Little things mean a lot…make that too much

 

Counseling while waiting

I took this photo in New Richmond, Indiana on July 4th while we were waiting for the fireworks to begin. Cindy took the time to counsel a friend who called. There never seems to be time off.

***

We bought another bookcase about a week ago. The bookcase deserves a post all to itself, so rather than go into the details, let me just say that I have begun filling it. Since filling it meant moving some books to the basement I took the opportunity to also catch up on cataloging our books.

The bookcase we added, along with the one already in the basement and the file cabinets, should hold all of my graphic novels, our biographies and autobiographies, and our books on historical subjects.

Cataloging the books and arranging them on the shelves should be simple, don’t you think? If you think that, you have never dealt with me. It isn’t just a matter of plugging information on the books into a data base and then ferrying them to the basement where I’ll just put them on shelves and in drawers. It is more involved than that.

I have been using a database software program called Data Crow. I like it very much. Up until recently I loved it. It used to be that all I had to do was enter the ISBN or the title of the book into a search field and the software would search the Internet, primarily Amazon, and fill in data fields for which it found information. Lovely!

But that function has stopped working. I could just enter the name of the book and the author into the data base and let it go at that, but I have grown used the program finding a graphic of the cover, the publisher and other information. So now I look up everything and enter it manually. It has added a lot of time to the process.

And there are small things that bother me. For instance, there is the problem of the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir. I know that an autobiography generally covers a person’s life from birth to whenever it is being written, and that a memoir just covers a specific portion of time or one subject. I can make that distinction when I list the genre, but sometimes the author or the publisher has trouble doing so. For instance, True Compass. the autobiography of Edward Kennedy tracks him from birth to imminent death, but the book is subtitled A Memoir. What the? In my case I call it an autobiography. When putting it in the bookcase it makes no difference because I mix biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs together.

That leads me to the next little thing. When arranging the biographical books should I do it alphabetically by author or by the person about whom the book is written? Keeping all of the books about President Franklin D. Roosevelt together on the shelf seems to make sense, but I also see the argument for arranging by author. What do you think?

If I keep everything by one author together, how do I deal with genre’s? Thomas Hardy wrote novels and poems. I have a half-dozen or so novels by Vladimir Nabokov, but I also have his autobiography, Speak Memory. Or is it a memoir? His novels are in a different part of the house. Should I move Speak Memory from the basement? What do you think?

No big deal, you say. Perhaps for you, but I was thinking about these things at 5:30 this morning. Let me know what you think.

Some things that I think about

Love the clouds

I took this picture while driving home from one of my granddaughter’s baseball games last month. It was, as you can see, a beautiful day.

***

This is another one of my posts where I gather ideas that either don’t merit a full blog post, or that I’ve forgotten the thread of my thinking. Rather than let them set and never use them, I like to toss out these nuggets so that you can think about them.

  1. Recently a commercial has appeared on television where a faceless voice proclaims that we “literally can’t live without WiFi.” Really? I admit that WiFi is a handy tool that usually makes life easier for us techno-dependent urban dwellers. But we can live without it. I can remember  time when WiFi didn’t exist, and we survived. Really, we did! We could again…literally.
  2. Little things on television and movies bother me. For instance, have you ever noticed when watching a murder mystery/thriller how the hero, when surreptitiously entering a home or business, will turn off a television or CD player or radio that is playing. The place goes from loud noise to silence. How is that helpful if you don’t want an occupant to know you are there? Why do they do that? Are they being critical of the (often dead) occupant’s taste in entertainment?
  3. Here is a phrase that I came up with for use in one of my more philosophical thought trips. “I am not one of those people who see life as a series of metaphors.” I had planned to use this to explain why I will never be a great writer. I don’t have that vision. Maybe some day I’ll pick it up and finish the whole treatise. But I doubt if many people would be interested in reading it since I’m not a great writer.

I have a few more, but I haven’t given up on expanding them enough to use. Time will tell.

***

Here’s a reminder about the next N-N-1. If you want t participate, take a picture at 4 p.m. your local time, on Sunday, July 16th. Send the picture  to me along with a short, 50 to 250 word writeup (prose or poetry) and your blog address, no later than 6 p.m. your local time on Friday, July 21st. I hope you will participate. My emaii address is houseman@comcast.net.

Thought streaming

A graveyard

This another photo that I took last month when I was driving around Linden. I really need to go out and get some new shots. Perhaps I’ll do that this afternoon.

***

I started this post with one definite idea that I wanted to state. But my mind wandered and my thoughts started drifting. I think that there is something of a logical sequence, but I may be wrong. I leave it to you. Oh, and I hope I don’t offend anyone…too much.

***

I was reading a short story last night, and in it there was a reference to people out for an evening jog. This story was published in the 1990’s, and it occurred to me that running and jogging was more than a passing fad. I guess that until there is definite scientific proof that taking a nap is better for your health than strenuous activity, I shall forever be clucked at sympathetically by those who bow at the altar of physical fitness.

Save your sympathy. I don’t need it; neither do I want it. Another thing that I don’t want is spending money on special shoes and clothing. I’m old and often grumpy and cheap. I am not going to wear a spandex track suit or sweat pants. Sweat pants are probably the ugliest fashion statement perpetuated upon the public. Not even a supermodel or leading man actor can make them look good.

I don’t feel that I am overly vain, but I refuse to be seen in public or, even in the privacy of my home, wearing them. Plus, I think they are uncomfortable. “What?” you say. “You don’t think looking and being slovenly is comfortable?” Well, maybe slovenly is a bit of a stretch. I’ll narrow that to just looking slovenly. Does that satisfy you?

I suppose I have been a tad too nasty today.I am sorry. I’ll try to end on an upbeat thought. May the unicorn in your garden fertilize your tomato plants.

What do you do at 2 a.m.?

In downtown Linden

I took this picture a little over a month ago. I have been meaning to stop and get a picture of this building for a long time, but that day was this first when the stars were properly aligned. I had my camera, the camera batteries weren’t dead, I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere, and there was break in the traffic so that I could get the shot.

***

I’ve written before about waking up in the early morning hours and being unable to return to peaceful slumber. What do you do? Unfortunately for me, I think. This morning I awoke at 2 a.m. My eyes popped open and I tried to suss out why I was awake and why it felt like I would be awake for a long time.

Had I been having a strange dream? No; not that I could remember. I had a strange dream a few days earlier about a nefarious group who had surgically implanted bombs in the stomaches of the members of a water polo team, but that had not recurred. By the way, I couldn’t remember why they had messed with the team’s collective stomaches. But it proved to have a spectacular result in the middle of their game. Red, frothy water spewing from the pool, etc. But there was no memorable dream this time.

Was I worried about finances? No more than normal. That means almost constantly. But those worries seldom keep me from sleeping. I ran the finances through my mind anyway. I’m caught up on the bills we pay on a regular basis. Taxes are due in a couple of weeks, but they seem payable. We haven’t invested heavily in any competitive water polo teams. It wasn’t finances.

Am I worrying about my health? No, that isn’t it. I saw my ophthalmologist the other day and he said the macular degeneration hadn’t gotten any worse, so no injections into the eyeball were necessary, and I didn’t need to see him for another year. I’ll be seeing the podiatrist in a couple of weeks, but I’ve had no new problems with my feet or toes. I’ll also be seeing my primary care physician that same week. There I expect to hear that my blood sugars are in order. But I may hear that I need to lose more weight (the ongoing battle). I hope that he doesn’t recommend that I take up water polo.

All of that thinking exhausted me and I was finally able to go back to sleep.

The purpose of social media

Is it spring yet?
Is it spring yet?

I took this picture last week when I was out searching (unsuccessfully) for early signs of spring. If I went out today I would be able to find those signs. Our grass is starting to green and the daffodils have poked through ground. Yesterday I noticed that our tulips have also started to sprout. I guess the season is changing.

***

A few days ago I was listening on the radio to a panel discussion of the use of social media by people in government. While they were concentrating of the use and misuse by all levels of government officials of Twitter, they also talked a bit about Facebook. One of the panel participants said that the purpose of social media is to gather followers.

I was surprised that no one on the panel questioned his statement. I know that some people try to gather followers because their egos need stroked on a regular basis, and that collecting followers provides those strokes. Others try to gather followers because they are selling something. I don’t believe that most people on social media are simply trying to gather followers.

I suppose that I am looking at social media though my perspective, and perhaps it s a narrow perspective, but for me social media is a means of communication. Some of that communication is high level, some is low. As I’ve written many times, I got off of Facebook some years back because of the inanity and lack of civility of so much of that conversation. I prefer Twitter where I can more easily choose what to read and what to ignore. I also subscribe to a few email newsletters. And of course I read blogs as well as write this one. I prefer the longer form of communicating provided by this blog. I can write as much or as little as I please, and I can comment on the blogs of other people.

I would like to know your main purpose in participating in social media, and so I’ve added this poll, or you can just add a regular comment.

I love to write…but

Still waiting for spring
Still waiting for spring

There is no green grass and no leaves on the trees. It is just slightly foggy on a warm February morning. Mother nature keeps teasing us into thinking spring has arrived. Hmm, there’s an idea for a story, Mother Nature the Tease.

***

I can hear you saying to yourself that nobody blogs who doesn’t love to write. Except for those people who only have a blog to share pictures of kittens. I say to those people, “Get an Instagram account!” I mean really. Kittens? OK, I’ve got that out of my system. Back to my topic.

This morning I was dividing my concentration between watching a morning news magazine and reading the introduction of the next book in my reading challenge. I was making mental notes from both of these activities for future inclusion into Classical Gasbag posts. Ideas, both good and bad, are never a problem for me, whether for a blog post, a short story, a novel, an email, or even a snail mail (I love sending and receiving letters). There are so many ideas for the taking. You might call taking ideas thievery of a sort, and you might be right. Or you might consider that I take another person’s idea and build upon it. That is certainly the way that I like to look at it.

With that happy thought I realized that for the past several months I have been spending so much time gathering ideas and planning posts and letters and stories that I haven’t been spending much time actually writing. I’m lucky if I remember to jot down the ideas, let alone build an idea into something useful. When I do complete writing something. the finished product is seldom what I had originally planned. For example, this post was originally planned as an exercise in listing all of the things I would rather be doing than writing (look at the title). Maybe I’ll write that one some other time. I’m too busy enjoying my time at the keyboard writing a small bit about the process.

It is true that often when I start banging out a post, that my brain seems to guide my fingers in directions I hadn’t considered when I started. Sometimes the end result is good, sometimes bad, often just mediocre.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I would like to know about your process for writing. You may comment or complete the form below. If I like your process, I might steal it.

Horns of a dilemma

Waiting for spring
Waiting for spring

I took this picture earlier this year. Outside today it feels like spring, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicted. Well, who depends on a large rodent for weather predictions?

***

I know that a dilemma is not an actual horned animal. Though often when I read the phrase “horns of a dilemma” I imagine a children’s book illustration of an angry water buffalo. If only life were so simple. No, the phrase means having to choose between two bad options. No matter your choice, it won’t be a good one.

I find myself making that choice now. A few days ago I was writing about how I felt that avoiding politics in Classical Gasbag was the proper choice for me as a person. Today I’m not sure. Watching the news, listening to friends and acquaintances who are not U.S. citizens, and drawing upon historical precedents have brought me to a place where I can’t publicly ignore what is happening here.

Our President and his minions are constantly labeling our free press as the purveyors of fake news and the enemy. Meanwhile they put forth lies and label them as alternate facts. This is a familiar tactic to people who read history. I recommend that people read about “Big lie” on Wikipedia and see if it strikes a chord.

Perhaps I am writing this from a political perspective. I feel so close to it that I’m not sure. To me it feels like our Constitution, particularly the first amendment, is under attack, and that scares me. What scares me more is the number of fellow citizens who believe, or want to believe, the lies that are coming from our President and his minions.

OK, so here is some political ranting: Part of me wants to blame that phenomena on the apparent decline in people who see the worth of an education other than for gaining a better paying job. What is wrong with education for the sake of education? Of course I lay the blame for that type of thinking on Richard Nixon who during the 1952 Presidential election labelled Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson and his supporters eggheads. Yes, the same Richard Nixon who as President had an enemies list and brought Watergate into our political vocabulary.

I don’t plan on going on and on about politics in Classical Gasbag, but neither do I plan on remaining silent when things truly bother me. I just hope that I can remain civil enough that I don’t offend too many people.

So much to say, but I can’t

Wall Art #15
Wall Art #15

I took this picture in West Lafayette last week. It is at the end of the parking lot where I had lunch with a friend. I really like the colors in this wall art.

***

There are a number of things that I want to write about, but I don’t feel they are appropriate, for one reason or another,  to put in this blog. When I started Classical Gasbag I wanted it to be a place where I could freely expound upon anything that crossed my mind. It hasn’t turned out to be that way. There are a few reasons that I don’t feel that I have the freedom to write in that manner. Here are three of them.

Reason #1: I don’t want my wife, Cindy, to be embarrassed by what I write. Over the years she has told most of her friends and family about Classical Gasbag and has encouraged them to read it. I know that there have been occasions when one of her friends has asked her if what I wrote bothered her. Recently I cancelled a drafted post about a dream that I had. Cindy might have been embarrassed by the details.

Reason #2: At some point last year I decided that I would stop writing about politics in Classical Gasbag. Politics has been a very touchy subject among even some of our closest friends. I don’t want to antagonize anyone else if I don’t need to. So the closest I will come to writing about politics is to recommend a new drinking game. Listen to any speech by President Trump and take a drink every time he uses the word “really.”

Reason #3:  I don’t often lose my temper, but when I do I can write scathingly about whatever has angered me. But that doesn’t help anyone, not even me. If letting fly with mean-spirited slurs and curses made me feel better, perhaps I would do it. I’ve found over the years, however, that I feel no better if I do it. So I don’t. It helps no one and may hurt someone. What would be the purpose in doing that? It’s not for me.

Life is a series of choices. I choose to try to be a better person…at least in this blog.

Coping

The Big Lie
The Big Lie

I got this in the mail the other day. It is from our insurance agent who has failed to return any of the last four or five calls we have made to her office. I believe it was Joseph Goebbels who said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it.’ Well, Verna, you can tell us how much you care as often as you wish, but I don’t believe it.

***

So I went to bed reasonably early rather than stay up watching election returns. When I turned off the TV the returns were trending in a direction that I didn’t like, but I had hopes that I would wake up to more cheerful news. Alas, that was not to be. Actually, I woke up at 3 a.m., needing to pee and made the mistake of checking Twitter before I closed my eyes again. Well that ended my sleep.

I spent some time trading texts with a friend in Thailand; expressing my woe and receiving kind words of solace in response. I tried watching the early newscasts but just couldn’t handle it. So I decided to go for a drive and listen to happy music.

Since Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature I have been listening to a lot of his albums. I started buying Dylan albums in the 1960’s and have been listening ever since. Today I had planned on listening to The Times They Are a-Changin’ but knowing the contents as well as I do, I decided against it. I can accept that the changes we may see won’t be to my liking. I can abide with the song’s dictum “Get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand” since I’m also pretty sure that no one in the new Republican party would want my help. But that wasn’t the reason I didn’t listen to the album.

I was feeling depressed and decided that I didn’t need to listen to “Ballad of Hollis Brown” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RfJhIT1_h4 which is a song about a mass murder/suicide. Nor did I want to listen to “Only A Pawn In The Game,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbL2PpBwQmY about the murder of Medger Evans. And “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUrqRDjAt4w always makes me feel sad. All of the songs on the album are worth listening to, but not for me, not today.

So I picked, at random, an early Kingston Trio album from my CDs to play in the car during my early morning drive. I put it in the player as I backed out of our driveway, and “M.T.A.” came on with Dave Guard quoting Thomas Paine. “These are the times that try men’s souls.” It is going to be a long day.

The Thumper Challenge

Early spring
Early spring

I took this picture back in early April, but never used it. Since I haven’t taken any photos recently (with one exception that is already in a Draft post) I decided to go back and pull this from my archived pictures. I hope that you like it.

***

I found myself awake at 4 a.m. today. None of the things that normally help me get back to sleep were working, and I found myself thinking about a situation that has been bothering Cindy. I won’t describe the situation because it really isn’t relevant, but it involved people saying unkind things about other people. That stirred my thoughts. For some reason Thumper, from the Disney film Bambi came to mind. Thumper’s father told him, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Those who know me are aware that I am not an overly friendly person, and that I have said unkind things about others. I can have a very sharp tongue and have been known to use it. I know that I have written cruel things about other people. It is a fault that I am aware of. I want to be a better person; but I know that I am weak.

We live in a society where it feels that saying cruel, hurtful things is the norm rather than the exception. When we look around us we see prosecuting lawyers who make careers by telling juries how bad a defendant is. Lawyers in civil cases cast aspersions on people (remember, corporations are people too) who are the other side of the case.

Since most politicians are lawyers, is it any wonder that there is so much negativity in the political realm? Yes I know that I just said an unkind thing about politicians. It is a particular habit that is harder to break than smoking.

We also see it in entertainment. Every day on television there are people who are claiming that someone else is not a worthy person. It is on the news, on “reality” television programming, and even in drama and comedy presentations. Heck, Don Rickles built his career insulting people. And we laugh…even I laugh.

I am not saying that everyone should get a free pass from criticism. That is not practical, nor is it wise. But surely the level of negative speech can diminished without harm to society. Not every fault needs to openly discussed ad nauseam. It often demeans us.

So here is my strategy for working to become a better person. I am setting a challenge for myself. I call it The Thumper Challenge because I am setting the small goal of not saying anything negative about anybody for twenty-four hours. If I am successful I will try to go a further twenty-four hours, and so on. If I can’t do it for a full day, I’ll try again the next day. I know that it is going to be difficult; doubly so since it is a presidential election year.

I hope that you’ll consider taking the challenge as well. If you do take the challenge. please let me know how you do. You can come back and leave a comment, or send me an email at houseman@comcast.net. Good luck.