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.

Memory.

I’ve mentioned this before, my interest in technology all started with electronic cash registers. As part of my deep fascination with “all things connected”, when our local retail outlets began converting from the electromechanical cash registers to their electronic equivalents in the mid to late 1970s, I was quite intrigued. These electronic wonders, which contained a tiny fraction of the computing power we have at our fingertips or on our wrists today, were amazing to me with their segmented LED displays, crisp, clanking printers, and quick computations of tax and change.

I recently obtained a few bits of memorabilia from the long gone Data Terminal Systems company of Maynard, Mass. I now have a brass keychain, a silicon chip commemorating the 75,000th electronic cash register produced by the company, and the display panel of one of their cash registers. The guidance display is for the French version, so it has markings like FERME and SOUS TOTAL instead of LOCKED and SUB TOTAL.

Seeing the display immediately reminded me of something I noticed back in the very early 1980s. On the display strip above, you’ll see the “Data Terminal Systems Series 300” is left justified to the piece of plastic. On the cash registers we had at the local grocery store, the display was identical to this (albeit in English) except it said “Data Terminal Systems Series 400” and it’s centered on the plastic. The cabinet is the same, the keyboard is the same, the cash drawer is the same, but the difference in model changed the position of the name badge. I instantly recalled noticing this back in 1981 or 1982.

Photo courtesy of globalnews.ca

Recalling this buried memory so vividly unlocked a bunch of memories and observations I had about these cash registers.

Having a memory like this is a wonderful thing. I can recall many things that make me smile. I remember wonderful things that have happened decades ago. I have no idea what I ate for lunch yesterday but I can tell you that on Fridays in elementary school we had “Fishburgers” with a side of green beans, peanuts, and a dish of apple crisp in March 1978.

Unfortunately my memory also retains the bad stuff. I recall every time I was hollered at by a teacher or authority figure. I remember taunts and teases and the like for being who I am. I recall punching my sister in the leg when I was getting too many “inputs” at once and subsequently overwhelmed by the radio, the traffic, and her yelling while driving through the small city of Watertown on the way to our semi-weekly dentist appointments. (Sorry for punching you, sis, I still feel bad about it to this day).

The key to a successful life is remembering and building upon on the good things and simply learning from the bad things and moving on. Letting go is not easy for me. Memories simply don’t fade. They may skew slightly and I imagine some day I’ll run out of storage space, but I wouldn’t trade my ability to remember things for anything, despite my tendency to dwell on the bad things from time to time.

I’m solidly in the latter half of my life and if I were to have one resolution for 2021, it would be to not sweat the small stuff and to learn from the challenges and move on. Just because we’re on the downhill slope doesn’t mean we can’t keep building and growing.

To grow with positivity is to be alive. I’ll have to remember that.

Wildcat.

Picture courtesy of ebay

My Mom’s birthday is two days after Christmas. In 52 years I’ve never combined her birthday and Christmas presents together, because that’s just lazy. She didn’t pick her birthday so she should always get a separate memento on each holiday and I’ve stuck to that and I will stick to that until one of us moves onto the next thing.

Back when we lived in the Great Lakes mobile home (so pre-1977), Grandma City bought my Mom a GE Wildcat record player, identical to the one pictured above, for her combination Christmas and Birthday gift. It was quite the marvel with the ability to hold six albums at once and a convenient storage place for the 45 RPM adapter up in the upper left hand corner. The whole affair closed into a convenient carrying case. It was situated on the built in shelves in the mobile home “dining room”, which was actually the original living room until Dad built the addition onto the house and we had a new living room where the porch used to be.

The GE Wildcat record player made its way to the new house in September 1977 and was still going strong when I left home for college in late 1986. I don’t know what happened to it after that. I probably spun it out of favor with all my Stars on 45 records blasting in the family room. I don’t think it was ever transported to a party using the nifty carrying case feature. Maybe Mom and Dad did that under the cover of darkness after we were put to bed and guarded by a sitter.

Mom used to play Christmas music on that record player at this time of year. For some reason I remember “The White Family Christmas” but that can’t be right. I mean, would we really have “The White Family Christmas” in the mid 1970s? I’m pretty sure the album had the WT Grants logo on the back.

Outside of the Christmas season the GE Wildcat was playing Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, or the Statler Brothers unless I was playing Stars on 45 or Elvis Presley’s “Rubberneckin”. In the mid 1980s it played many more records, all stacked up nicely and conveying the glorious synths in tiny stereophonic sound.

Before I wrap up, can I just say I find more consumer comfort in seeing the entire “GENERAL (GE) ELECTRIC” logo instead of just the modern (GE) ball we have today? It’s just part of my delightful eccentricities.

May your days be merry and bright, you wildcat.

Park It.

Photo from Etsy.

I can vividly remember one of my very first Christmas gifts from Santa. Even though it was probably 50 years ago, one year Santa brought me this Fisher Price Parking Ramp and Service Center. It came with a little car and a couple of the Fisher Price Little People. And the Little People were made out of wood and plastic.

Photo from ClickAmericana.

A couple years later my sister had an A-Frame house and maybe the camper. My cousins might have had the camper. My mom’s cousin’s kids had the airport and I thought that was very nifty.

After a few years we had a few more Fisher Price toys and on a school snow day I built a little village, filling in the storefront gaps with a cardboard box or two and my little rocking chair turned on its side.

I wonder if kids even have snow days anymore. They can just do distance learning.

My, how times have changed in half a century.

Alone Time.

When it comes to my hard wiring I am naturally an introvert. As a former radio guy I can converse with the best of them; I hate “dead air”. I will fill in conversational voids with a bunch of words just so I don’t have to endure the sound of nothing.

However, I find this effort incredibly draining.

Alone time is very special to me. I can entertain myself for years. My mind can wander all over and ask and answer questions. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I love driving by myself and exploring the world on my own terms.

When you’re a married man, it’s rude to leave your spouse out of the equation.

The only person I’ve ever been able to include on these outings while I recharging my batteries, is my husband. Any other person’s presence in my own space when I’m in “recharging mode” is intrusive. They don’t mean to be but they are. I need alone time. But I can find alone time even with my husband sharing that space with me.

My husband energizes me like no other human being on this planet can. This is part of the equation which keeps things working well, even after nearly 24 years.

I thank the Universe on a daily basis for helping me find the one other person that “gets me”. Many come close, he’s the only one that understands the full equation.

I am a very blessed man.

Rebellion.

Occasionally I’ll browse old yearbooks online. Usually I’m looking at the architecture of the 1930s and 1940s era education buildings, often in their Art Deco glory. I also like seeing the cultural differences between what was then and what was now. So much segregation. Disheartening.

I was browsing a random 1958 yearbook and noticed that one of the classmates in many of the photos had a full beard. In 1958 I believe this was very unusual. Clean shaven was the name of the game at that time in U.S. history and I’m curious as to why this young man decided to sport a full beard in high school long before the hippie movement. What was his deal? What were his aspirations?

This young man, we’ll call him Bill, is clean shaven in his senior portrait, so either mom or dad, or both, said, “you’re going to look respectable in your senior class photo, young man!”. Or perhaps he just decided to shave that day. But in all the other photos of Bill in this yearbook, and in the preceding year as well, he was sporting a full beard.

Looking at his senior portrait, Bill was a striking young man. According to his bio, he was also quite involved in school activities. He was well rounded, participating in both sporting and non-sporting activities.

I’m curious as to what motivated this rebellion exhibited by a full beard. Did he live the rest of his life as a rebellious type? Having graduated in 1958, he’s probably 80 years old by now.

Oh, and the clocks in this school were made by International Business Machines, commonly known as IBM.

Edit (10 minutes later): So I decided to Google this man and see if there’s anything online about him. I found his obituary dated 2017. The photo shown in the obit confirmed it was indeed the same man. He was very active in his community, served in the Marines, and had a lovely, thriving family. As some would say, he came from and raised good stock. He had a beard when he died as well. His might have not been the rebel I imagined him to be, but he lived a good, solid, productive life. RIP.

Bald.

I’ve been shaving my head, for the most part, since shortly before my 30th birthday. This was not something I aspired doing for the majority of my adult life. Prior to age 29 I had a flattop or military style high and tight, in glorious red of all things, and I really liked having that hairstyle. But when it became apparent I didn’t have enough left on top to pull the haircut off anymore, I had the barber buzz it down to a buzz cut and then I ended up just shaving it. I wasn’t ready to be bald and to show the world who’s boss, I got rid of the future deserters before they deserted and left me completely bare on top. That’ll show them.

All of my male cousins have full heads of hair. My dad and my paternal uncle (my godfather) were both bald by 40, though, they worked a combover of sorts and made it work without looking ridiculous. They didn’t have the defined Male Pattern Baldness so much as they were just very thin on top. My paternal grandfather led the way with the very thin hair on top, my maternal grandfather had thin hair on top as well, though he managed to make it work. Me? I went bare on top and had the typical male pattern baldness by age 30.

I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily, my husband found my shaved head sexy and I just made it work. I’ve had more than one barber tell me I had the perfectly shaped head for a shaved head.

When I was growing up and working in the family business, there were two customers with shaved heads that came in on a regular basis. One was a social studies teacher at the local high school and he worked it, though his first name was Nester and I always found that creepy. The other was an old guy that sold things out of the back door of the barbershop across the street. He didn’t work it and I found him creepy too. I did not want to be one of those guys with a shaved head, but in order for me to embrace my baldness, I had to be bald bald and own it.

At age 52 I’m sick of shaving my head. I can literally do it with my eyes closed. I don’t use a mirror, I don’t do it in front of a sink, I just shave in the shower in a definitive pattern, all by feel, and I can get it done faster than my contemporaries can wash their hair.

I’m still sick of shaving my head.

So I’ve stopped. At age 52, if I let my sides and back grow in a little bit it’s clearly gray and by this point in my life I’m ready to embrace the gray. I’ve earned it. I might as well let it show a little bit.

My beard? Same thing, it’s still ginger and sugar but it’s much more sugar than ginger. I’m not ready for a gray beard yet, and the idea of coloring it doesn’t work for me, so I still have a clean shaven face but I’m letting the scruff grow in on the sides and back of my head. I’ll keep it buzzed close; I have all the equipment for it.

I’ve always liked the look Patrick Stewart or Rod Corddry (above) has sported. I find the look distinguished. I’m ready for that. That distinguished look gives me confidence and let’s me show my years proudly.

And I’m good with that.