Voices.

I grew up in a small town. I actually grew up outside of a small hamlet outside of a small town. To many in our school, we lived on the “other” side of the Interstate but on the right side of the tracks. Political maneuvering a small school district is interesting. Even though we live in a major city, I never forget where I came from an I am always interested in driving through small towns on our road trips.

Many of the towns and villages in Illinois are struggling. Those of a appreciable size have a Walmart and maybe a couple of chain convenience stores or supermarkets on the outskirts, but the “downtown” area or business districts are often seemingly forgotten. There might be a pizza place, a barbershop, and maybe a diner. Often there are a couple of bars and particularly in Illinois, gaming rooms where folks can try to win their millions at video lottery terminals.

All of these things have been closed during the pandemic.

Times were tough for these small towns before COVID-19 came to town; isolation and mandatory closing of businesses have just made it worse. These areas have been in a steady decline for decades and many of their citizens have been clamoring for something to change for a long while. I’m sure some feel forgotten. In that regard I get why rural communities leaned toward Trump; he talked about “draining the swamp” and “the American farmer” and the like and they bought into his shtick. They feel left behind by the D.C. establishment and they were promised something different. It’s unfortunate that Trump was just using them for votes to stroke his own ego.

Will Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A. return to its former glory? Gosh, that would be nice. There’s something to be said for a smaller, closer-knit community that takes care of one another. I’m probably a bit pollyanna in my thinking, but I hope that big box stores and the like will eventually dissipate in favor of local and smaller establishments again. I would love to see mom and pop shops augment the growing Internet experience, instead of being wiped out by some large conglomerate that couldn’t care less about the small town bypassed by the Interstate.

In 2021 we should all strive to listen better. The folks in the city should listen to the folks in the country and vice versa. I bet there’s a lot we can learn along the way.

Hype.

Photo from vice.com

I’m not a fan of hypey headlines. Social media is notorious for this tactic, with idiotic blasts such “You won’t believe who did this!!!” or “The Sad and Empty Life of Adolf Hitler!!!”. It’s not a social media appropriate headline unless someone’s mouth is agape and there’s an unreasonable number of exclamation points or question marks.

I’ve been on a crusade to clean up my various news reader and video watching subscription lists, and am deleting any YouTube content creator that uses this banal approach to getting attention to their featured videos. If a “tech expert” needs to resort to “Ugh!” in huge letters or has to assemble an image with hair flying around, expressions of disbelief, and floating laptops placed at jaunty angles, I’ve got better things to do than watch whatever they’re shilling to make YouTube cash.

They can stay off my lawn.

I’m all for content creators sharing their creations, or presenting information, or relaying their point of view on a subject. I’m also a proponent of money being made with these endeavors. What I don’t enjoy are these schoolyard tactics to grab my attention and bribe me to click. I’m not falling for it. I didn’t call the Psychic Friends Network when Dionne Warwick started flashing her toothy smile for the service in the late 1980s and I’m not falling for these goofy belches of exclamation points, garish fonts, loud colors, or UNBELIEVABLE images. It’s not my jam.

So stay off my lawn.

2021.

I am really looking forward to these signs in the neighborhood being replaced for the 2021 season. With everything going on with the pandemic in 2020, the relevant versions were never installed and looking at the 2019 season signs was just a reminder that life was way out of balance.

Let’s hope they put the 2021 signs up and soon! Though honestly, they usually go up in March.

TeeVee.

Photo from extremetech.com

When did we decide as a society to start putting television *everywhere*. I mean, I grew up with a television in the family room and the living room. The family room television was always on. Grandma and Grandpa City had a small black and white in the kitchen to supplement the color set in the living room. The black and white television was used for the news during the supper hour. Farmers Sam and Irma had a television in their kitchen mounted in a special cabinet above the refrigerator. Grandma and Grandpa Country had a Zenith in the living room and a smaller Zenith in the bedroom. Both had antennas with a rotor on it. Face it northwest to pull in Canada.

But when did we decide that we needed a television in every convenience store, on every fuel pump, in cash register displays, and in every inch of an airport terminal?

My husband and I stopped at a convenience store for varying needs during a ride over the weekend. I was instantly thrown into a foul mood because the television was blaring weird conspiracy theories about the recent Domestic Terrorist attacks on the Capitol Building. I looked around and no one was watching but wow, was that television loud. I then filled the tank in our Jeep Cherokee as the gas pump screamed entertainment news from a service called Cheddar. The fact that we now have 7-inch full color display screens on a gas pump to scream television at someone with access to highly flammable liquid just seems weird to me.

I think this moved happened right after 9/11. Before then, one of our favorite haunts was a decent restaurant with good food. After 9/11 it still was a decent restaurant with good food, but televisions were installed all over the place and they were tuned to CNN. Ever since then I’ve noticed diners now have TVs installed in the corners of the dining rooms, supermarkets have televisions talking at your while you’re at the checkouts, and the aforementioned gas pumps no longer let you put a tiger in your tank in peace.

It’s annoying.

A while back I included in a Yelp review of a Chicagoland diner the fact that their televisions were tuned to Fox News and I found it annoying. When Sean Hannity is interrupting my dinerlicious French Onion Soup, we have a problem. I wouldn’t even put up with Rachel Maddow interrupting a culinary experience. It’s completely unnecessary.

Televisions all over the place may have made sense in the days after 9/11 but before the proliferation of smartphones. They were probably put up there to keep people informed in the event of something happening after but in the spirit of 9/11. But with everyone having a smartphone in their pocket, we are instantly notified of way too much information today. Tweets, EAS notifications, Facebook, and all the news service apps that blast out “breaking news” every 10 minutes notify everyone all the time. If something big happens again, and believe me, there’s a shoe waiting to drop on that, we’ll all know about it when everyone’s phone starts reacting at once and we all notice the commotion. The thing is, we’ll get that information but the avenue we have chosen, instead of the news channel that’s being force fed to us through installed televisions in every nook and cranny of our existence.

What’s next? News updates over the new electronic road signs popping up on our expressways? Wow I hope not.

No Sleep, Part 2.

And it’s 5:20 AM and I’m sitting in the living room, unable to sleep for the past 45 minutes or so. After watching the events of yesterday (wow, that was quite a week!), I’m still shaking my head wondering what the hell has happened to this country. I openly wept in bed the day after Election Day in 2016 because I knew Trump’s election as president was one of the most dangerous, reckless, and stupid acts the citizens of this country had ever committed. There is no good in that man. And yet, a little less than half of the population thought he did just fine with hundreds of Americans dead from a preventable pandemic, and the crushing of any sense of law and order or decorum or anything remotely resembling intelligence in Washington, D.C.

I have no idea if that last sentence made sense as I can barely see what I’m typing in the dark, but you get my drift.

My dreams have been populated with jumbled scenes mixed with historical context and augmented by memories from my childhood. My brain is yelling at me to “turn it off” but I can’t. At 52 years old I guess I still care too much about my fellow man. Just as I used to have nightmares about nuclear annihilation when I was a teenager in the 80s, my conscience is populated with the concern of what this nation has become.

For a long time I have refrained from going on about politics and talked about anything else. Silence is not the answer. Too many people are being silent on topics and subjects that need to be discussed. The problem is the last four years have been so utterly draining for anyone with any sense of decency for their fellow citizens, or anyone with an IQ higher than the speed limit, that I’ve completely run out of steam for debate.

Watching the attack on the Capitol Building yesterday ignited a fire in me again. As I watched the Senate proceedings after control of the building was regained, my eyes misted up as I saw American Democracy in action.

Our Democracy is not a reality game show, to be won by the strongest “team” nor is it scored like a football or basketball game. I know the cable news channels like to announce scores like Joe Biden just made a lay up or Trump just made fumbled the ball, but despite the hysterics of pundits and commentators and “Magic board” operators, poll results are just the results of math equations that have already been completed.

So what does this have to do with sleep? Say what you will about 2020, but at least I was able to get sleep then. In 2021 sleep seems to be a luxury that I currently can not afford. Even as lethargic as I feel right now from a lack of sleep, I still care about this success of this country, this “Greatest Experiment”.

Hopefully I’ll be awake long enough to see the latest outcome.

Sleep.

Ah, sleep. The older we get, the more we want it but the less we get it. It’s 5:45 a.m. and I’ve been awake for about an hour. My husband has roamed the bedroom and rest of the condo on and off since I went to bed around 10:00 p.m. It’s what he does. I honestly don’t know how much sleep I got last night. I’d guess around six-ish hours but it wasn’t the quality sleep I’d normally enjoy. I feel rested but I’m going to need a nap during the day. Lunch hour naps are always fun. When I worked in an office I used to find a parking lot near a mall or shopping center and nap in my Jeep. Nowadays I nap on the couch after a quick bite to eat.

There’s an art to napping: too little and it’s a wasted effort, too long and you’re groggy for the rest of the day. Twenty minutes is my sweet spot. If I can get 20 minutes of nap time in around noon I’m golden for the latter half of the work day.

Part of the fun of living in a major city is the sounds of the city at night. Normally if one were to step out on the balcony they’d just hear the whine of civilization: heating units cycling on and off, an emergency siren off in the distance, a helicopter looking for news. But life starts early in the big city. The ‘L’ starts its morning runs around 4:40 a.m. Props to whoever thought running metal wheels on a metal track was a grand idea. The garbage trucks start banging the dumpsters around 5:30 a.m. The neighbors get restless around 4:00 a.m.

I’m going to go for a walk in a few minutes to officially get my day going. At least, I think I’m going to go for a walk. My eyes are starting to feel droopy as I type this blog entry. Perhaps I’ll take that midday nap early and then rearrange my walking and other exercise schedule to accommodate my mood and energy level.

It’s a new year and perhaps a good time to stop being so rigid with my schedule and start going with the flow.

2021.

In 2020 I wrote a blog entry at least once a day. Actually, once in a great while I’d write two on a day and then back date one of them because I didn’t get the chance to finish that first blog entry on that intended day. So yes, there were blog entries on every single day in 2020.

There were probably way more blog entries than readers. Personal blogs of this nature are really not the “in” thing anymore.

This blog turns 20 years old this year. My first blog entry was in the latter half of 2001. I can’t believe this site has been around for that long. It seems like just a short time ago I figured out how to move from raw HTML files to MovableType and then later to WordPress.

Many folks are hoping 2021 turns out to be a magic cure-all for everything the ails the planet right now. I just say that 2021 will be only as good as we make it to be. We’ve got to work together to make things better. That being said, I’m still quite excited about the arrival of 2021. Keep moving forward, keep learning, keep striving to make things better.

Vision.

A goofy pose.

My last eye exam was in early 2018. At the time it was determined that while I could use glasses for every day living, I really should have been using glasses for reading and computer use. Since my computer time in hours numbers in the double digits on a daily basis (I am a systems engineer for a technology company), I opted to go with the computer and reading glasses. I’ve worn them on and off and they didn’t seem to help as much as I thought they would. But when I wore my computer glasses for walking around the house or out and about things were amazingly clear. I just figured “it is what it is” and went with it. My eyes started getting a little tired about six months ago, so I picked up a pair or two of $10 “cheater” glasses and have been using them when I’ve been feeling eye strain.

I decided I needed to get an eye exam in before the end of the year, so I opted to go to a different eye place that had a same day appointment available. I went to the local Warby Parker last night.

It turns out my current glasses are tinted to filter out blue light from the computer but are actually my “everyday” prescription, not my “computer and reading” prescription. In that regard, my eyes are exactly the same prescription they were back in early 2018. Dr. Li recommended I start wearing those glasses for everyday use.

She re-evaluated my computer and reading logistics and I’ve ordered a pair of glasses for that purpose as well. I like Warby Parker’s web site and app; if I want to purchase any new glasses down the road I can virtually try them on using the app and the selection is quite affordable.

We talked about Bifocals. Because of the amount of time I spend on the computer, she didn’t recommend bifocals for me because I’d be constantly moving my head up and down and around to focus and that could lead to neck strain.

So I’ll be running around with two pairs of glasses or wearing my everyday glasses and holding things out to read if I don’t have my reading glasses at hand.

The joys of aging.

Pondering.

Image from space.com.

The passing of this planet from what we call “2020” to what we call “2021” is actually nothing. A mere speck in the grandness of the Universe will pass by the relatively same spot around an ordinary star as it did a year ago; the measurement being assigned by those that will not make even the slightest dent in the grandness of the Universe. Nevertheless, the incrementing of the human made chronometer brings about words and thoughts of resolution, renewal, and most importantly, hope. I hope 2021 will bring this planet what it needs, not what it wants.

In years past at the New Year I have talked about my hesitation to list resolutions. I am always striving to grow and expand my knowledge, and the eve of 2021 is no different. However, with the state of the world in 2020, what with the pandemic and all, I find myself thinking more in philosophical ways. What changes in my approach to life will make for a better experience for all involved? Am I living my life as completely as possible? I am tapping my potential productively?

I’m sure the presence of these thoughts is married to the fact that I am more than a half century in age. I don’t feel like my time is running out but I do feel like I still have much more I’d like to do with my life. It’s the inner dialog that I need to fine tune. The inner voice that marked dreams as unattainable is quieter; in 2021 my one goal is to simply find more of my own self encouragement.

I hope to expand upon my reading list. I’m not looking for self-help books. I’m not looking for cookbooks to bake a beautiful life. I’m looking for seeds that will nudge me to grow more positivity. Many decades ago a high school English teacher mentioned in my yearbook that I was nice “but a complainer”. I’ve never forgotten this, after all, it’s still written write there in my yearbook in glorious Bic ballpoint pen and 20th century penmanship, but it is something I’m always trying to distance myself from. Why complain about things we have no control over? That’s an exercise in futility and I no longer want to engage in futile activities.

I look forward to the human experience improving in 2021. It has to, as 2020 was pretty bleak for most. Improve that which we have control over and don’t fret over things that we cannot control.

Perhaps that’s the key to making this speck in the Universe something a little more significant.

Burn, Baby, Burn.

When Grandma City passed on I inherited her Christmas decorations. She was the crafty one of the my two grandmothers and I always enjoyed the way she decorated for Christmas. She’s the one that showed me how to change the bulb inside the reflector of one of those midget Christmas lights we had in the 1970s. Don’t mix up the voltages.

Part of her Christmas collection included these carolers. It’s a set of four of them. One of them has Little Orphan Annie eyes, but they’ve held their own for half a century.

If you look closely, you’ll notice they are candles. Yes, these caroling children are candles and have wicks coming out of the top of their head. Which makes me wonder, did people really light these children on fire as candles? Were the carolers set ablaze in some households, the cherubic singing faces melting into a puddle of multicolored wax?

Obviously Grandma City couldn’t bring herself to set these carolers on fire, hence they’re intact over 50 years later. But someone in the 1950s or 1960s had a really weird sense of humor.