Mornings & other things

April 2017

I took this picture a couple of years ago. I believe that I took it one day while I was out driving north of Lafayette. But since my memory isn’t what it used to be, it might have been south of Lafayette.

***

I’ve mentioned a number of times before how I abandoned Facebook a long time ago. I got tired of the endless political debates, and the thinly veiled bigotry that was appearing for my “reading pleasure” by people who should know better, and whom I thought I knew. It got to be too much. In the past six or seven months I’ve started to feel the same way about Twitter. The Tweets have become too mean-spirited on both sides of stories. I haven’t given up on Twitter entirely, but I only check in on it once or twice a week at most. I feel like there should be more happiness in the world. I noticed how much this disheartening aspect of modern life was getting to me this morning when I realized how much I was yearning for a road trip to get away from the daily negativity. Vacation can’t come soon enough this year.

Speaking of this morning, I woke up this morning with a wisp of the dream I had evidently been having. It was a bit of a song titled My Toodleoops and I. Toodleoops seemed to be a nickname for a non-existent former girlfriend. Though, upon reflection, perhaps it was Toodle Loops, a fictional brand of boxed cereal. I’ll never know because I can’t remember anything about the dream.

And while I’m writing about waking up in the morning, what is normally your first thought upon awakening? My first thought is almost always the question “What time is it?” The second thing is usually the question “Do I need to put my pants on before I go downstairs to start the coffee.” The answer to that one depends on whether or not we have house guests. Two days ago, however, my day started in my mind with Linda Ronstadt singing I Can’t Let Go. Catchy but distracting.

That morning start was not nearly as strange as one I experienced two and a half weeks ago when I woke up thinking about the opening of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …” and I wondered what might have I been dreaming. But before I could truly form that thought, I started remembering the novel A Hall of Mirrors which was the basis of the movie W.U.S.A. which starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I must have had one heck of a dream!

Early morning thoughts. Wow.

What’s wrong with me?

Monday morning

This was my car yesterday, the day after Easter. By 3 p.m. all of this snow had melted. Today it is raining with the temperature to go into the 60’s F. We may get snow again before the end of the week. Life in Indiana.

***

It has been about a month since the last time I posted anything. It isn’t from lack of ideas. I’ve had a few ideas, jotted down some notes, started a few drafts, and let them never progress beyond that point. In some cases it is good that I stopped. For instance the idea for a blog post on belts died a worthy death. It is hard to believe that it even reached the draft stage. The truth is that I just don’t feel like writing.

Not only have I not written anything here, but also I never finished a couple letters that I started. Nor I haven’t written an email in months. I haven’t worked on my never-to-be-published novel. Most of the text messages I have sent were copies of Tweets that I liked.

Sometimes a felicitous phrase will come to my mind, but generally it stays there until I forget it. If I jot it down, it is not used. What’s wrong with me?

Perhaps you thought this post signals the breaking of the dry writing dam. Nope. I started this post in hopes of renew my love of writing, but it hasn’t happened. So consider this short post an explanation for my absence, and a promise that I’ll try to get back into the writing swing. But not right now. I don’t feel like writing. What’s wrong with me.

Short updates

New monitor

I haven’t been writing much lately. Oh, I get ideas for topics all of the time, but I just lack the incentive to sit at the keyboard and put my thoughts out there. I haven’t even worked on my (probably never to be released or even completed) novel. I had dedicated February as my personal Na-No-Wri-Mo since I promised Cindy I wouldn’t work on it in November. I was excited about it. But I haven’t progressed much beyond sketching out two non-sequential chapters. I disappoint myself. I fear that I spend too much time thinking, and not enough time doing. Cindy could tell you that I am the living embodiment of procrastination.

I tried to stop being sidetracked by current political events by spending a week avoiding political news and commentary. There was no Morning Joe, no Meet The Press Daily on our television. I turned off the radio when NPR’s Morning Edition ran segments on political issues. I didn’t have to avoid much of the local news coverage of national politics because they severely limit their coverage. I didn’t look at Twitter for a week. I couldn’t totally avoid some aspects because the national evening news would have a story now and then, but since I usually watch NBC, they were spending most of their time talking about the Olympics. Thank goodness for sports!

And I had other things to take my mind off of politics. I treated us to a new desktop PC and monitor (see the picture above). Our old desktop was getting slower and slower, and was still running Windows Vista. It was finally time for a change. You are probably sneering and saying, “Desktop?” and I am unapologetically saying, “Yes! I use a laptop, but I prefer the desktop.” I feel more at ease with the desktop. Always have, always will as long as they are available. Plus, the older I get, the more I like the larger screen.

And speaking of my laptop, I have had to take in for repairs twice in the past two weeks. That is where it is now. Both times I have experienced software problems that don’t allow me to sign in. I have been able to get into Safe Mode each time, but nothing I did solved the problem. After the first time I took it in, the laptop worked fine for three days. But that was it. I fear that this time, rather than try to get it functional without losing data, they will simply restore it to the factory settings. At least I was able to save all my data while in Safe Mode. But I will lose some of the software that I use frequently. I’ll find out when the repair people finish with it. I would cross my fingers, but that would slow down my keyboarding even more.

***

One more update. I started paying more attention to national news on the day of the school shooting in Florida. That shooting and President Trump’s Twitter response, caused me to start thinking about writing a post concerning it. But when I started seeing the student’s statements and Twitter postings, as well as their actions, I knew that I could not say anything to match them. I recommend that you follow what the student’s are doing and saying. The young people can still teach us.

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.

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.

Journeys Part 3a

Playground
Playground

I took this picture Saturday morning before there were any children around. It probably would have been a better picture with children. But then I would have had to explain to the parents why I was taking pictures of their kids. This is better for me.

***

I’m sure that you have heard the expression “Life is a journey.” That is a concept that I’ll be returning to as I go along in this journey of exploring journeys. An aspect that I want to write about today is some of the changes I’ve witnessed as I have lived my life. Cindy and I were talking about this a few days ago when she remarked that she didn’t think her children lived in a time when people didn’t cook with microwave ovens. That made me think about other changes that I’ve witnessed over the years. I started making a list of things that have come along; including some that are already gone. Related to cooking, and earlier than widespread use of microwaves, were TV dinners. I’ve never been a fan, but there are still a lot to choose from in the frozen food aisle at U.S. supermarkets. And now that I think of it, I believe self-cleaning ovens were introduced in the 1960’s. But that is just a guess on my part.

Also in the supermarket is a larger selection of fruit and other produce. Much of it is now available all year or during longer periods of the year rather than during specific harvest periods.

Off the top of my head I would also add that there is a larger selection of affordable beer and wine in most supermarkets. Here in Indiana hard liquor has also been added to our supermarket selection.

Cindy also mentioned that television stations used to sign off at night. If you turned the TV on during the hours they didn’t broadcast shows, you would see a test pattern. It is also likely in those early years that what you saw was in black and white. The 1960’s brought the beginnings of large-scale color television programming. That is when my father, always an early adopter when it came to television, bought his first color TV. He had earlier purchased a Sylvania TV with its famous halo light to save us from eye strain. Once we had a color TV, my mother decided that she no longer wanted to watch anything that was broadcast in black and white. A bit snooty if you ask me.

Since then there have been upgrades in sound and picture quality, including stereo broadcasts. There are giant screen TVs including projection TVs. We also have flat screen plasma and LED TVs. Oh, and there also now curved screen TVs and 3D television sets. Of course, many people prefer to watch their shows on computer monitors, tablets, and smart phones. Talk about eye strain.

I have barely scratched the surface of my list, so I’ll soon be returning to this subject. Feel free to share any changes that you witnessed in a comment. I would enjoy seeing them.

 

Journeys Part 1

Farmer's Market
Farmer’s Market

Here is a shot of the Farmer’s Market in Lafayette. They have it twice a week. I took this just as they were opening one Saturday. It was a bad time for me because they had hot food for sale and I was hungry. Unfortunately the most tempting food was of the type that diabetics shouldn’t be eating, so I took a pass on it.

***

I know that in the past I’ve mentioned that for me the journey is at least as important as the destination. Normally, when I think about that concept it is in conjunction with a concrete journey from one physical place to another. That’s one reason I love taking road trips. There is so much to see between here and there, and I want to see as much as possible.

Some people don’t understand why I prefer to drive to Las Vegas on our annual trip to visit family. Why spend a week driving out there when you can fly in just a few hours?  Well, suppose I decided that I wanted to stop at Boys Town, Nebraska to see the world’s largest ball of postage stamps? (note to Cindy, let’s add this to our stop-and-see list.) Do you think the pilot would make a detour to let me stop there? Would you, as another passenger on the plane, want to spend more time cramped on the airplane while I perused this philatelic novelty? I think not.

Journeys are individual, even when travelling with other people. Cindy and I can go to the Purdue campus together, see the same things, and yet have different experiences. For Cindy that campus is full of memories of younger days. For me, it is a somewhat sterile environment that makes me reflect on how much nicer the IU campus is.

Hmmm. I seem to have strayed from the physical journey to a mental journey. That should be a subject for another post in the future. I’ll start thinking about that.