Category Archives: Notes from Self

A Kentucky country singer named Larry Redmon wrote and recorded a number called, “Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone,” which could very well have been the theme music for the many days I have spent cleaning/fixing/rebuilding our modest water feature over the past decade-plus.

But, didn’t you break your toe and decide you were done with all that last year, my readers may well ask!  Well, here’s the latest and greatest (unmute to hear water and bird sounds):

The big change I made this spring was installing a low platform in the pool, over which I laid a sheet of filter fabric to keep debris out of the pool, and then laying flat stones on top of that.  So the water reservoir itself is now invisible — there’s only a little water on the surface of the rocks, to make it easy to blow leaves out.  And hopefully no more sludge to scoop out in the spring.

Here is a brief history of the Pool at Pooh Corner.  Click the links, there will be a quiz.

2012:  The original platform for the statue, with just a dribble of water.

2016:  In the quest for ever more splash, I added the double cascade.  The water reservoir was just a 10-gallon pail hidden in a drain in front of the statue, which only accommodated a small pump.

2017:  We paid some people to rebuild the water feature and dig out a proper pool so that a bigger pump could be installed.  The thing turned into a rock quarry and took a good bite out of the walkway as well.  I had misgivings from the start.

2022:  Now known as the Pit of Despair, the water feature was continuously plagued by leaks and debris.  I decided that I would take matters into my own hands and rebuild it myself in the spring.

2023:  My rebuild project came to a pathetic halt after I fell and broke my toe.  The people I hired to finish the job did OK but I could see their hearts weren’t into it — it wasn’t their usual line-of-business, they acted like they were doing me a favor, and they really weren’t on board with my objectives (minimal maintenance).   But it looked nice.

Which brings us to now.  I never read Moby Dick but I wonder if I unconsciously turned the water feature into a Captain Ahab kind of retirement obsession.  It bothers me that such a trivial thing has grabbed so much of my mind and my time.  But in the words of Texas gospel blues singer Blind Willie Johnson, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

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Forgive me, Reader, for it has been almost two years since my last Note from Self.  That is officially a Long Time between updates.  The pandemic has been declared over — but is it?  I haven’t been wearing a mask out and about — but every time I see someone else doing so, I wonder, is it time for me to return to combat mode?

It takes me back to March 2020, when no one knew the power of COVID, what the worst would be like, or how we would fare.  There was a lot of fear in the air — we washed our produce in the laundry room before bringing it into our kitchen.  Now this didn’t sound silly at the time, maybe a bit Kosher, though I don’t know what that’s like either.

Everyday Americans behave as if “the worst” is now over, but anecdotal references to the Great COVID Resurgence are mounting.  One friend told my spouse how their choir recital led to half the choir contracting COVID.  In this light, we just scheduled COVID/flu shots at CVS and hope we’ve done it in time, before choirs around here start coughing their notes out.  So here we go once again doing our liberal duty for ourselves and the public, protecting us from others and vice versa, as it were.

We must have a dozen COVID test kits that one of us ordered during the pandemic, which I hope will go to waste.  (You no doubt have a few too.)   If every U.S. citizen were to stack our unused COVID tests end-to-end, the resulting tower of nose-swabs could have poked a hole in the Chinese balloon that did or did not spy on us earlier this year.  Now that would teach the Chinese to keep their viruses to themselves.  Tik Tok that!

An aside: I recall my parents fretting over things, but I never recall them trying to “time” or “optimize” things like we have done over our lives.  For my parents, life was all about “dealing with” — and one either dealt with or didn’t.  The whole idea of timing and/or optimizing one’s life choices is probably a Boomer phenomenon, enabled by those who brought us into this world, thinking we should have a better shot at things than they did.  Or maybe our being not only compelled to but entitled to optimize our lives was born of frustration with how older generations seemed resigned to so many things.

Answering such questions with finality is why God created anthropological sociologists and sociological anthropologists, not to mention arthritic socialists and social arthropods. Two‑by‑two on the Ark they boarded.

But back to reality.  Talking about the pandemic and its sequelae seems so dated, as if the millions who lost more life-years than they should have were mere statistics, and isn’t it time we all just moved on!  (Or, as a 1967 MAGA pop psychology book might have put it, “I Don’t Care, You Don’t Care.”)

The right-wing revisionist history of the pandemic grates on me and should grate on you too: the narrative that virtuous red states didn’t panic like teary children and stayed defiantly wide-open, basking in their hard-won freedom, while fearful blue states shut things down and destroyed their own economies to save people who were going to die anyway!

That is precisely the message of Political Social Influencer (the most accurate description of him) Ron DeSantis.  DeSantis, and other Republicans like him who emulate Trump, control the narrative by assuming the role of Playground Bully while pleading the case of Playground Victim.  Stop stepping on white folks’ toes, whines DeSantis and the MAGA elite, because half of you don’t belong in our country, the country everyone knows we made and is ours to do with as we choose!  Stay put, Venezuelans, unless you’re looking for a long and uncomfortable bus ride!

Regards global affairs, I haven’t yet mentioned the Israel-Hamas War.  This reflects (a) my lack of expertise in the political-social dynamic of the region, and (b) my conviction that enlightened people should have risen to the task decades ago and negotiated a two-state solution when there was at least a possibility of mutual give-and-take.  Some tried, but there would arise no Lincoln of the Middle East.  And thus co-intransigence lapsed into tragic stupidity.

Wow, it has been a long time since my last Note from Self, I say, as I wipe the rhetorical spittle off my freshly-shaven chin.  I was going to delete that whole political segment but decided it was truthier not to.

• • • 

I am a faithful listener of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown podcast but I am def not into his  dog-lover bits.  I am Lucy when it comes to dog kisses:


Meanwhile, my site Pet-Free Hotels is attracting visitors from various IP addresses across the US.  Not quite sure how folks are finding the site, but clicks are definitely ramping up.  I understand that, statistically speaking, readers of The 100 Billionth Person are likely to own pets and thereby may be unsympathetic to the objective of Pet-Free Hotels, but what can I say.  My spouse and I have the comfort of knowing the spittle on my chin is of human origin, even when we’re on the road.

• • • 

Lastly, returning to this here blog, you may have noticed a number of changes in the layout and navigation of The 100 Billionth Person.  It was long-past time for a more readable, larger-print, and easier-to-navigate site, with a similar look-and-feel on both desktop and mobile.  That said, I still have a number of quirks to fix, so your patience is appreciated as I continue to tinker.

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My spouse and I set up and decorated our Christmas tree a few days ago.  It is one of those pre-lighted deals — I had thought this would make the process easier, year-to-year.  This is the tree’s seventh Christmas.

When we set up the tree last year, I found a dead segment of lights that I spent an hour or more troubleshooting.  I finally yielded to my frustration and contacted the manufacturer’s chat support line, but it was ultimately to no avail.  Our tree turned out to be too old to fix.

Solution?  I went to the CVS down the street and bought another string of lights.  Adding foreign lights to a pre-lighted tree sort of felt like fitting it with a prosthetic.  But it worked.

Which brings us to this Christmas — and another segment of tree lights that elected to die.  Only this time, I spent zero hours troubleshooting the problem.  I went directly to the CVS down the street and bought a couple more strings of lights.  Happy tree, happy life.

Lesson learned: it is just not worth it to buy pre-lighted trees and I will never do so again.  They are a pain-in-the-arse to troubleshoot, and it’s much easier to add a string or two of $4.99 lights than to painstakingly pry out and replace bulb after bulb in a pre-lighted tree to find the culprit.  Sorry, Balsam Hill.

• • • 

In an effort to get re-engaged in my neighborhood, I have volunteered to be a member of our so-called Erosion Committee.  This purpose of the committee is to look at the risks to our mountainside development should we get 5 inches of rain in 24 hours.  This is not an unusual proposition in these parts, given climate change and hurricane tracks.  We, as a neighborhood, have woken up and hope to avoid the tragic fate of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida, where community denial, diffusion of responsibility and slow action led to destruction and death.

One couple who lived — and perished — on the seventh floor of the tower that collapsed had just bought a home in our neighborhood.  We can see it out our living-room window.  Those folks would have been neighbors of ours in the spring.

We need to protect our neighborhoods, if we can.  But not just with defensive measures.  We need to rethink how we live, what we consume and how that contributes to the threat.

• • • 

I have decided to take a break from the blog for a while.  I need some time off to improve my attitude and refresh my perspective — I think there’s a string of neurons up there with a burned-out bulb in the middle.  So while I troubleshoot, may we all have a great holiday, and I’ll see you next year.

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