Ponderings and Musings

Spruced Up.

If you visit this website on a regular basis you may notice I’ve made some changes to speed up the response time of the user experience. We’ve been with our web hosting company, Machighway, for over 10 years and they continue to be a joy to work with. Pages and photos should be loading faster. Please, if you see anything broken, please leave a comment so I can go fix it.

For the technically minded, I finally updated the version of PHP running the show here. I also fixed some WordPress plugins that had memory leaks and were slowing things down and discarded several that were no longer needed.

There are other blogging platforms out there, and many of them are quite fast, but with nearly 20 years of blog entries managed through WordPress, I’m not ready to jump to anything else yet. It’s all a matter of care and feeding. It’s not good to treat the underpinnings of this blog like the proverbial server that’s been forgotten and dry walled into a new wall.

One thing I do struggle with is finding a WordPress theme that fits the mood of the blog I’m maintaining. I’ve had this commercial theme here on this site for many years. I haven’t found anything that comes close to what I’m looking for, so it’s going to stay. It took me a little while last night to find the theme I thought best suited my new blog over at The Vintage Point of Sale Site but I finally found something I thought fits the mood.

Thank you for stopping by and continuing to follow my adventures here at Life Is Such A Sweet Insanity. I look forward to continuing sharing my adventures here and in my various annexes for the foreseeable future.


I ventured into a local Jewel-Osco (supermarket) today. I had also stopped at Target beforehand. The Target was handling social distancing quite well. There was a “sanitized cart” corral at the front door with a young man wearing a mask wiping down carts as they came in to make available for customers. Arrows and other reminders dotted the floor everywhere you looked. All employees were wearing masks. The checkouts were mostly being handled by the self-serve lanes, where markings on the floor showed customers where to wait and when to proceed. An attendant sanitized each register after a customer was done with their purchase. People were friendly. The staff was helpful.

Back to the Jewel-Osco. Things weren’t quite as organized. About a third of the customers were wearing masks. About half the workers were wearing masks, not including the folks behind the deli. Signs on the floor reminded customers of social distancing using carts as a measurement and relegating aisles to one way traffic. About half the customers were minding the direction of travel. The busiest part of the store was the alcohol section. One entrance/exit was blocked off. Again, more signs on the floor of how to maintain your distance. Plastic overlays on the card transaction machines at the self-serve registers; Jewel-Osco still wants you to decide whether to donate to their latest charitable cause or not which defeats contactless payment with Apple Pay or Google Pay. Does anyone still use Samsung Pay?

This was my first time venturing into the general public in these circumstances and I must say I don’t have a lot of faith that we’ll be approaching anything akin to “normal” even by Labor Day. I know beaches are opening in Florida and there are protestors wanting to apparently lick each other in public. For the most part the length of the effects of this pandemic will be determined by the lowest common denominators of the country. Rushing through social distancing practices will just make the social distancing practices last longer.

Maybe this is what the masses want. I don’t have an answer and I don’t know what passes as societal thinking these days. Things have been going crazy for pretty much the entire 21st century.

You’d like nearly 20 years in I wouldn’t be surprised by any of this.


One of the more depressing sights along my daily walk is the Day Care Center down the street. Even though it’s mid-April they still have their St. Patrick’s Day decorations up because no one is going to the Day Care Center. We’re all locked in and locked up trying to beat this virus while Trump encourages people to protest in the streets.

The nearby elementary school marquee talks about a “Patriot’s Day Dance” on March 30th but I’m positive that never happened. All the blinds have been closed, all the shades have been drawn, all the lights have been turned off in that elementary school. Today Governor Pritzker announced Illinois schools would be closed through the end of the school year.

I wonder if the Day Care Center will be taking down their St. Patrick’s Day decorations to put up pumpkins later this year.

I’m nothing special and there’s nothing unique about our situation; I’m sure like millions of other Americans we’re just as tired of sitting at home as they are. People liken these times to World War II when Americans went to war, built things for the troops, and rallied together. The comparison is like apples to oranges; we don’t have any sort of presidential leadership, there’s nothing to send troops to, and families left back at home during wartime could at least hug their neighbor.

We have to avoid our neighbors on the street.

I watched a man stand on his porch to don a scuba mask and snorkel. He was taking his garbage to the cans in the alley adjacent to his home. He would be passing by no other human being; the elaborate getup was absolutely unnecessary.

People are scared.

I get wearing masks when you’re out in public and mingling with other people, that makes sense for the most part, I have noticed that some folks wearing masks relax social distancing protocol because they think the makes them invincible. A little bit of brain power and research will prove this is not true, but there’s not a lot of that in American society. I saw a meme this morning:

“What borders on stupidity?”

“Canada and Mexico”.

It’s a very sad commentary on a very real problem this country faces.

I hope the kids are able to put up Independence Day decorations this summer. This gives me hope.


So we got a little bit of snow last night. It is not surprising the get some snow in the middle of April in Chicago, Illinois. In previous years snow at this time of the year would be disheartening but with everyone sheltering in place and not really going out to begin with, last night’s flurries didn’t really seem to have that much of an impact.

The streets were extra quiet this morning during the daily walk I use to start the day. I listened to a podcast from the folks at Relay FM. I like their selection of podcasts. Today I listened to “Focused”, which helped me get my brain back where it needed to be during these pandemic times.

I’m writing this blog entry during my lunch break and the snow on the balcony has already given way to the meager amounts of sunshine poking through the clouds. It is spring. We are moving toward more moments of sunshine.

We will be just fine.


I had a small epiphany this morning during my morning walk. During this COVID-19 crisis that has gripped the planet for the past couple of months, I have done my best to keep abreast of what’s going on in the news. Follow the news outlets during this crisis, coupled with the ramped political unevenness we’ve been riding for the past several years, is like getting bludgeoned with a sledgehammer on a daily basis.

Honestly, my time and mental health are worth much more than I have allowed them to be.

I freely admit that I’m not a fan of a Trump (to put it mildly). The guy has been an asshole since entering the public eye way back in the 80s. He was an asshole, he is an asshole, and he will always be an asshole. The mere sound of his voice makes me want to punt our very large television off the balcony.

So why the hell am I subjecting myself to news about him or from him? He rarely adds anything constructive to the national dialog. He is constantly boasting and bending the truth and being prideful. I can’t understand how his followers can tolerate his incessant pridefulness. My attempts to rationalize his behavior to ultimately filter out some news about the pandemic have been futile. And more startling, my rationalization has been a huge distraction to my way of life.

We’re going to get through this just fine, with or without Trump. There is very little about my life that is going to change whether or not I hang on every word belched out by the news media. I don’t need to know the minutia of Trump said this or Pelosi said that for my life to continue.

I don’t need the distractions. My mental health can’t take the distractions. So I’m allowing myself a quick summary of the daily news twice a day and then I’m going to focus on my family, my friends, and my work.

Twitter is also a big contributor to the decline of civil discourse in this country. My problem with Twitter is that I also have a lot of aviation and other geek friends on there and it’s an outlet for me since I can’t get to an airport and hang out with other pilots right now. So I’ve eschewed the official Twitter app (again) and turned off all notifications. Twitter is not worth the time sink. Like the news, I’ll periodically scan and contribute but under no circumstances will I go down the tweeted replies rabbit holes. They’re an endless pit of despair.

I’ve been feeling a little more uneven this week when compared to the past couple of weeks during these uneven times. I feel like more weight is building on all our shoulders. It’s time to shake off what we can, tune out the unproductive noise, and stand up straight again.

I’ll be better off for it.


My grandmother handled the posting of Accounts Receivables for the family business. It was a part time position and she generally worked from 10 to 2. She’d bring dessert for everyone to enjoy during the lunch hour. She liked baking things.

Grandma posted to the customer ledgers using a mechanical NCR 160 Posting Machine from the early 1970s. I found the machine to be a marvel, with its typewriter like carriage, flap the flipped open for the ledger card, and rows and rows of specialized buttons. I’d watch her work while she did the posting and most of my accounting knowledge was learned by simply watching her work.

After she retired in 1986 I took over the Accounts Receivable duties for a little while before my aunt took over the position. A couple of years later I wrote a computer program to replace the NCR 160 Posting Machine. We used the same ledger cards and statements for customers but the computer remembered everyone’s address and balances and the like and could automatically print these things for the new month. Grandma would type everyone’s address on their monthly statement after the previous statement went out. She had an electric typewriter but she didn’t want one with a ‘return’ key; it had a manual lever to return the carriage as if it was completely manual typewriter. My aunt replaced the typewriter not long after joining the family business.

Even though I’m an electronics geek I am still fascinated by all the things were able to accomplish in the mid 20th century with these mechanical marvels. The Posting Machine knew when to add, subtract, stamp the date, and print a balance without telling the machine what to do. It was all programmed on a specialized bar that ran the length of the carriage. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. It’s kind of like those old mechanical cash registers at Kmart that kept track of daily totals for every department for a readout at the end of the day.

We did some amazing things with machinery before we went all electronic. Our gadgets lasted longer too.


ISS Astronaut Chris Hadfield offers some great tips for living in isolation. To keep things in perspective, while not as exciting, we do have it better than living on the International Space Station or off-planet in some other way (The Moon, Mars, etc). While it’s certainly possible I’ll see an off-planet colonization some time in my lifetime, this quarantine lockdown is the closest I’m going to get to the experience.


As a kid I was always excited about Easter. After the church service we would get together at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a family dinner. Because spring does not reliably appear in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt it was a crap shoot as to whether we’d be playing outside in the lawn or playing in the barns, sheltered from the snow. When I got a little older I gathered up bikes left in the barn from when my Dad and his siblings were our age, get them working reasonably well, and orchestrate a bike ride with my cousins. The ride would be a couple of miles and we’d have a good time.

As I walk through the neighborhood this spring I’m very sad to see locked up playgrounds with police tape around all the jungle gyms and slides. There is no sound of laughter, no chattering among parents, no families gathering to see how they’re doing. We eat in small groups, hidden away in our quarantine locations. If we’re out, we’re most likely deemed an essential employee and thank god for our health professionals that are trying to fight this pandemic.

When you decide that it’s time to drain the swamp, and listen to media reports of a rogue email server, and buy into the demonization of what was probably the most qualified presidential candidate thus far in the 21st century, you end up with playgrounds wrapped in police tape. And an absence of laughter in the air.

Easter is a sign of renewal. Mother Nature is speaking. We need to listen.


So in the latter half of my 20s I had a red flattop. This was starkly different from the way I had worn my hair in my teens, but it was the mid 1990s and times were different. No longer did I have the fluff and go hair that could rival of Flock of Seagulls, but rather I had something that would make a military commander proud, if the likes of me were allowed in the military at the time. Because of the crispness of my haircut I tended to get it cut once a week and this was something I enjoyed. I had a couple of different barbers that I went to depending on which office I was working at when I felt my hair had gotten too shaggy. At some of the shops I would also get my mustache trimmed and if I had time, I’d get a shave as well. This was when there were still old-school barbershops with older barbers who were scary but really weren’t once you got to know them.

I remember I was at the shop on the former Air Force base when the barber indicated that perhaps a flattop wouldn’t be viable for much longer and would I rather buzz my hair down instead. The stark reality set in, I was going bald at age 28 or so. This was kind of weird to me because I had heard horror stories of men finding clumps of hair on the pillow and in the shower drain and the like but I was not finding this to be the case. Of course it was because my hair was so short to begin with, there wasn’t much to find on the pillow.

My husband and I were in our first apartment together when I decided to stop buzzing my hair (or getting it buzzed) and started shaving my head. Shaving my head betrayed my aging self and was already starting to become popular at the time. It was not as common as it is today but it was not unheard of. Plus, Gillette had recently leashed the “Mach 3” onto the masses and this made it easy to do.

I regularly shaved my head for over 20 years before I decided I was getting sick of it. I’m not able to “change up” my hairstyle in anyway. I either have hair here and there or I don’t. But I’m now in my early 50s and I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m a naturally bald guy anymore. I’m not angry or upset about being bald, though all of my male cousins are blessed with full heads of hair. It is what it is and I’m almost at the point where I’ve been a bald guy for longer than I haven’t been a bald guy.

I’m just sick of shaving my head every morning.

So now I have a very short buzz cut around the fringe like every other bald guy in dad jeans in his mid 50s. I do miss going to the barbershop and hanging with the guys, though. Even when I shaved my head on a regular basis I would occasionally go to a shop for a head or face shave just because I could. Some men find it weird to have another person shave their face but I find it relaxing and I’ve never had a bad shave from anyone, young or old. The most startling experience was from a heavy Russian woman in Hells’ Kitchen in New York, but it was still awesome and she was friendly in a gruff, vodka laden way. The only disappointing shaves I’ve had from a barber have been in a past couple of years where the younger barber opts to skip shaving cream and just wipes some sort of thin, clear goo on my face and then uses a very cheap disposable razor to do the deed. That can be a less-than-relaxing experience.

The key is to find some of the old guys that are still working.

I’m curious to see how many barbershops and related salons close down permanently in the coming months because they were unable to survive the mandatory shut downs during this pandemic. Will I want a man or woman in such close quarters to me again as to allow them to drag a razor across my face? I’m not sure.

One thing I do know though, when this whole pandemic thing is merely a memory, I’ll still be a bald guy, whether with some bits on the back and sides or with a clean shaven cue bald head.

And I’m perfectly OK with that.


I’m opting to walk mostly through alleys these days. It’s the best way to avoid people on the street. While some folks are maintaining social distancing protocols, others are walking three or four abreast on the sidewalk, leaving others to walk around them out in the street.

One of the things I noticed from the alleys today was the sounds of people getting together in the backyards hidden by the garages and garbage cans. Kids playing in the back yard, even the sounds of a barbecue in progress. I don’t know how many people were in attendance at these ventures but it was nice to hear traditional sounds of spring in progress. I hope people are being sensible with their get togethers.

One of my husband’s friends wondered if we’d see the return of the Drive-In Movie to mainstream America. I’m wondering the same thing. While this pandemic may not drastically change “normal” in the long run, I’m thinking people are going to be skittish for the next year or two. Drive-In Theatres might be a great way for people to get out of the house and enjoying entertainment again. It’s not great for the environment though.

I know we have quite a few Drive-In Theatres that have been converted for other uses here in the Midwest. Maybe they can be brought back to their original glory.

Walking through the alleys it’s very rare that I see any of the critters that live back there, especially when walking during the middle of the day. On my early morning walks before work on weekdays though it’s not uncommon to see a rat or two scurrying from point A to point B. I see rabbits on the street and rats in the alley. I saw a coyote a while back, he was just hanging out. Maybe he was looking for rats as well.

I hope people start being a little smarter about social distancing as this thing goes on. People are anxious to get outside here in Chicago now that the trees are blooming and such. Some folks must feel invincible because they have a mask on. I’m surprised at the number of people with a mask on failing to cover both their nose and mouth. Covering only the mouth seems to defeat the purpose.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to my fair weather walks on the back side of the neighborhood. It’s not the best way to exercise and sometimes the fresh air isn’t as fresh as I’d like it to be, but it’s better than nothing.

And better than nothing is all we can hope for right now.