Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Birthdays, Women and other things

So today is my birthday.  Started my day with emails from my sister and one of my best friends and a text from another of my best friends.  Then I got greetings from two of my radio stations (because they send birthday emails to everybody who notes a birthday when signing up to get their other emails).  Got two birthday emails from managers at work, including the very top guy in the local office.  And seven co-workers sang happy birthday to me at a meeting and gave me an ice cream cake. At last count, 82 of my Facebook friends posted birthday wishes, which is a record for me.

Definitely feeling the love. 

Also feeling an awkward indicator of the opposite, further proving I do not understand women like I thought I did.  In the middle of seeing all those awesome greetings from FB friends, I realized I had been ‘unfriended’ by someone who actually is/was a friend before we ever connected on Facebook.  She is one of my ‘concert buddies’, someone I’ve know for 13 years and who I went to the occasional concert with.  Now that I’m on my own I invited her to something and suggested this time it could be a ‘date’.  She made it very clear that we would NOT be dating.  I made it very clear that I understood and I was OK with that and hopefully we would still go to the occasional concert like we had done a few times in the past two years.  All of this communication was via FB message and she did not reply to my last two.  Now she drops me from FB.  Geez.  I could go all ‘Dr Phil’ here and analyze her behavior but I think I’ll just ignore it.  It is too ridiculous to spend any time contemplating, beyond writing about it here.  Her company does business with mine so I know we’ll cross paths again; that could be interestingly awkward.  Good thing we never did anything resembling dating; I hate this kind of drama.

It was warm here today, in the mid 60s (Fahrenheit), and almost tropical in a way that reminded me of my hometown New Orleans.  Of course NOLA is everywhere this week because of the Super Bowl, so the reminders are in my face.  I kind of like that.  Now it’s raining like hell and we’re under all kinds of storm watches and flood warnings.  On Monday we had ice, Friday we might have snow.  It’s a weather roller coaster here.

What else?  Well, I’m having cataract surgery on the other eye soon.  I’m a little young for this but eye disease runs in the family.  Last year’s surgery was very successful (20/20 in that eye) but I can’t even read the “E” at the top of the chart in the remaining bad eye.  But I still was able to renew my driver’s license and the only restriction is that I have to have side mirrors on both sides of the car.  What?!  I’ve never had a car that didn’t.  After the surgery I will probably have 20/20 vision in that eye too so it’s no problem, but if I can still get renewed I wonder how bad the vision is for some other drivers.  Be careful when you drive in Maryland.

Nobody asked my age today.  I’m happy about that because I wouldn’t say the number anyway, but I had my answer ready.  “How old am I?  A day older than I was yesterday.”  Corny, I know.

OK, that’s all for tonight.  Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How Many

Most boomers can remember a time in our youth when we had four television channels to choose from, the local affiliates for NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS.  Those channels ‘signed off’ around midnight each night and started up again around 6 the next morning.  Now we have hundreds of channels to choose from and most run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When I moved to my new apartment I upgraded my cable service, adding some channels, but I have no idea how many channels I have to choose from.  I can click through more than 900 but many of those are part of upgraded subscriptions.  My best guess is that I can watch at least 300 of them.  Some are duplicates … the local channels are available in digital and HD (high definition) … but that still leaves a couple hundred.

This afternoon I surfed through, taking notes for this blog post.  Some highlights: 

- There is more than one HBO.  I think I get seven in English and those same seven are available in Spanish. 

- I found multiple versions of other movie-based channels such as Encore and Starz and I found a few other movie channels I didn’t know existed, including a Sundance channel and and some ‘old movie’ channels.

- There are multiple versions of music channels like MTV and CMT and a whole lineup of ‘music only’ channels with many music genres.

- Montgomery County Maryland is a culturally diverse county with immigrants and descendents of immigrants from a variety of countries, so the cable system here offers programming in many languages in addition to English and Spanish.  So far I found Chinese, Korean, Indian and Ethiopian.  There are more.

- Other channels I didn’t know about include the Smithsonian, Pentagon, Game Show and a couple that feature TV shows from my earliest days of life.  And at least two channels showing old ‘westerns’, the kind where plenty of people get shot but nobody bleeds.

It is kind of amusing to me that at a point where I am trying to simplify my life and get up and go out and do things, I now have all these new options for sitting and watching.  Stay tuned to see how I balance this.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Boxes of Stuff and Letting Go

When did we accumulate all this stuff?

I have repeatedly asked myself that question over the past month as I packed up my stuff to move from a fairly large house to a not-so-large apartment.  Movers got what I thought was most of my share of the marital property but I’ve been back five times to get more stuff.  Last Saturday I even had help from a friend with a van, yet there is at least one more car load of my stuff back at the house.  Now I am surrounded by mounds of boxes and dusty items from the recent past and the distant past.  I hate the clutter but somehow feel at home in it.

Objects we collect and keep over time can serve as reminders of various parts of our lives.  When viewed as a whole, they tell our life story.  Why do we keep so much and how do we learn this behavior?

My ‘stuff’ education most certainly results from being the son of organized packrats.  Mom kept the silliest things but each had a story.  She lived her whole life in southern Louisiana but travelled all across the US, Mexico and Canada, kept written journals, hundreds of photographs and numerous small physical reminders of her adventures.  All of the pictures were destroyed in the Hurricane Katrina floods but some of her journals survived, as did some golden maple leaves she picked up off the ground on a bus tour of Canada one year and a few souvenir shot glasses from various towns.

The 'chest' pictured here is among the many items I have moved into my new apartment.  It was a souvenir from an early family trip to Pensacola, Florida and contains stuff from the trip and that part of my life … Mardi Gras doubloons, a sugar packet from a restaurant we stopped at during that trip, a Coke bottle top from the days when soda came in bottles with tops that needed a bottle opener.

Dad kept tools and magazine articles.  He had tools of every size, shape and usage.  He probably never read a book, other than trade school text books, but he constantly read magazines related to his work and hobbies and routinely cut out articles of interest to him. 

Now I have my own tools and many of his. Also among the Items I moved are magazines and clipped articles from various cities I’ve live in and information relating to my own hobbies and interests.

On one hand this stuff means a lot to me.  On the other hand it is time to let go of the clutter.

When I moved into my last house ten years ago, I promised myself I would not move unnecessary stuff ever again.  Yet here I am a decade later surrounded by dusty boxes containing the same stuff.  Some of these boxes are still unopened from the last move, some from the one that occurred seven years before that.  Part of ‘new me’ is tempted to throw these boxes into the dumpster unopened.  Why keep it?  Another side of me demands I at least look through things one more time. 

As we move forward in our lives it is important to discard parts of the past that hold us back.  It is also important to learn from and celebrate parts of our past.  I have and will discard a lot of what I moved here; it is definitely time to let those things go.  But I will also keep some stuff.  That silly little ‘treasure chest’ in the picture instantly brings back a vivid mental picture of the first time I walked on a beach.  It is a chapter in my life story.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day 2013

Day before Inauguration 2009
No matter who takes the Oath of Office as President of the United States of America, the inauguration is an exciting event.  The ceremony is a public display of the peaceful transition of power from one person to another, and for second-term Presidents it is the peaceful continuation of power.  Despite the incredible amount of security involved this day is open to citizens and several hundred thousand people go down to the National Mall to get as close as they can to the swearing in.

I was there when Bill Clinton took the Oath in January 1993.  Every four years since I said I would go but, well, it’s cold in January in DC.  And I hate crowds.  So I usually talk myself out of it.  Last time I actually had a chance to be in the media gallery but that would have required being there four or five hours ahead of time, so I helped arrange for another of my media co-workers to go instead.

It is still exciting to me to be only fifteen miles away today, watching the continuous television coverage on my choice of at least twenty different channels.  This is a great country!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Trigger Finger Randomness

This gun debate is making me crazy.  Why is it always about the extremes?  Yes, Americans have the right to own guns but no civilian needs assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips. Who are they trying to defend themselves against?  A responsible gun owner with children living in the house will have big guns locked up in a gun safe.  If a home invasion occurs, by the time the gun-owning homeowner gets the assault rifle out of the locked cabinet, they are dead. 

The school safety issue … having armed guards at schools might increase safety but it might not.  That proposed solution is not completely clear. Teachers carrying guns around at school is not the answer either.  Most teachers, even if trained in the proper use of firearms, are not trained or experienced in high-intensity active shooting situations.  It is entirely possible they may kill a kid rather than stop the shooter.

Two people who are close to me (a friend from high school and my sister) are teachers … and gun-owners.  I don’t believe either brings a gun to work. 

Can you imagine if a very young student knew their teacher carried a gun in a purse or jacket and that kid found that gun and that gun was loaded … I can’t finish this sentence.
The only thing worse that sensationalist entertainers like Hannity, Rush and Fox News repeating the term ‘gun grab’ in reference to the President’s actions is that some well-intentioned citizens actually believe that crap.  There is NOTHING in any of Obama’s executive orders or proposals for Congress that will result in anybody’s guns being taken away.

The public face of the NRA … smug, self-righteous hypocrites.  I know a couple of NRA members.  They do not fit that profile.  The NRA leaders are just as bad as politicians.

Many of the extreme gun advocates in this debate hold up Ronald Reagan as a shining defender of the Constitution and Obama as someone who is destroying it, all because of this gun issue.  Some statistics:  As California Governor in 1967, Reagan signed a law making it illegal to carry firearms in public.  As President in 1986 he signed the Firearms Owners Protection Act, banning fully automatic weapons.  In 1991 he spoke out in favor of the Brady Act.  The point is this: even Mr. Conservative Small Government Constitution Man thought ‘sensible’ gun laws are needed.  The ‘all or nothing’ approach of extremists on both sides of the debate will keep that from happening.

Many people in this debate refer to the wisdom of the ‘Founding Fathers’ and claim to know what those men were thinking when they wrote the Constitution and the subsequent amendments.  One argument I heard this week pointed out that the right to bear arms is the Second Amendment, meaning is was extremely important.  It was passed in 1789. While it might be hard to disagree with the importance of the 2nd and the other nine that form the Bill of Rights, just remember that those truly visionary men still allowed slavery and barred women from voting.  Slavery wasn’t abolished till 1865 with the 13th Amendment; and women weren’t allowed to vote until 1920 with the 19th Amendment.  Is the right to own a gun more important than the rights of slaves and women?  Don’t we have to consider the Constitution and many of its Amendments in the context in which they were written? Do you really believe you know what the Founding Fathers were thinking?  Were you there?  Ask yourself those questions before speaking too loudly about firearms and other Constitutional issues.

“Paranoia runs deep.  Into your life it will creep.”  Singer Steven Stills’ lyrics from another era resonate a little today too, don’t they?