Category Archives: Notes from Self

Forgive me Readers, it has been four months since my last confession.

I have mostly, not entirely, given up online Scrabble.  I recently engaged in a few games with a randomly-selected opponent named Nadine.  Thanks to lucky letters, I defeated Nadine two games in a row, scoring a record (for me) 525 points one game.  However, our third game was much closer — during the game, each of us played two seven-letter words and after eleven rounds (with my having passed on the first round) the score was 385-381.

We started Round 12 with no letters remaining in the bag.  I played WOO for 29 points.  Nadine played YWIS for 23.  I texted to Nadine on the sidebar chat how I would be sure to remember YWIS the next time I had a Y, W, I and a blank in my tray.  I don’t think Nadine appreciated my comment.  After I played VEE for 27 points, she quickly played GREED for 10 points, clearing her tray and ending the game.

I won our third game by 24 points.  Nadine has not asked for a rematch.

It seems some Scrabble players want to win so much that they sit down before games and memorize odd words like YWIS.  And other Scrabble players want to win so much that they consult anagram-finders during play, to see what can be done with their letter tray.  Who is to say what took place there?  And moreover, does it matter?

I really don’t want to know the answer.  It is just a game.  Getting the win is fun, but I am not a better person if I win or a worse person if I lose.  If YWIS (Your World Is Scrabble) then we have little in common.

I have always tried to enjoy my interests and hobbies without feeling that I have to be the best — or even very good — at them.  At times, this has led me to resent our culture of virtuosity, where only excellence is admired and anything less means that your rightful place is in the audience.

Imagine a world in which human creativity and intelligence are not stifled by poverty, racism, sexism and fundamentalism.  Imagine what might blossom, if everyone in the world had the wherewithal (as I do) to achieve even their most modest goals (as I try to).

I know this is getting old, as it feels old to me.  I am still working on my The Price is Right optimum-bid research paper.  Since my last post, I did more study and found more data, and those findings led me to revise half of my text and almost all of my graphs.  So my new goal is to submit my paper to the MDPI Games Journal by Thanksgiving.

I need to finish this vanity project so I can move forward with my other vanity projects.

I resigned this month as the editor of our homeowner-association directory, after eight years of way-overthinking it.  I had originally volunteered because I was tired of seeing stock photos on the cover of the directory — of course, my photos would be much better.  Like most volunteer work, it was a thankless task.   Well, a few people did say thanks over the years, cancelling out those who found something to complain about.

As I said, time to move forward with my other vanity projects.

Fall-color-season in the Pisgah Forest of North Carolina has arrived again.  Which means that local tourism is in full-swing.  I don’t really get it.  Around our place, the leaves turn a dull yellow, then a crispy brown, then they fall off (except for oaks, which hang onto their leaves until spring, requiring two fall cleanups).  The brilliantly-colored trees, the maples and red oaks, are not as abundant here as they are in Pennsylvania and points north.

I say to the great people of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, drive another eight hours to the north, especially to the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, if you want to see some really unforgettable fall colors and help reduce traffic congestion in Asheville.

Apathy is Death -- Scene in Asheville NC, 2018I voted early.  Afterwards, I stuck my voting sticker on the rear-view mirror of my car.  It may be too much to hope that my quantum act of political will will make a large-scale difference, but you never know.  Like the Mega Millions lottery, you may only be one of 300 million but someone is going to win.  You folks who bought a lottery ticket and figured out how to spend that billion dollars, I invite you to take the same chance on voting — it is free and the payoff is much better.

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This is my second (experimental) month-end note about personal goings-on.  The idea is to communicate without either the filter of Facebook or the author-stance of a blog writer. I’m not going to work hard to make it interesting — the point is to share recent events and maintain connections.  (So long, casual readers!  I can hear your screen-taps from here.)

This week we went to see the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Fred Rogers. I was not a big Mister Rogers fan when I was young.  Frankly, I thought he was a bit weird. I watched his show, on a hit-or-miss basis, on the Pittsburgh educational channel WQED before it was broadcast nationally.  The clock and the castle and the characters all seemed pretty stark and low-key, through the black-and-white filter I viewed them at the time.

By the time Mister Rogers hit his stride, I had already reached the expressing-feelings-are-bad age.  I didn’t respond to Mister Rogers’ message until I became a father and I listened to his program along with my children — and I began to feel he was talking to me as much as he was to them.  There would be many days in my adult life that Mister Rogers was therapeutic for me, probably because he was connecting with the needy child in me.

Fred Rogers’ message, if I may distill it: love and acceptance are universal Goods.  Conflict is also universal, but it can be overcome or transcended by love and acceptance.  Only if we work to make it so.

Moving along.  I don’t really want to talk about the weather in this blog, but it has been a strange month.  We ended May with five inches of rain in one week.  This was followed by two weeks with almost no rain.  It led me to obsessively over-water several of my rhodos to the point where they got root-rot.  And now the rains have returned — we have had nearly four inches in the past week.  Tomorrow, I have to make up some of my super anti-root-rot solution to see if I can save those shrubs.

I think about my shrubs a lot more than they think about me.  It’s a one-sided relationship. I am very sad when I see their wilted leaves.  But do you think they feel any of my concern and disappointment?  No.  Because they’re plants.

We are enjoying listening to the tree-frogs outside our deck.  (I am doing so as they speak.) Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Frog, we now have several plump tadpoles in our little water pond, whom we hope will one day add to the chorus.


I am still spending more time on my research paper (about bidding strategy on The Price is Right showcase round) than any normal person would.  I have this crazy belief that my paper will be accepted and I will eventually be able to claim that an article of mine was published in a peer-reviewed journal.   If I had thought more carefully about my priorities and the amount of time my vanity effort would require, would I still have embarked upon this?  We will never know.  The ship has sailed.  I could have been painting.

I have been actively avoiding the news and TV.  It is no secret to anyone who visits here that I am sickened by our President and this political environment.  I want to be part of “The Resistance” but I have yet to figure out a way to do it — the power is so imbalanced.

For some reason, I have been having very annoying dreams lately, a recurrence of my old “I hate working here, my job is pointless, I need to retire” dreams.  (I retired years ago.) But how nice for me that I have worrisome dreams and then I wake up from them, and others have troubles that don’t go away when they wake up.

Last but not least.  We had to replace our refrigerator and we bought a GE.  I discovered that GE is not really GE anymore.  GE no longer makes refrigerators.  Some South Korean outfit churns them out and puts a GE emblem on them.  The appliance is cheaply made for the price we paid and does not measure up.  I have buyer’s remorse.

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I mentioned a while back that I was going to try something different to stay in touch with friends, now that I have cut the Facebook cord.  This feature, called Note from Self,  is one idea toward that end.  I intend this to be a month-end catching-up on a more personal and newsy level, without so much of the “grinding self-commentary” that my favorite college professor David Walton decried.  Less Thoughts at Large, more Strictly Personal, to put it in Sidney J. Harris terms.

So here goes.  May has been a month of blossoms and raindrops.  Our Catawba (purple) rhododendrons are spent and their new shoots are sprouting.  The mountain laurels that have managed to survive on our windswept lot are in profuse bloom.   The multitude of peonies that Sue adores have been beaten down by our rains, and it has been a race to cut them and enjoy them before their blossom-heads explode or fall to the ground under their own weight.  We had almost five inches of rain from May 13-19, another half-inch May 20-26, and almost an inch in the last two days (and raining again).  At least I have not had to water anything.

The wet weather has given me the excuse to avoid yard work and focus on the paper I plan to submit to the MDPI Games Journal.  I’ve worked a long time on this project, which deals with optimum bidding strategies in the Showcase Round of The Price is Right show. (I discussed this in a previous post.)  I hope to finish the paper by mid-July.  This will be my first submission to a journal since the days of the now-defunct Journal of Recreational Mathematics.

I also spent some hours this month doing art for a music CD that my singer-songwriter friend Bruce Irving created.  It is his fourth, speaking of dedicated efforts.

We just lost our 13-year-old side-by-side refrigerator that we had named “Steve & Eydie” in honor of the famous rendition of “Side by Side” by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.  (OK, we really didn’t name our fridge, I just made that up.  Some things haven’t changed here at the blog.)  But our fridge really did conk out, and right on time, based on their average 13-year life expectancy.  We learned a few things from the experience.  One is to estimate the value of the contents of your fridge when it fails.  Knowing this could save you many dollars worth of ice and dry ice.  Dry ice is not cheap and it lasts 40 hours max in a regular cooler.  Figure $10 a day to keep your frozen food frozen.

It took seven days for us to get our new fridge delivered, and then another 12 hours for it to cool down after it was installed.  It is possible we had $75 worth of food in the freezer — but not much more.  That said, it has been a long time since I had a chance to play with dry ice.  So from lemons, lemonade (or whatever this fiendish concoction is).

We have had various medical and dental appointments along with the regular ones for my left eye.  We took the opportunity before one appointment to have a wonderful anniversary dinner at Bentley’s on 27 in downtown Charlotte.  The view was impressive, the service was great, the food was excellent, but the company — my wife — is what made the evening special, more than the accoutrements.

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This was my first attempt to be newsy and I’m not sure how it went.  It’s like Jon Stewart has given way to Trevor Noah here.   We’ll try this again next month and decide.

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