Little things

Stock photo from freeImages.com

It’s autumn, and I haven’t taken any pictures yet. I haven’t done much of anything recently. By recently I mean the past few months. Oh, I’ve cut the grass and done a few other odds and ends, but nothing that makes me feel that I’ve accomplished anything. So today I’m trying to complete a post.

Today’s post is about a few mundane things that bother me. The first is a cause of wonderment to me. I call it Picture and Strings.

Picture and Strings

Cindy and i like to watch murder mysteries one TV and DVDs. One thing that I find incomprehensible is the use of walls to post pictures, news clippings, post it notes, etc. concerning the crime, and using string or colored yarn to connect things.

I don’t get it.It just looks like a hodgepodge to me. How does it help anyone?

I would understand if they set up a spreadsheet with the names of people and places on the X axis, and a timeline on the Y axis. That makes sense to me, but pictures and strings? Perhaps a person who responds to visual stimuli would find it helpful, but not me.

Toddlers at the BMV

I went to the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office a couple of months ago. It was time to renew my driver’s license. I pulled a number and sat down to wait my turn. Behind me sat a young woman who had brought three young children, all between the ages of two and five. They were a rambunctious lot. There was a lot of use of outside voices and scurrying about.

Imagine my surprise when the woman’s number was called and I saw that she was there to take a written test. She left her young charges behind when she went to take the exam. The outside voices turned into squeals and the scurrying turned into outright running.

I was about to stand up and become the hard-nosed authority figure when my number was called. Well, thought I, let someone else be take charge of the situation while I renewed my license. I suppose I shirked my civic duty. I feel bad about that. But I did get my license renewed and was out of there in record time.

I’ve been thinking

Quality Control takes a vacation

I opened a pack of ankle length socks a few days ago. I don’t wear them often. Normally I wear them when I’m doing yard work, or if I’m on vacation and wearing shorts. So I was somewhat surprised when I found this pair upon opening the pack. At first I wondered if Cindy had bought them for me, and had purposely looked for unequal lengths because of the toe that had been amputated some years ago. I looked at the package, and, no, they were supposed to be the same length. If I wear them, it will be in the back yard, behind the fence.

***

As I’ve written previously, I just can’t get enthused about writing. I had hoped that it would pass, but it hasn’t. The only thing that gets me fired up to put things on paper, or in Classical Gasbag, is the situation in this country. I don’t want to do that.

When I consider what is happening in the U.S. I get depressed and I get angry. Those are not emotions that I want to exhibit. I talk to Cindy and one or two close friends about current events, but I want to limit it to that. And so, I remain silent.

Perhaps I should change the direction of this blog since my standby options no longer bring forth words. I’ve changed before, though on a gradual basis. But I don’t know where to turn focus. I would appreciate any ideas. I’ll give them strong consideration.

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.

Catching up

A photo from our vacation

This is another photo I took while on vacation. It shows the smoke in the air from the recent wildfires, and the tree remnants from a past wildfire.

***

I haven’t been writing much lately. So it is probably a good thing that I’m not doing Na-No-Wri-Mo this year. Plus, Cindy doesn’t like it when I choose to spend hours at a time on the computer when we have a holiday party planned. Somebody has to send out the invitations, haul up all the Christmas decorations from the basement, erect the tree, and decorate it.

That doesn’t mean that I have completely given up writing, or planning for Na-No-Wri-Mo. I’ve just decided to have my own private month to write in February. There are only two things happening in February that I have to aware of. 1) Valentine’s Day, and 2) Indiana University Men’s Basketball. If it snows, I might have to clear the driveway. On the other hand, it isn’t all that long until the spring thaw.

***

Here is something strange. Almost every weekday morning I start the day with two cups of coffee while I watch Morning Joe. Shortly after I finish the second cup, I start to get drowsy. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had any breakfast, or failed to break my fast. I just get drowsy. I often close my eyes and listen to the television as I sit in my La-Z-Boy.

As an aside, I marvel at the branding of the furniture with the cute La-Z-Boy, rather than with the more pejorative La-Z-Man. Absolute genius!

***

I feel that as I grow older, I have the right to grow more cranky. It only seems fair to me. What do you think? Should I start writing nasty letters to the editor of the local newspaper? Can I start yelling at teenagers who are walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk? How about setting traps for the cats that wander into our yard? It is worth a ponder.

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.

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.

Journeys Part 2

House on a quiet Saturday evening
House on a quiet Saturday evening

I was out taking pictures Saturday evening when I came across this house. It was a lovely evening despite the overcast sky. There was the smell of charcoal in the air from outdoor grilling, and I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s final installment of “A Prairie Home Companion.” I haven’t been a constant listener over the years. I started listening haphazardly when I lived in Auburn back in the 1970’s and 80’s. I made a point of listening to the last update from Lake Wobegon on Saturday. I’m glad that it wasn’t raining because it would have been a real downer if it had been gloomy.

***

Today I want to talk a bit about my journey as a writer. I use the term writer as “one who writes” not necessarily one who writes well. I’ve probably written about this journey before in posts, certainly in letters and emails to friends, so I hope that you won’t be bored with my repetition.

The first time that I remember having a conscious thought about wanting to be a professional writer was when I read a book of humor by Jack Douglas. That was when I was in high school. Jack Douglas became known to me through Jack Paar, the predecessor of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Paar mentioned one of Douglas’ books on his show. Douglas had been a writer for Paar…perhaps he still was at the time. The book that I read was titled “Never Trust A Naked Bus Driver,” and I thought that it was hilarious. When I look at it now I realize that my taste in humor has matured somewhat. But at the time I decided that I wanted to write humor like Douglas. I tried, but I wasn’t very good.

I continued to work at writing in high school and into college. I spread out beyond straight humor when I was influenced by other authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Ian Fleming, and other authors who appealed to young male minds. My writing didn’t improve very much.

Then at some point in college I decided that I would try my hand at poetry; convinced that it would impress the coeds. Looking back I can think of no reason why poetry would impress any of the coeds that I knew. But I tried. And I failed in large part because I kept injecting lame humor into my rhymes. I also felt that alliteration was an important aspect of my poems. What was I thinking?

I also started writing letters while in college, and that carried on into my time in the army. I actually think that I became quite good at writing letters. It was something that I enjoyed.

Of course I also wrote many papers while I was in college. My professors and instructors always told me that I needed to add more to that papers to fill them out. I worked at that, and it came to help me later when I was working for the State of Indiana. I spent a few years working in our agency’s Policy & Planning section in the administrative office. Succinctness was never a high priority in that department.

And now I have a blog. I write what I want, when I want to write. I can be succinct or I can be wordy. I love that freedom. I have also started two novels during the past two National Novel Writing Months. I haven’t truly finished either, but I enjoy writing a long cohesive story with occasional wanderings from the main narrative. I’ll probably never truly finish either novel, but I’ll keep working on them.

So that’s my journey in writing. I’ll have other journeys to share later.

Where do those ideas come from?

Wall Art #13 (I think)
Wall Art #13 (I think)

I found this when I was out looking for a picture for the most recent 3-3-1. I came across it after I had taken the picture that I used in that post. I don’t want to let this photo go to waste. I’ll have more pictures from that morning in future posts.

***

What do you do when you are awake at 3 a.m.? I usually try to put my mind in neutral by going over old familiar daydreams. There is something about repetitive mental thoughts that aids in my relaxation and eventual sleep. But sometimes it doesn’t work.

A few nights ago I woke up around 2:30 a.m.. 3:00 rolled around and I was still wide awake. My normal daydreams weren’t working; and don’t tell me that they are daydreams, not night dreams. I don’t want to hear your semantics…that’s my game. I don’t know why, but my mind turned to writing, and travelling, and life & death, and other things that popped in and out of my head. I should have gotten out of bed and started drafting all of these thoughts, but instead I stayed in bed with my eyes closed thinking.

Now I have to try to reconstruct those thoughts because they are very important, deep thoughts. And I need to share them with the world. Because, as I said they are very important, deep thoughts. Even the rabbit holes my mind swerved into need further excavation. OK. That excavation is for me; you might not find the rabbit holes relevant.

I used to have a friend who told me that I wrote too much; that I needed to pare it down because people don’t like to read a lot of words. She is probably correct. We do seem to live in a Twitter/Instagram world. Short phrases and cropped pictures have become very important. Just ask the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.

I haven’t mastered the art of short and pithy. Frankly, I don’t want to. When I was in college my professors and instructors told me that I needed to add verbiage to my papers. In effect, while I thought I was being succinct, they thought that I was leaving out important information. So, with effort, I started bulking up papers. That also served me well when I worked for the State. But now, it seems, I should be reversing all that work that I put into eliminating terseness. May I cry?

OK, those two preceding paragraphs are a rabbit hole. That isn’t what I started to write about, though in my defense, it does have to do with writing. It just isn’t very important and deep.

Of course, it has been a few days since my early morning musings, and I have forgotten a lot of the very important and deep thoughts that ran through my mind. Maybe I can spend some time reconstructing them from the wispy memories that I have retained. If so, I’ll try to share them here at Classical Gasbag.

Failure

Out in the country
Out in the country

I took the picture of this fixer-upper a couple of weeks ago. Since I haven’t been blogging much this month, it is the first chance that I’ve had to use it.

***

I’ll bet that title caught your attention. This was actually the fourth title that I considered. My first thought was to title this post “Abject Failure,” but that seemed too harsh. My next thought was to use the title “Total Failure,” but since I’m writing about myself, that stung too much. Then I thought. “Failure Most Foul,” but let’s face it, that is just over the top. So I went with the simple, yet emphatic, “Failure.” You’ll see why.

When I tried the NaNoWriMo challenge last year, a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I finished it with a couple of days to spare. Not this year. I was on target with my writing goals through the first ten days, but after that, Phttt, as they say in the cartoons.

I could say that I was distracted too much this month, and that is partially true. Unfortunately they were self-administered distractions. I started working on side projects that were related to my novel this year, but they weren’t actual writing on the novel. Perhaps I’ll write about those side projects at a later date, but for now you’ll have to accept that they came up.

No, the true reason I failed to finish my novel in time is that I didn’t sit at the keyboard each day and grind out the text. That is something that I could have done, but chose not to do. When I did write I found that I was spending too many words on areas of the book that didn’t need to be explained so much, and that kept me from getting to more important plot points. Perhaps I was sabotaging myself so that I wouldn’t have to take on the more difficult aspects of the story. And maybe now I’m being too grandiose, concerning my writing. I didn’t finish it. End of story. For now. I can’t knock out 20,000 coherent words in the next 10 hours.

I plan on finishing the novel. whether it is 50,000 words, or more, or less, I’ll finish it. I think the story is fun, and I want to see how it turns out. But I won’t be finishing in the near future. We have a party to throw this weekend. We’ll be getting together with family and friends. And I’m sure a few other things will happen. When it is done, I shall share it with a few people who have expressed an interest, and I’ll announce it here. Let me know if you want to see a copy of the finished novel. Most people seem disinclined to read 50,00 words anymore.

Speaking of reading, that may be my next failure. I set myself a reading challenge this year of reading a book in each of seventeen categories. So far I have only completely read thirteen.

With only a month to go I am not sure that I can get the final four in. I haven’t given up completely, but as I pointed out above, December may be as busy a month as November was.

I don’t have any real excuses as to why I haven’t already completed this challenge. As of July I was on track to complete my reading assignment by October. Then I slipped from my list and read a few books that didn’t fit any of my needed categories. If I had been more on task, I could have ended successfully a month or more ago. Not I have to sprint, and my wind isn’t that good. I’ll write a summation on the challenge early next year. Until then, wish me luck.