Category Archives: Notes from Self

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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It’s been a while since I did one of these personal updates — I decided to make a cool day in late August even cooler by doing so.

These are the kind of thoughts and tidbits that I once shared on Facebook, when I was a participant on Facebook.  There are parts of the FB experience that I do miss, mostly the casual interactions and keeping-in-touch with folks who are good people if not necessarily my closest friends.  I also miss the support and reinforcement of my social-political values by the like-minded people who were on my friends list.

But I can’t go back there, for reasons I have outlined before.  In short, the many downsides of the FB experience outweigh — maybe a better word is ruin — the upsides I listed.

What has been a bit disappointing is that, with some exceptions, the people I connected with on Facebook have not maintained contact since I left.  I suppose this says something about the nature of those connections.  It was fine when I was part of the news feed.

But enough preface and more than enough pity-me.  Instead, may I mention some books I’ve read since my last update.  The latest is Mortality by the late Christopher Hitchens, probably my favorite writer.  Though the book was published in 2012, I purposely held off reading these final chapters of his life, I suppose to avoid the finality of it myself.  It is not his best work, in that it is weighed down by his remorse, and ours, for his lost capabilities.  While there is neither self-pity or false bravado in these essays, the linguistic swagger that made Hitchens a pleasure to read is also absent.  For clear cause.

Earlier this summer, I read What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Pittsburgh native Damon Young.  It was an eye-opener for me, not just as a glimpse of black life in America but also as a commentary/documentary on the socialization of young men.  I appreciated Young’s self-reflection, along with his references to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,  where racism carries on.

I have been engaged in a succession of big projects this year.  I spent x hours (I lost track) trying to find and fix the leak in the rock-lined “water feature” next to our deck.  It consists of a tiny pond with two cascades and it was losing about 4 gallons of water a day.  I rebuilt half of it and reduced the daily loss to about 1-1/2 gallons.  In the process, I became all too familiar with the playlist of the local oldies station: “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher, “Wonderland by Night” by Bert Kaempfert, “April Love” by Pat Boone, “Something Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra… all the songs you only need to hear once a decade, if that.

I spent almost as many hours researching and writing the article “Don’t Fence Me In” for reasons known only to my brain’s impulse center.  The best thing about doing such pieces is what I learn along the way.  But efforts of that scale will remain rare for me.

I did a fair amount of landscape work this spring and summer, but that is behind me now.  It was discouraging, all the rain we had this year and the prevalence of powdery mildew on so many different plants.  It seems there are very few “just right” growing seasons here; climate change will only worsen that score.  That said, our shade trees are healthy enough.  I have some transplanting to do this fall — ferns, day lilies, some shrubs — as we lose more and more sunlit area to the ever-spreading canopy.

Then there were my web projects.  Making this site mobile-friendly was a substantial task; I did a top-to-bottom redesign of logos and navigation, with plenty of reverse-engineering and code-editing thrown in.  Programming has always been a satisfying hobby for me, so this was not a totally dreary chore. 

Sadly, the same can’t be said for my ongoing mobile rework of my art and photography site ART @ CHC.  There is simply not enough screen area on a phone web browser (see below) to display images of various sizes, plus titles and controls, without all sorts of twists and contortions.  I’m especially annoyed with the inability to make that space-eating address bar disappear.  I haven’t given up yet but I’m this close to throwing in the towel and asking viewers to use a tablet or larger.

Actual available display area (Moto G5) = 2.00 x 4.25 inches

Just a few more items.  Last Sunday, I entered — and finished — a 5K run/walk to support the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.  (I walked.)  The event was promoted on our local news one evening, and I decided on the spot that I needed to do it.  Siller was a 34-year-old New York City firefighter.  His story, as related on the foundation’s website:

Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift … when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Upon hearing the news, Stephen … returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.  Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes.  Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.

I didn’t do the walk for the foundation’s sake, as I had never heard of them.  I mainly did it for myself, to pay tribute.  But had I known in advance that the route had a 250-foot climb, I might have bowed out.  Nonetheless, I made the climb (slowly) and finished last among the 50 or so participants.

(Note of Self-Consolation: The average human walking speed at crosswalks is 5 km/hour.  My time was 0:59:40 so I was as fast as an average human, if not the other walkers.)

Of course, the most noteworthy news is that I am now a grandfather for the third time, and I didn’t have to walk a block.  All are doing great.  Granddaughter is only ten days old and already speaks three languages: Hungrian, Sleepese and Cutish.  I am sure that when she is old enough to comprehend this blog, she will read it as avidly as my children do.


Lastly, I’ve been planning our four-state trip “out west” to visit family and college friends.  I had traveled to Colorado a couple of times on business but never had much chance to explore the terrain.  It will be exciting to see Arches National Park in person, and I look forward to visiting the markets and museums (Georgia O’Keeffe!) in the Santa Fe area.

I will definitely post a series of “out west” photos at ART @ CHC upon our return, for your viewing pleasure, on your suitably-sized screen.  Until next time, thanks for your time.

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