Farms.

We’ve been taking a lot of rides in the rural parts of Illinois since this whole pandemic thing started and subsequently let us out in anti-social activities. Being tucked away safely in the car with your loved one, sheltered by metal and glass from other humans, seems like the best way to see the world without risking Coronavirus infection from others.

The game during our latest ride is to avoid the Interstates, U.S., and State Routes, opting for county roads and other locally maintained roadways. This has taken us through plenty of prairie (corn on the left, beans on the right; beans on the left, corn on the right), small towns, and surrounding farm lands.

I pulled over somewhere around Genoa, Illinois as I liked the framing of the shot above; the ComEd “cat ears” power lines passing behind the farm, bisecting their corn fields and probably adding an extra challenge for the crop dusters we see from time to time out there, all looked interesting to me.

I love simple landscapes, and my geeky interest in power lines, make them extra interesting.

Freeze Frame.

Cable didn’t come to my parents’ house until after I graduated high school and was off to college. Short version, my parents’ did not have cable when I lived at home. However, my grandfather had a huge satellite dish in the field next to his house and with the right amount of voodoo we could tune in MTV by whipping the satellite dish around to face the right position in the sky. This was before the days of scrambling the signal so that you had to pay for it. You just grabbed it as the signal blanketed the planet. I once landed on a Russian satellite and heard some screeching noises that nearly blew up the television but I’ll save that for another blog entry.

It was 1983 when Tracey Ullman came out with “They Don’t Know”, a remake of the Kirsty MacColl song from the late 1970s. It was unique on Top 40 radio, reminding us all from the brashness of the “Wall of Sound”, er, sound, from the 1960s. It’s a great track all around.

My grandparents were on one of their month-long trips across the country when I was in their house after school watching MTV, after whipping the satellite dish around trying to find the signal. The first few frames of Tracey’s video for “They Don’t Know” literally took my breath away.

I was a sophomore in high school, already kinda sure of which way my life would be headed as far as a life partner, but after seeing this man bang on the chimes I suddenly had absolutely no doubt that I was 100% certified gay beef.

The sight of this man literally took my breath away. All of sudden everything fell into place and life made sense. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, but I knew someday I would snuggle up next to a man and be very happy.

Of course, hormonal lust was fueling my attraction to this particular guy banging on the chimes, my taste would vary quite a bit to this first gasp of losing my breath, but I knew from that very moment, who and what I was and destined to be.

All because I whipped around a satellite dish in the right direction.

Random.

This quarantine thing is really ramping up the parsing of random information in my head. Tonight my husband and I sat down to watch a couple of episodes from my favorite television series of all time: “Bewitched”.

Among the numerous reasons I love the show is the “cultured” accent used by most of the witches and warlocks on the show, including Elizabeth Montgomery’s “finishing school” way of speaking. Lizzie could make her speech sound a little more middle class when she wanted to (or when the script called for it), but the vast majority of the time everyone of the witchcraft world on the show spoke with a refined accent that was just a few steps to the side of the Trans-Atlantic accent that was invented for entertainment in the early 20th century. When I hear my Central New York/Syracuse accent blended with the even flatter tones of Chicago in my speech, I sometimes think I need to get a more refined sound to the way I speak. In my natural accent, “Mary”, “marry”, and “merry” all sound the same. My husband makes fun of me because of the way I say “elementary” (el-eh-men-terry). It’s a Central New York think.

The more formal approach to everyday dress on “Bewitched” has always been, well, bewitching to me. I *love* the way folks dressed up for even the mundane chore of going to the market. It reminds me of the way both sets of grandparents dressed when I was a young lad. Point of trivia: Grandma Country never wore slacks or even a pant suit, she *always* wore a dress, usually something she made herself.

I like it when people showed a little more care in their appearance.

I’m not a “work in my sweatpants” kind of guy, even though I always work from home. I still dress in a business casual manner and I feel good doing so.

Having watched “Bewitched” relentlessly for the past 52 years I pretty know Samantha’s family tree like the back of my hand. There are some inconsistencies as to who was an aunt and who wasn’t. While Reta Shaw (from “Mary Poppins” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) was the most well known to have played Aunt Hagatha, and in the first season, Bertha, in the fifth season Doreen McLean played Aunt Hagatha and she pops out to fetch Aunt Bertha (who we never see). There were two other Aunt Hagathas beside Reta and Doreen, but it was Reta Shaw that came back in the last season to play her for the last time. I always found Doreen McLean to be a close second in her small chance to play the role.

Before Darrin met Samantha, he was engaged to Sheila Sommers (played by Nancy Kovak). Sheila was featured in the pilot episode and then again in a couple of episodes in season four. In the late 1970s through early 1990s, the syndicated package of “Bewitched” included ONLY the color episodes (seasons three through eight). This always bothered me because I vividly remembered black and white episodes of “Bewitched”, and friends at the time would say I was crazy and tell me that we were seeing them colorized, even though the only thing that had been colorized at the time was pretty much “Gilligan’s Island” and that colorization was awful.

In the fourth season episode “Snob In The Grass”, there’s a flashback to the first time Samantha met Sheila Sommers and it’s a black and white clip from the very first episode in the show. I remember exclaiming to my boyfriend at the time, “SEE! I told you there were black and white episodes”. He shrugged me off and told me I was crazy, it was in black and white to make it look like a flashback and then he dumped me a few weeks later. When Nick at Nite finally started showing the black and white episodes again I was vindicated and I refrained from calling him up and saying, “neener neener neener”.

That last season of Bewitched recycled the scripts from the first season on several occasions, almost word for word. However, there was an interesting exchange that happened several times, usually when someone wanted to make Samantha feel uncomfortable:

Catty woman: “Do you know Dr. Hafner, dear?”

Samantha: “I beg your pardon?”

Catty woman: “Dr. Hafner. He’s a plastic surgeon. Does wonderful nose work.”

Samantha: glaring. “No, I don’t know him”

This exchange pops up several times during the show. I always wondered why Dr. Hafner got so many shout outs.

And finishing this up, “got so many shout outs” probably does not fit into the cultured speech I’m always striving to achieve.

Missions.

My dreams are usually very vivid. Over the 23+ years we’ve been together Earl has been repeatedly surprised that I can recall my dreams upon waking in the morning. I have many, many pages of journals where I’ve written things down. Often my dreams linger with me throughout the day, but like any experience in life, some have more of an impact than others.

Apparently I’ve been watching too much “Star Trek: Voyager” (though I am really enjoying watching the entire series again). Last night I was assuming command of a brand new Intrepid-class starship under the leadership of Admiral Janeway herself. She was pleased to see the launch of another ship like Voyager, though this ship would have improved technology based on the enhancements and data gathered while Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant. I’d be taking the ship and her crew to the Gamma Quadrant. We had a very nice launch party with music playing, Starfleet officers milling about, and family and friends wishing us well. My dream even included use of the transporter as seen from my vantage point as I was beamed upon the new ship.

I woke up feeling energized (ha!) and wonderful. Thank the stars for my ability to recall and enjoy my dreams.

It’s just as fun as the Holodeck.

All Shiny And New.

It’s been a month since my latest surgery. I remarked to Earl the other night that I feel absolutely amazing. Having this procedure again has brought me a great amount of relief, not just because I’m now able to pee when I need to pee, but also because I don’t have to watch my liquid intake, I don’t have to keep track of every bathroom location and I don’t have to worry about getting caught trying to urinate indiscreetly next to the Jeep in a downtown parking garage. Everything is working brilliantly and I’m very happy about it. Things are working much better than they did after the same procedure in 2005.

The main reason for me writing this blog entry is so that if difficulties start to arise again, I am able to go back and read how happy I am with that area of my life at this moment. Procrastination is never a good thing and I procrastinated too long in getting this taken care of. If difficulties happen again, I need to get them fixed quickly.

At age 47 I feel like a brand new man. It’s been better than a hit of Viagra.

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Brain Power.

I live by the philosophy that I should be always striving to improve myself in some way. Whether it’s listening to political radio or reading up on some random topic or even try adjusting my eating and exercise habits to find what works best for me at the particular moment, I always try to better myself.

Some of this is inspired by a secret desire to become some sort of superhero, I suppose. There’s always that kid in me that hopes that someday I’ll be struck by a lightning bolt and be turned into something beyond the ordinary. Other inspirations include movies such as “Limitless” or the movie coming out this weekend, “Lucy”. While I have no desire to be a ScarJo, the idea of unlocking secrets of the universe with an enhanced mind is compelling to me. And yes, I know that the “humans use only 10% of their brain” thing is an urban myth (as opposed to a rural myth?) but nevertheless the concepts in these two movies are, well, thought provoking.

Enter Lumosity. Now I routinely listen to Binaural Beats to relax or to nap or to better focus my attention while working, and these exercises work for me, but I haven’t found a way to improve my short term memory and the like. Lumosity is designed to help one exercise their brain. The brain is basically thought of as a muscle and with the proper workouts, it’ll function better, and Lumosity helps one reach that goal.

Now, usually I would jump into the full-blown, paid up plan offered by software such as this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use the free version of Lumosity starting today and through the end of August. If I find that I’m satisfied with my progress using the software, I may invest in the paid version, which helps exercise your brain in more ways.

I’m interested to see how this experiment goes.

Morning Inspiration.

So, to get my workday started on the right foot, every morning I listen to same playlist on Spotify. I call this playlist “Morning Inspiration” and it contains the following songs, which could probably be easily pushed right out of the nozzle of a Cheez-Whiz can:

“I’ll Be Around”, The Spinners
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, The Spinners
“Heartbreaker”, Dionne Warwick
“Islands In The Stream”, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
“Guilty”, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
“Emotion”, Samantha Sang
“The Main Event/Fight”, Barbra Streisand
“Lotta Love”, Nicolette Larson
“Lovelight”, ABBA
“It’s A Miracle”, Barry Manilow

… and then to regain my musicality sanity …

“It’s My Life”, No Doubt

I have no idea as to what motivated me to select these tracks for a morning kick, but it works and helps keep me focused.

I’m weird.

Photo on 4-1-14 at 9.30 AM #2

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Memory.

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I think I have a better average memory. I have a hunch that I inherited this from my father, as a retailer, he could tell a customer that he hadn’t seen in 10 years that they had purchased a pound of 10-common nails a decade earlier. He had the entire inventory of the family business in his head.

While my memory kind of works like my dad’s, I don’t know that I remember the same things that he does. I got to thinking about my memory this morning while I was taking a shower and I decided that I am a very visual person. I have to see something to remember it. Writing it down and/or reading something helps me remember it better. Lately, when I’m told something, I don’t remember it that well. I don’t think this is unusual in any way.

The problem with my memory is that I remember dumb things. For example, in one of the applications I have written, I “salt” a user’s password by adding insignificant characters to it. This makes the password harder to decrypt. That’s good. The “salt” used is the SKU for a candy bar from Ames, followed by a dash, followed by the department # for a greeting card at Hills, followed by a colon, followed by the name of the department store on Arsenal Street in Watertown, New York before it was called Jamesway. I think the fact that I can remember all of these things several decades later makes me some sort of freak.

The good thing about having a good memory is that I remember lots of happy things and recalling happy moments makes me smile, even if I’m having a bad day. The bad thing about having a good memory is that I can also remember things that made me not-so-happy. These events, at key moments in my life, linger on later in life and probably contributed to a few of my idiosyncrasies. For example, I remember being told that I had to leave my fourth grade classroom for a new school program called “Enrichment”. It would be an exciting new program for all involved and I would be going twice a week. As a young lad that already felt different because of my gay wiring and all, it was kind of devastating to me that I had to leave the classroom, because I was the only one in the entire class that had been selected for this new program. All eyes were on me as I made my way from room 202 to room 210 (more random numbers I can remember). This reinforced a feeling of being different. Luckily the Enrichment teacher had a student teacher accompanying him that I found wicked dreamy so that made everything a little more manageable. In fifth grade, I remember being told that “I was a damn fool” by the teacher (ex-military from Yonkers) when I tried to leap off my chair like a superhero. I didn’t get hurt, no one got hurt, but she was cranky and somehow I filed away that taking risks could result in people with horrid accents yelling at you. She called quite a few students a “damn fool”. I don’t think she’s teaching anymore.

I’d be such a hoot in therapy.

While my memory is mostly visual, there’s a good helping of muscle memory in there too. All of my icons on my smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android device, have to be in the same place. I remember phone numbers by rapping my fingers on a flat service as if I was dialing a phone. I do the same with credit card numbers and the like.

As I mentioned before, I have a lot of junk in my head. Not only do I remember the license plate number of my Dad’s ’71 Heavy Chevy, I also remember the license plate numbers of that era of my grandparent’s car, my aunt and uncle’s car and my godparents’ car. Those old plates have been gone for at least 30 years but I still remember 819 OST. Useless fact.

I’m counting on the combination of muscle memory and visual memory being an asset as I become a pilot. I’m paying very close attention to what I’m learning and trying to do things the same way so that it becomes intuitive. If I’m ever in an emergency situation, it’ll be calming techniques and instinctive recall that will help get the plane to safety, so I guess when it all comes down to it, I’m blessed with having this sort of memory.

Image randomly selected from the Brain Excel website.

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Structure.

So last night Earl and I got home from our ride (it took a full tank of gas for our “short ride”) and I promptly sat down at the computer and started writing some code. While we made our way down the darkened back roads, my mind wandered a little bit. This is a good thing.

One of the things I need to do to keep my life organized is maintain a ToDo list. I’ve tried several different programs over the years and have tried a different couple of approaches to maintaining a ToDo list and sometime last week I decided that I needed to Keep It Simple. I maintain my ToDo list in a flat text file that can be accessed by any computer or my iPhone. If I still had a tablet, I could get to it from there as well

The mechanics of my ToDo list are detailed on my geek blog. The reason I bring this is up here is because of the fact that I have to have a ToDo list to begin with.

As I get older, I find that I forget various things that I have to do. I can recite the name of every service area on the Thruway, in either direction, in order. I can tell you the SKU (inventory number) of a candy bar if purchased from the old department store chain, Ames, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the tasks I need to get done, especially when it comes to work stuff. I don’t know if it’s from the sheer volume of things that I need to do or some sort of disinterest in the whole ordeal (we’ll examine that at a later date), but the fact of the matter is, if I think of something, I need to write it down. Stat. Or else it’s going to be a long lost memory within 10 minutes.

Another reason for my ToDo list motivation. I need to have structure in my life. If I deviate from a routine (for example, the order of events in which I get ready to head for the office in the morning), it can end up in chaos. It makes me nervous. Structure is important to me, and achieving things that are done on a routine basis makes me feel better. For example, I have a couple of obvious “structure” based things on my electronic ToDo list:

Make the bed due:Daily +Structure
Shave due:daily +Structure
Find the humor in every situation due:Daily +Structure

The last one is courtesy of speaker Jeanne Robertson. She’s the humorist that was recently touted as “Grandma Goes Viral!”. Jeanne has been speaking at corporate gatherings and the like for years, telling very funny stories as a way to urge the audience to always find the humor in a situation. You’ll be much better for it if you do.

I need that reminder every day so I don’t get wrapped up in a negative frame of mind. It works well for me.

The other two on my list are purely structure things that help me stay on track for the day. I hate getting into an unmade bed at night. It’s not comfortable. It feels like an incomplete way to end the day. So the bed gets made every morning as soon as it’s empty and, barring any of the dozens of houseboys that pass through the doors of our house, I make the bed. I’ve done it for years. It’s the first sense of accomplishment I usually feel during the day and it’s a good way to get the day started on the right foot.

The task of “shave” every day is important to me. Shaving makes me feel good and “groomed”. I feel like I’m presenting my best look to the world when I’m cleaned up and ready to take on the events of the day. Even if I have a beard at the time, I still shave around it every day. This is my attempt to put my best face forward and it works. I think sticking to this has helped me with my recent weight loss. I feel better about myself and shaving and looking my best helps me want to feel even better about myself.

I’ve been focusing on this structured approach much more since my birthday in July and I feel that I am a better person for it. Now, this need for structure is definitely a part of my eccentric tendencies (which I think I’m going to start writing about more) but I think it’s a harmless need. It’s important that we all be who we are to the best of our ability.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Space.

Looking back on it, I can safely say that yesterday was a shitty day for me. I should probably use a classier word choice, truth be known, but that would just cover up the fact that it was just a shitty day. That whole lipstick-pig thing. I call it like I see it.

I was so unfocused yesterday. I don’t feel like I accomplished much. I was cranky. Irritable. It’s that whole expectations thing I was talking about in one of my blog entries yesterday; I have expectations, they’re not met, and then I’m cranky when in all truth of the matter I really don’t have a reason to be cranky because they’re my expectations. Someday I’ll learn.

What’s more important is that today is a much better day.

I did discover that one thing that was making me cranky was working on my work MacBook Pro from home yesterday. It’s a 15-inch display but it feels so cramped when I’m working. Like most folks I multi-task a lot, and when I have five windows open on one window and I have four different desktops that I am flinging back and forth on my screen, the 15-inch screen feels a bit cramped for serious work. That size of a display works great when you’re focused on one task, much like when you’re working on an iPad (or other tablet), but when there’s a lot going on in your work life you need to have a lot of space to manage it all. The other frustrating part of it all is that I have a 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display for my personal Mac Mini that won’t work with my mid-2010 MacBook Pro from work. The port looks the same. The plug from the monitor plugs into the port, but nothing happens, because apparently there’s one wire difference in the way the connector works.

That’s just silly. It’s even more irritating. You’d think that Apple would make an adapter but they didn’t.

So I’m trying to figure out how I can get my work computer on a bigger monitor without breaking any budgets. I think I’m going to end up selling three computers to buy one robust computer and then I’ll buy one monitor and call it a day.

I just need more elbow room.

I guess it’s little things that make me cranky.