and I’ll have the correct glasses to assist with reading monitors and books. But all that is temporary. Nobody can predict whether it is three decades or one or sooner, but is likely that at some point in my life my vision will be as bad as my Mother’s was. I can only hope that I’ll be very old by then and it won’t matter as much as it does now.

And I hope this experience helps me have better sensitivity to those who live with visual impairment that is far worse than this. Maybe reading about my experience will help you do the same.

Randomness Randomness

Randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness randomness.

Private joke. Sorry.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Post-op Randomness

- Eye drops
- The whole surgery process was surreal and remarkably easy. Vision won't be great for several days or even weeks but there are moments where focus is clearer than it was with glasses. I'm very optimistic. 
- I'm also bored but that's ok. Taking it easy at home today and tomorrow. Might be back at work as early as Wednesday. Wow. 
- I should buy stock in eye drops companies. 
- News, soaps or Law & Order reruns?  Choices choices.  
- Couldn't have food or drink after midnight so the first thing I did when I got home was make coffee and lunch. Yum. 
- Someone I know who had this surgery said colors get vivid, especially blue and white. She was right. Hard to believe
- I was worried early on in this process because this eye place misspelled my name three times. But other than that everything was great. Good staff, nurses and doctors and everybody explained each step before, during and after. 

All for now   More later. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pre-op Randomness

- My eye surgery is tomorrow and I'm chilling at home getting ready. 
- I can't have alcohol today. No wine. Ugh. 
- Eye drops, eye drops, eye drops. I was warned. 
- I am surprisingly calm, despite my obsessive personality, my lack of experience with medical procedures because I never get sick and the fact that I hate anything in my eyes so much that I've never worn contacts. 
- Eye drops. 
- On a somewhat related  note, the first  week of my diet has been mostly successful. I only hit the vending machine once and I have been reading food labels looking for fat and sodium information. 
- Oatmeal has sodium. Geez. 
- Saints won last night, which put me in a good mood. Good moods are good for good health. 
- Eye. 
- Drops. 
- There are risks involved with cataract surgery but they are small. Everyone I know who knows anyone who has had this claims success. You know I am an optimist. I'll be fine. 
- Wish me luck anyway. Positive vibes help. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2 Days

You know what I'm talking about.

Friday, January 6, 2012

3 Days

Three days till my surgery.  Surprisingly I'm not nervous ... too busy to think about it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Diet? WTF?!

I was a skinny boy until after puberty, at which time I was a skinny man. I am 5’11” tall now and that was my height in 8th grade. Back then I weighed 150 pounds and stayed at that weight well into my twenties. My normal adult weight through my thirties and early forties was just under 180, which is normal for my height. For much of the past five, OK ten years I have tipped the scales near 200, sometimes a couple of pounds over that magical, frustrating number with zeroes in it.

During that same ten-year period three different doctors told me to lose weight, ideally twenty pounds. Three times I lost ten; three times I gained it back. This year I will lose the twenty and keep it off. You can hold me accountable to that statement. I will.

I made this promise to myself a few weeks before entering the New Year’s resolution zone and did a fairly good job of not overindulging during the holidays. Now I have resorted to reading labels. Ugh. Low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol blah blah blah. I now have to actually understand what that means and more than that, I have to know what really is “low” and not just the word “low” on the package.

This sucks. I sometimes still think of myself as that skinny man but there are mirrors in my bathroom so I know better. I am not obese but I am twenty pounds overweight and I will do something about that. I have a few goals related to this. First, the pound number, of course; I will lose twenty pounds by May 20th, the beginning of outdoor country music concert season around here this year. Second, my waist size will be down by one, from a sometimes tight 34 to a comfy 33. Third, the result of the fitness part of my process will be an obvious improvement in physique. I’ll stop and do a few more curls while you’re laughing at that last one. Lah de dah, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, umpff, eight, nine, grunt … TEN. OK. Fourth, somebody will notice the physical changes and comment on them. I don’t know who or when, but I am already high-fiving myself in anticipation. Fifth, I’ll photograph a shirtless me and post the picture on this blog. It won’t scare away any children. It won’t scare you away either.

This is all about health and fitness, but there is obviously also a bit of ego involved. Too many boomers are flabby because they’ve given up on fitness. I was on that path but I’m not on it any more.

I am still doing this my way, making up my own diet based on stuff I read and things my doctor has told me. If that doesn’t work, a cousin of mine is a retired doctor who is now a consultant for Weight Watchers and I can turn to him for help. I also believe it is possible to lose weight without giving up some of the goodies. I will still eat pizza sometimes. I will eat sweet potato fries when I visit North Carolina and beignets when I visit New Orleans. (I am proud to report that during my recent nine-day road trip I only ate a McDonalds meal once rather than my previous once-a-day pattern on road trips). Portion control is key. And I am on the wagon for two weeks by choice, but after that I will resume my nightly glass of wine. And I will still lose weight and look great.

New Year, new focus, new confidence. It’s really that simple.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I'm in a writing mood but too tired to elaborate on anything.  There is plenty out there, of course ... Iowa caucuses tonight should leave plenty of bullshit and comedy, my mostly successful day with a diet, my new self-imposed work hours that have me leaving home around 6am and my upcoming eye surgery.  But I am tired and it's already bed time.  So I'll just share this cartoon. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

The 50-yard Line of Life

Many boomer men are thinking about/obsessed with making a mark with their lives. They wake up on their 50th birthday and realize they’re first-and-ten and less than fifty yards from the end zone. Pass or run?

Some hit a mid-life crisis of sorts, with the stereotypical red sports car, girlfriend half their age, career change, etc. The rest of us just think about the future and the meaning of life. Also typical, I guess. Nobody knows the meaning of life but some of us want to find meaning and purpose in our own lives.

That might be part of why I am on the verge of big changes in my own life. I see the end zone but I think a lot still is ahead in the next forty or fifty yards. I want to do something important; I want to have a positive impact on other people’s lives, strangers as well as friends. Most of all I want to be remembered. I want someone to miss me when I’m gone.

Bucket lists come out of this kind of thought process. I commented on mine in a recent post but the list is longer than what’s in that post. I have accomplished a lot in my career, for example, but I want to revisit some of my earlier goals with the current overlay of experience. In the ‘help people’ area, I made a promise to myself twenty years ago while in a hospital unable to walk due to the injury that landed me there: do volunteer work relating to mobility. I haven’t done that yet. On the bucket list.

There is also the ‘live for today’ aspect of boomerdom. Life is short so why wait so long for things?

And there is the “A Christmas Carol” effect. A dear friend asked me recently why I love that play so much. Basically it is the renewal aspect of the plot … the main character used to be fun, caring, selfless but he let life turn him bitter. After the ghosts visit he realizes this and begins to live life again. I have let things get in the way of activities I used to enjoy: running, biking, dancing, to name three. I am not bitter but I definitely hold back when it comes to having fun. Time to stop holding back.

I have more to say on this topic, but for now I’ll sum this up with a line from the movie Shawshank Redemption: It comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Randomness

So here are a few random things floating in my head tonight:

- I’m listening to classical music right now, specifically Handel’s Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Major. It is complex, upbeat, interesting and relaxing all at the same time. It is a peaceful auditory backdrop for the visual cacophony of my cluttered home office.

- The biggest problem I face in reaching my goals is getting past procrastination. Case in point: my cluttered home office that I should have spent all day de-cluttering. I did other things instead. Maybe tomorrow.

- Photography is a passion but sometimes I take a break from it. I’m not sure why. My recent road trip provided numerous photo opportunities yet I shot only a few pictures and most with my iPhone and not my Nikon SLR. And I haven’t posted them on my photo blog or facebook yet. Procrastination again.

- Fortunately I have attacked my new fitness plan successfully. Doc said 30 minutes a day five days a week. I’m actually hitting that goal so far, including during my vacation. I’m struggling with the diet part a little, partly because of the holidays and partly because of some habits. I eat healthy but I eat too much. Portion control is key for me and at least I know this.

- I did start the food part with two pattern-breakers this weekend. I made soup and divided it into reasonable size leftovers. I also made wraps for the first time. I buy them for lunch sometimes and decided to try making my own. Success!

Happy New Year