Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

≡  Whenever I ask Alexa, set a timer for 5 minutes (typically when I am grilling burgers), I’m always surprised how quickly those few minutes pass.  It’s like, wow, already?  I hardly had time to sit down, and now you’re telling me those minutes are gone.  Good thing Alexa is not sitting on our shoulders, timing what remains of our lives.

≡  If you were to live on Wild Magnolia Way near Zirconia, North Carolina — specifically at the coordinates 35.1653N, 82.4559W — you could walk 1300 feet north, 1300 feet south, 1300 feet east, or 1300 feet west, and in each case, for better or worse, you would wind up in South Carolina.  (OK.  It would be worse.  Sorry, not really, South Carolina.)

≡  By the way, the previous “thought” took me over an hour to research.  Good thing Alexa was not sitting on my shoulder, timing how much of my life ticked past on that exercise.

≡  In Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life, Gavin Larsen writes: “The curse of being a good faker is that people begin to think you’re for real, and then they expect things.”  For many, the next step along this path is self-deprecation, our indirect way of saying, “Please don’t expect anything more of me than I expect of myself.”

≡  The reverse side of this coin is impostor syndrome: they expected things of me, and those things were delivered, so they judged me to be competent even though the outcome was uncertain and only partly due to my effort.  I got more credit than I deserved for the fortune of working with good people.  Damn expectations, the curse of transactional life.

≡  I was just notified that MailChimp, the (free-to-me) service I use to send update notices to my subscribers, is selling itself to Intuit, owner of TurboTax and QuickBooks.  Somehow I will not be surprised the day I’m told that I will have to pay for the privilege of letting you know something new has been posted here.  As always, money marches on.

≡  Here’s a good one.  I’m always impatient to have my first cup of coffee after I wake up.  Last night, to speed up the process, I decided I would pre-fill the carafe with water and put the filter in the coffee-maker basket so that I wouldn’t have to fumble around with those tasks in the morning.  All I would have to do is grind the coffee, dump it into the basket, empty the carafe into the reservoir, and turn on the machine.  So fast-forward to this morning.  I go through the motions of making coffee and then sit down in the family room to wait, and voilà!  I’m amazed how fast the coffee-maker beeps to let me know my coffee is ready!  I go back out to the kitchen to find cool, clear water sitting in the carafe.

≡  The world would be a happier place if people didn’t get so bent out of shape when their expectations were not met.  When exactly did perfectionism become not only a thing but an entitlement?

≡  There needs to be a set of words for forms of government that are distinguished by the fact that men define them and control them.  For example, theomanocracy is the kind of government you find in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vatican City.  And then there is demomanocracy, whose most notable example is the U.S.A. — the 88th-ranked nation in terms of women’s participation in congress/parliament (23%).  But let’s not forget about commumanism as practiced in the People’s Republic of China — there is only one woman in their 25-member Politburo and no women at all in their 7-member leadership circle.

≡  If you are looking a word for forms of government distinguished by the fact that women define them and control them, then I can supply it — none-ocracies.

≡  I was rear-ended at an on-ramp in early June.  My vehicle had under 4000 miles on it, thus ended my new-car honeymoon.  The parts to complete the repair took two months to arrive, so the work was just finished this week.  Since the crash, I have become paranoid about other vehicles ramming into me from behind — I find myself constantly checking my rear-view mirror for drivers talking on their phones who don’t care about attention spans or stopping distances.  What am I supposed to do about them?  It signifies a huge loss of social trust when drivers are forced to manage the space behind them as carefully as the space ahead.

≡  Not long ago, my spouse noticed a highly-agitated person in the parking lot of our local supermarket, talking to himself.  She was concerned about his well-being (as well as those he might encounter) but she did not know who to call so he might get help.  After hearing her story, I was compelled to look into this — who would I call?  How would they respond?  There is no clear answer to either question, at least in these parts.  What about in yours?  This topic is much more than a “thought” and will be taken up again in a future post.

≡  Handbook of Western Culture Rule No. 118:  “No performer in a blues song, rap song or action movie shall say whom or isn’t.  [The preferred forms are who and ain’t.]  Moreover,  those who observe Rule No. 118 are considered to have adhered to Western Cultural norms and thus shall not be held in breach of conflicting linguistic rules in this Handbook.”

≡  Our not-so-local (Saga) “pure oldies” station often plays “Ferry Cross the Mersey” by the British band Gerry and the Pacemakers and written by the band’s leader Gerry Marsden.  “Mersey” refers to the River Mersey that divides the cities of Liverpool and Birkenhead, Liverpool’s poorer cousin.  Since I usually listen to oldies on my portable radio when I do outdoor projects — and since Saga has a rather limited rotation — I have probably heard “Ferry Cross the Mersey” ten times as much in my sixties than I ever did in the sixties.

I single out “Ferry Cross the Mersey” because, when I actually listened to the song, I was intrigued by the lyrics:  People around every corner / They seem to smile and say / We don’t care what your name is, boy / We’ll never send you away…

Where did this come from?  The song was about crossing an English river, for godsake!  Marsden makes it sound like his ferry transported him to a foreign and hostile land, only to be taken aback when the townfolk of Birkenhead didn’t spit on him and throw him into the stockade.*

But upon further review, I thought… rivers, walls, trenches, hollers, streets, railroads, Mason-Dixon lines… any boundary at all can serve as a way to separate us from them.  Maybe Gerry — and his ferry — were onto something.

* The north side (Liverpool) and the south side (Birkenhead) of the Mersey had been in different counties (Lancashire and Cheshire, respectively) for 783 years when Marsden wrote his song.
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Thoughts @ Large: 75

• Not that I want a libel suit from some real-estate developer, but my guess is that if you buy a house on a street called “Timberly Waye” in Richmond, Virginia, you have probably bought more marketing than you did house.

• Netflix seems to have turned into the Lifetime Channel, only more violent and featuring better-known actors.  Apparently, their current business model is to flood the site with mediocre titles so that viewers ultimately click on one, any one, out of sheer entertain-me frustration.  But do we still subscribe?  Yes — for now.

• • • • 

I once had a goldfish named Sad
When having a fish was a fad
But one day its scales
Turned a white shade of pale
Then it floated upside-down without rhyming or anything.

• • • • 

• We recently set out on the internet to arrange the (perfect) house rental in our area for a six-night stay in June, so that our children and grandchildren could visit us and have their own space — and so none of our tchotchkes get broken and peace prevails.  We signed up for one promising property, which looked to have a backyard play area for the grandkids, based on the posted photos.  A few days later, after we obtained the address of the rental, we did a drive-by and saw the yard was filled with weeds and poison ivy.  We contacted the owner who admitted, no, they never venture into the backyard due to the poison ivy.  Long story short, we cancelled the reservation and, after much persistence on my spouse’s part, we got our deposit back, including (finally) the non-refundable AirBnB service fee.

The reason I’m telling this story is that the idea of renting a property at location-unknown, as AirBnB forces one to do, is stupid.  This gives all the advantages to the landlord and puts the renter in the position of buyer-beware, in the name of what?  To avoid drive-bys, informed choice and comparison shopping?  Yes, exactly.

• I have taken stock and decided that, for much of the pandemic, I was in Meatloaf Mode.  That is a state of mind dominated by comfort foods like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, metabolically-charged junk foods like Arby’s and Cheetos, and passably-comforting drinks which are nonetheless drunk.

In Meatloaf Mode, various things are ingested to take the place of warm smiles, grasped hands, upper-body embraces, laughter, spontaneous conversation and jokes, and all the other tokens of the ordinary commerce of human interactions.  When this commerce is thwarted, some of us turn to — meatloaf and its comestible cousins.

In Meatloaf Mode, folks try to make up for all the sensations they have missed by stuffing a lot of stuff down their throats.  It works, sort of, as a short-term distraction.  But your gut soon informs you that what you’re eating isn’t a ticket to Happy Land.  Your body knows what works even when you don’t.  It pleads, don’t mistreat me just because you’re lonely.

• In the United States, we have a baby-bird model of hospital care.  Unless a baby bird stretches its throat up as high as it can, to get attention and show its vitality, it is less likely to get fed and survive.  Patients in U.S. hospitals are treated like baby birds.  They need proxies who stretch their necks out on their behalf.

• In the United States, we have a better idea where our Uber driver is and what time we will be picked up than when, if ever, the hospital nurse/doctor who needs to attend to us will show up and answer our questions.  Perhaps this is the future: Uber Health Care.

• If someone offered me a dollar for each one, I could probably name 700 or so baseball players. (Many more from the past than the present.)  For football, I might be able to list 200 players.  Golf, probably 100.  Basketball?  Maybe 25-30.  Tennis, about the same.  Hockey, I can think of 10.  And soccer, there was Pelé, Messi, Beckham and Wambach.  And I had to think hard about Wambach.  That’s it.

• Oh, I forgot bowling.  Wasn’t there a bowler named Anthony?  So him, and The Dude.

• No one really wants to walk down Memory Lane with you unless they lived there too.

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•  From now on, when I’m making out my grocery list and I need to buy half-and-half, I am just going to write down half.  Because I think I can remember the other half.

•  Know who cares which team won the Super Bowl three days after the fact?  Pretty much no one except those who played it.  Ditto for so many other heavily-touted achievements and awards in our celebrity culture.

•  We were about to sell a car on Craigslist, and my spouse and I were reviewing the text of our ad.  One angle we came up with: $2oo off the asking price, for liberals.  We were really tempted to throw that in, but it would have alienated most potential buyers in these parts.  (As it is, we did sell it for asking price, 16 hours after listing it, and had to turn away ten other interested parties.)

•  Faith in Humanity Department: When we handed our car over to the buyer, I forgot to remove our garage-door opener clipped to the visor.  We called the buyer a few hours later, and he told us that he had already stopped at the post office to mail it back to us.  We got it the next day.  My guess is that the buyer was a liberal and that we owe him $200.

•  So, we bought our first new vehicle in over a decade.  It has a back-up camera and other modern safety features — very happy about this.  But it has an “infotainment panel” rather than an everyday radio and CD player.  I’ve driven the vehicle 120 miles now and have not yet dared to turn on the radio or play music.  I’m sure I’ll figure everything out sometime.  Gosh-darned newfangled technology.

•  When I was a kid, my mom would walk into my bedroom, or the den, or wherever it was I happened to be reading, and turn on most of the lights in the room.  “It’s too dark in here to read, you’ll ruin your eyes!” she would say.  As it turned out, I guess she was right.

•  By that I mean, one of my eyes doesn’t see colors so well anymore.  My other eye makes up for it.  I guess I have the COVID-19 virus to thank that I can renew my license without a trip to the DMV for an eye test which I may no longer be able to pass.  (But who knows?)  Passing the DMV eye test and getting my license renewed has been a worry of mine for a few years.  But you all need not worry, I see fine to drive and I won’t be crashing into you, or anyone else.  I wouldn’t bring it up otherwise, he says defensively.

•  Meanwhile, as I fret about my driver’s license, right-wing militias plot their next moves.  If the government has priorities, they should be going after the danger that is me.

•  Love is sharing finger-food without a thought.

•  Thanks largely to my spouse’s diligence, I had my first-of-two COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday at Walgreens.  I said to my spouse, Thanks, Biden —  as otherwise, my spot on our health department’s waiting list was April or May.  I was never so glad to get a shot.    It feels like a corner has finally been turned, not that normality is knocking on our doors.  But still, it was an eye-waterer.  Damned newfangled technology.

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