Ponderings and Musings


Growing up, when I stood on the roof of my Dad’s house and looked to the west, I would see the cooling tower of one of three nuclear power plants long before my eyes reached the horizon. Since it was the mid 1980s, entertainment television included TV movies like “Special Bulletin” and “The Day After”. Seeing what would happen when bad nuclear things occurred, folks in the community would tend to get tense when hearing the annoying two-tone signal of what was then known as the “Emergency Broadcast System”. Not to worry, it was always a test.

The newer “Emergency Alert System” doesn’t sound as dire with its “duck fart” noises but the sense of urgency remains, especially when everyone mobile device within earshot starts sounding an alarm simultaneously. It’s unnerving.

The State of Illinois fired of the Emergency Alert System today to let people know they need medical people to register at IllinoisHelps.net to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of my “training” of the urgency related to the use of EAS, I was rather unnerved by all of my iDevices screeching and vibrating at once to convey this announcement to Illinoisans. I wretched about it on Twitter; looking back I probably wretched too much, but I maintain that if EAS is fired off too often, people are going to start to ignore it. And then, universe forbid, we have a tornado, nuke, or asteroid bearing down on the city, people will ignore the EAS instead of taking precautionary measures, because they’ve been training to respond to it like an intercom system.

I fully understand what the Illinois officials are trying to do, and that’s raise awareness of the need for trained medical personnel. So I will restate this, if you are able to help, please register at IllinoisHelps.net.

Apparently the EAS notifications unnerved a few folks. After I wretched about it on Twitter I went for a walk around the block. A woman walking on the other side of the street was sobbing loudly into her phone, telling someone that the only place she feels safe is the cemetery and that’s because her parents are dead and they’re the only ones that know what’s going on. Another man was yelling into his phone about being newly unemployed. I turned the corner and another woman was yelling at someone on the porch about the “emergency tones”.

With today’s news that we are to remain “shelter-in-place” for the next 30 days, I understand it is a necessity but I am frustrated. I’m trying to smile and I’m going to make an effort wretch less on Twitter, but I’m really not enjoying this whole shelter-in-place thing, mostly because it’s not being consistently implemented across the country and I fear the non-sheltering states are just going to let their folks carry the virus all over the place while the rest of us sit at home. Of course, there’s no consistency coming out of D.C.; one minute the Orange One is screaming at a reporter for being mean, the next minute he’s adding tens of billions to the population of South Korea. Trump is throwing out sound bites as fact and showing obvious partiality to the states that matter to him politically.

We do not need more chaos in this situation.

I wanted to give a reassuring smile or gesture of some sort to the woman who spends her days in the cemetery but I can’t do that from two meters away. I realize now that complaining on Twitter isn’t going to solve anything either, so I hope to not do that again.

We are going to get through this and I’m hopeful we’ll all be fine when this crisis has run its course.

In the meanwhile, maintain your distance and smile, and try not to be alarmist. I’m going to do my best to do the same.


The 24 hour CVS around the corner is no longer 24 hours. They’ve scaled back their house to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. They’re closed more than 7-11.

The pub down the street closed down at the beginning of shelter in place, but now they’re selling beer out the front window. I walked by in the morning so I didn’t stop by for a beer, though there’s little else to do in the neighborhood. It’s been raining and very windy. Everything is closed or prefers to be delivery over takeaway.

The liquor store that offers convenience three doors down went from scaled back hours to completely closed through at least the 7th of April. That may change if we extend all this to the 30th of April.

I’ve been chilling out and being a geek for most of the day today. I’m rather sick of Netflix and television in general. I look forward off the wall pop culture things from the 70s and 80s on Google and that’s how I spend my days off from work.

I’m looking forward to flying again. I have no idea when that will be but I’m hoping soon.


I remember I was in elementary school when my dad first let me behind the counter at the family hardware store and lumber yard. It was in the mid 1970s and while cash transactions were recorded on a very early 20th century cash drawer that required hand written receipts as well as recording transactions by hand, the adding machine on the counter was quite nifty.

It was identical to the one pictured above: a Sharp Micro Compet.

The display was groovy. Though not shown in the photo, the zero was represented by the bottom portion of the “6” or the “8”, resulting in this half-height number. Unused digits to the left of the number being displayed were filled in with this zero, all eight digits were populated at all times.

It was an adding machine and not a calculator in that the addition and subtraction functions worked as an accumulator instead of doing arithmetic. It’s the accounting way of doing things and if you’re unfamiliar, think of it this way. You have a bucket. You add things to the bucket by pressing whatever number and pressing plus or minus. If you wanted to add two things twice (2+2), you’d hit 2 += 2+=. If you then wanted to subtract one, you’d then hit 1 -=. The display would read, in sequence, 2, 4, 3, as you completed each operation.

You’ll also notice the combination of multiplication and division on one key. The result was dependent on which equals key you hit: 2x÷2+= would result in 4, 2x÷2-= would result in 1. Even at a young age this made a lot of sense to me.

Per the Wikipedia page, this calculator was the first mass produced calculator using integrated circuits. It sold for $395 in 1970 and came with a leather cover.

My grandfather invested in good technology from time to time.

I remember checking my math homework from 2nd or 3rd grade with my father’s assistance. He cautiously watched me work the keys on this technological marvel; probably because it was so expensive. I can still remember the first time I entered a number on that adding machine and being so entranced with how it worked.

It’s no wonder I became such a dork.


Watching television tonight it felt like this week’s episode of “Schitt’s Creek” was more disjointed from reality than usual. It was then I realized the episode was taking place in a world where people could walk next to one another without worrying about being contagious. Groups were gathered in various scenes and people were having a great time.

In a way I was reminded of what it was like watching 1990s sitcoms at the end of 2001. I feel like we’re rapidly moving from something that was to something that is. And it’s not better.

I feel like there’s a lot coming at me: concerns about money, concerns about my family, both here and back East. Concerns about work. Concerns about the folks on my team at work. Are we ready for what the future holds? Can our existence whether any further upheaval?

I told my husband I want to put life on pause for just a few moments so I can catch my breath. I’m thinking we might have to make the car a quarantine-mobile, with all inclusive meal service, and I might have to go find an open lot or a beautiful prairie view or something to catch my breath. Despite walking nearly five miles a day and getting as much fresh air as humanly possible at the moment, I feel like the world is closing in.

It’s a side effect of not flying. I realize that’s part of it. Watching flight videos, while I found them initially helpful, I’m finding that I’m now envious of the pilots that made these videos before quarantines became so chic here on planet Earth.

We will get through this one way or another. I’d like to think we’ll be the better for it, but I’m not confident that we will be.

I envisioned a new world come 2020. This is not what I envisioned the experience to be.


The railroad bridge near us is undergoing reconstruction. At the major intersection up the street are a bunch of signs showing people a reasonable detour to their destination. The signed detour takes folks over major streets that are designed to handle the extra traffic, not that there’s a lot of traffic on the streets these days. Yet, cars and trucks of all sizes barrel down through, ignoring the posted detour and end up at the barricades. They then try to maneuver down our street, which is a very narrow, one way street. They make a lot of noise and risk sideswiping the vehicles parked along the street.

Read the signs.

But no one in today’s American society really reads signs, do they. Stay home to stop the virus from spreading? “I need to get my nails done”! Don’t wipe out the supermarkets, there’s plenty to go around. “I need 96 rolls of toilet paper this week!”.

I’m so very tired of having to accommodate rampant stupidity.

Beyond the fact that Trump is a rambling moron at every press conference, and the fact the news media continues to cover him live when he brings absolutely no informational value to the table, I’m really tired of having to accommodate my life to a reductive existence to make sure all the stupid people are able to stumble through this crisis, or life for that matter, unimpeded.

I was hopeful folks would become sensible and do smart things, kind of like what we read about happening during the two World Wars, but it seems like selfish will continue to win and stupidity will prevail and anyone with more than a handful of IQ points to rub together will have to put up with the folks running around in a panic over toilet paper while worshipping a spray tanned moron.

God help us all. Follow the signs.


I’m very interested in what “normal life” will look like after this pandemic blows over. Will there be a new normal? Will there be some sort of societal shift in attitudes and practices?

I like to think that folks will stop caring as much about celebrity and will cease they’re worship of the Kardashians and the like. I like to think that kids will aspire to be the real heroes we’re seeing: the first responders, the doctors, those that work the front line of retail, the small business owners.

I’m also hopeful that life will slow down just tad. My hopes are realistic but any shift in normalcy to something with more compassion can only make the world be a better place.

Slow down. Be compassionate.


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.

The New Normal.

I feel like we are in the midst of a societal ‘reset’. Much like back in 2001 during 9/11, I feel like some of the things we’re doing right now are going to result in permanent changes with the way we do things. Will the in person toll collectors come back to the Illinois Tollway? What restaurants will close permanently? Will bars here in Chicago end up serving to go drinks from now on? What societal changes will result from the measures we are taking to contain the COVID-19 virus?

The streets were quiet today when I went to the an FAA Airman Medical Examiner for my required medical exam today. When it was time to leave with my newly printed medical certificate I bumped elbows with the elderly doctor without a second thought. It’s how we exchange pleasantries tonight. Driving around Chicago is pretty easy at the moment. The idea of getting out to O’Hare without tapping the brakes at least once on the Kennedy Expressway is novel, but it’s the way we’re doing things right now.

With the restaurants closed except for take away of some sort, one restaurant/bar in the neighborhood just gave up the ghost and boarded up shop. Closed forever. To be fair, they were planning on doing so later this year when the building is ripped down for something newer with more residential occupancy, but they sped up their plans and left shop. Done.

People walk a wider berth on the sidewalks .We still smile at one another and exchange pleasantries, this is one of the things I love about living in this part of Chicago, but we do it with a little more space between us. Personal space is now a six foot radius from our vantage point.

Is this the new normal?

I was happy to see the marquee at one of the nearby venues to have a friendly message. It injects hope into the spirit of the neighborhood. This message is not alone; there are many marquees and the like in the area sharing positive vibes.

Positive vibes is what we need.

In some ways I hope we come out of this pandemic with a reduced frenetic pace. Take time to smile. Say hello.

Bump elbows.


It’s 4:30 AM and I’m awake with worry about a number of things. I’m usually good at slowing down my brain and getting a decent amount of sleep at night, but I just can’t get things to slow down today. If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, and honestly, who hasn’t, you may be losing some sleep as well.

I’m trying not to be overly concerned about the Coronavirus concerns. I’m rather lucky: I work from home, I’m not one for huge gatherings any way, and I’ve been washing my hands regularly for over five decades. But I’m worried about the older people in my life and their susceptibility to the virus. Because the Trump Administration has been downplaying concerns about the virus so as not to mess up its electability I fear there’s a number of folks walking the streets that may be carrying the virus and not even know it.

I’m reminded of the AIDS crisis back when I was a young gay. I was prudent back then and I continue to be prudent today.

I think the hardest part of dealing with the Coronavirus is this concern is on top of everything else that’s been thrown our way since the last presidential election. Impeachments, stock market fluctuations, concern around illegal activities, not being able to trust anything Trump says, the fighting between parties, and most importantly to me, the fighting between friends and family members with differing political ideologies.

I’m really tired.

I’m concerned that not getting enough sleep from worry is going to lead me to being more susceptible to getting sick, even if it’s not the Coronavirus.

At the end of the day I just want everyone to be healthy and happy and appreciated and valued and recognized for their contribution to society, no matter how big or small that contribution may be.

Keep calm. Be prudent, not panicked. Be kind.

And wash your hands.


The naming rights of the Sears Tower here in Chicago expire soon. Apparently Aon is purchasing the skyscraper, which is officially called “Willis Tower” but people don’t really call it that, and the Chicago Sun-Times ran a poll as to what the building should be called. Chicago already has an Aon Center, do we need an Aon Tower?

According to the survey everyone will still be calling it the Sears Tower. There were a couple of mentions of the United Tower, since United Airlines is the biggest tenant of the space at the moment, but Sears Tower was the overwhelming choice.

This got me to wondering where Sears would be today if they had taken their famous catalog to the internet in a timely manner. Would Sears be where Amazon is today?

I remember the excitement of seeing the yearly “Wish Book” around the holidays. I’d look at the Christmas lights selection, some of the toys, and starting the later 1970s, electronic games like Pong and the like.

Good times. What could have been.