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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Is it live, or is it Memorex?


I realize that by using the phrase "Is it live, or is it Memorex" I've lost 90 percent of my audience who wasn't alive when Memorex, a company that sold recording tapes, had ads that used famous singers recording their voices and then having people guess whether they were listening the live version or recorded version.

I suppose I also have to explain that recording tapes were magnetic tapes (first on reels and then in cassettes) that could be used in tape recorders to record music or voices. Tapes sort of replaced vinyl disks or phonography records.  Tapes were eventually replaced by Compact Discs. This was before Mp3s became a thing.

That's a long digressive way to talk about the comments I've been getting on my blog lately.  They are all anonymous. And most if not all have been on random posts from the past. And they are all strangely vague and general things like, "It's hard to come by knowledgeable people about this topic, however, you sound like you know what you're talking about! Thanks," and "It's amazing to visit this website and reading the views of all mates regarding this piece of writing, while I am also eager of getting knowledge."

There are many comments like that. They never really reference anything from the actual post, nor do they get specific about what they liked (or didn't like). So I have to assume they are automated. I just don't know why. Or I didn't know why until I Googled auto blog commenting and discovered there is software that can automatically leave comments on your blog without anyone actually reading the post.

As near as I can figure, it somehow can increase traffic to the person who left the comment's site. I just don't know how. So I figure I now need to not allow anonymous comments on my site and see if that gets rid of the auto comments.

I don't get how I can be blogging for 15 years and still not understand all the rules.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Doing the write thing


I have been writing a blog for 15 years now. I've written about countless random things. Sometimes it is funny. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is reflective. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is entertaining. And sometimes it is not.

In the beginning I was enthusiastic and wrote pretty regularly. I remember being amazed when the first person commented. And there was a brief period where several people read and regularly commented. I developed, for a lack of a better term, virtual friends. But it turned out that that they were just virtually friends. They for the most part scurried back to their real lives.

My blog stats indicate that on some days my pages get a couple of hundred hits. Not totally understanding how metrics work, I have grown to assume that very few of those hits are by humans. I now assume they are bots roaming the Web searching for life. I feel like my blog is like the moon, lifeless and scarred by bot-meteors striking it randomly.

I miss real comments instead of  nonsensical things like, "2016 En PopĆ¼ler Kitaplar Tavsiye Edilen Kitaplar (which is apparently Turkish for 2016 Most Popular Books Recommended Books."

It's not even legitimate spam.


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Pieces of the puzzle


I hardly ever used to do jigsaw puzzles much. I never seemed to have the time or patience to just sit down and do one. Oh, I'd do ones with the kids when they were small and easily entertained. But they were never very challenging.

I think it was my birthday or maybe it was Easter, my wife gave me a Vincent Van Gogh jigsaw puzzle of Starry, Starry Night. It sat around for weeks until she bought this huge tray that was big enough to work on a puzzle but then move it off from the dining room table when I wasn't working on it.

I started working on the puzzle and found it therapeutic. It kept my senses occupied and my mind engaged. These are important things you discover as you age. The brain needs to be challenged. The puzzle did that. It was the combination of matching shapes and colors. It was kind of like being an archaeologist piecing together fragments of a skeleton or pottery.

I was hooked. I finished the Starry, Starry Night puzzle after working on it over a period of several weeks. It was a great way to fill the time I spend waiting for the kids to finish brushing their teeth before I tucked them in. And it was a welcome relief from filling my time playing Fortnite.

I took a photo of the finished puzzle, posted it on Facebook and then tore it apart and put it back in the box. What else can you do with a jigsaw puzzle? I felt a rush of pride for finishing it, but then a let down now that it was finished. I asked my wife to pick up some other puzzles at Goodwill.


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The porch lights are on but there's no one home


It is election day and of course I voted. I always vote. I have voted in ever election since I was 18. The first person I ever voted for was Jimmy Carter. Although he wasn't the most effective president in history, he was a decent person and he is still a decent person.

Unfortunately, not everyone votes. At least not everyone who should votes votes. Watching the circus that is going on in democracy these days confirms my theory that maybe a benevolent dictatorship would be a better.

I do kind of miss the days when you had to go to a polling place in your neighborhood and physically cast your vote. It seems less dramatic to sit at the dining room table and fill out the ballot and stick it in the mail.

Though voting by mail does give you more time to try and decipher all of the advisory votes, nut job citizen initiatives and loonies running for public office for the first time. There were quite a few people running for city council in my town this year. I am sick of all the yard signs. It is a terrible way to campaign and should be banned. Even my 11-year old son recognizes it as a waste. What does a yard sign tell you about a candidate.

Though I tried to explain the concept of name recognition and that some people will vote for a person simply because they recall seeing their name.

Those are the people who should not vote.

For some unknown reason, I did apply for a vacant position on my local city council once several years ago. The incumbent had died and the seat was open. You just had to apply and be interviewed by the rest of the council who then voted on the replacement. I was one of nine applicants and I don't think I got a single vote. I did come to the realization that all of the people on the council and in the audience were major whack jobs. I no longer have any desire for any kind of political career.

But still I vote.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Vic-tims, aren't we all?


"Victims, aren't we all?"
--Brandon Lee, The Crow
I was walking across the street from the train station to my office. It was the usual crowd of commuters swarming across the crosswalk. One lone person was crossing against the stream with their arm raised in the air, middle finger extended. He was screaming "Murder is hot blood." He was pulling a suitcase with crap popping out the edges so I assumed he was a street person. Hell, he could have been a commuter, but most don't scream on the outside about murder and hot blood.

With the state of the country, I'm surprised more people aren't walking around pulling suitcases, flipping the world off and screaming about murder and hot blood. I was in L.A. last week and everything seemed to be on fire. It's hard not to think we are all being punished for what humankind has done to the earth.

Sad though, that most people think they are victims and aren't responsible for where their life has taken them, including the screaming homeless man flipping off the cosmos. Of course, he was likely mentally ill. You can't really blame a person for being out of their mind.

Our of their mind. Funny we use that phrase to refer to a crazy person. But every day I meditate and technically am trying to be out of my mind. Being in your mind is what causes most of the problems.

I catch myself thinking I'm a victim sometimes when I'm in my mind. I feel unappreciated and inconsequential. Then I remind myself that I am where I am and who I am because of all the choices I've made. And I'll be where I'll be because of the choices I've yet to make.

Then I grab my suitcase, raise my middle finger and start screaming.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Hell night


I stopped dressing up for Halloween after 6th grade. On occasion I would wear a costume for a party but I always felt self conscious. I started dressing up for Halloween again when I had kids and would take them trick or treating. But they have reached an age when they want to trick or treat with their friends. While I still have to shadow them to make sure they are okay, it will be from a respectful distance.

Since I don't want to appear like a creepy old man in a costume following around a bunch of kids, I am not going to wear a costume tonight. And honestly I am relieved. Because I'm a bit tired of being a geriatric pirate or skeleton or zombie. It will be nice to just walk along with my regular, every day me mask.

Which is apparently an old man.

Ironically, years ago when I still lived at home with my parents I put on this old man rubber mask and old man clothes and went to the front door and freaked out my mother. Little did I know that forty some years later I wouldn't need the mask.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Why I don't dye my hair and other thoughts on aging


My father's hair started turning gray in high school. It was pretty much white by the time I was born. Then he started losing it on top as well. But he never dyed it or went for the painfully bad comb over.

I asked him once why he didn't dye his hair. He was working at a warehouse at the time. He told me that one of his coworkers had gray hair and came to work with it dyed and everyone made fun of him (this was before such behavior would have triggered an HR witch hunt). So my father just accepted that his hair was white and lived with looking 20 years older than he was.

I think my hair started getting gray when I was in my 30s. It stayed relatively brown until I was in my late 40s. It is now a silvery white. And I have all of it. I suppose I have my mother to thank for that.

I have never considered dyeing my hair. Part of it is because of my father's anecdote.  The other part is I think it is painfully obvious when a man in his sixties dyes his hair because it looks so unnatural. So I accept my hair color that makes me look like a grandfather because I am indeed old enough to be one.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why we don't exist


If you Google "why we don't exist" you don't get nearly as long a list as you do when you Google "why do we exist." And none of it really speaks to why humans don't exist. If you Google "is life an illusion" you start down the path. But still it is mainly just a lot of mumbo jumbo.

"Mumbo Jumbo" btw comes from the Mandinka word, "Maamajomboo", which refers to a masked male dancer who takes part in religious ceremonies. It has come to mean, according to the Oxford Dictionary, "an object of senseless veneration or a meaningless ritual."

But I digress.

Being raised a Christian Scientist, I was told repeatedly by my mother that sickness and death were an illusion. Life in fact was an illusion and that we were neither born nor would we die. She'd point to circle on the cover of Science and Health with key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of Christian Science) and ask me where it began and where it ended. Of course unless you see it drawn, a circle has no beginning or end. That is life, she'd say.

I have to say, I had a hard time buying the concept especially when my mom tried downplaying birthdays because she believed we were neither born or died. I also saw a lot of pets and family members die. So this concept of neither being born or dying didn't jive with what I was seeing going on. For the longest time I thought it was just because I wasn't a good enough Christian Scientist.

In retrospect, Christian Science is a bit like Buddhism and the concept that you can end the cycle of birth and rebirth by eliminating attachment and desire. Christian Scientists just think you do it by praying.

I was a Buddhist for a short time, too. But I was about as good at being a Buddhist as I was being a Christian Scientist.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Why we exist


Yesterday I waxed philosophical about time and ended pondering why we exist. I thought about it a bit and then did what everyone does these days. I Googled it. And there were tons of pages out there touting answers. But they created more questions than answers.

Most of it fell in the Hallmark realm with answers like to love, to make the world a better place, to be happy, to experience and to leave a legacy. Some just say we exist by accident. Some claim we exist because of a god and point to the bible as our user's manual. But as with most things on the web, everyone spoke with a great deal of conviction but very little evidence to back up their claims.

Because no one really knows.

I've been binge watching three seasons of The Good Place. It's a sitcom starring Ted Danson who plays a demon architect who creates an experimental hell to torture damned souls. His approach is psychological instead of literal torture. The plot centers around four people who are told they are in the good place but are actually in Danson's hell.

In the show, people are judged by everything they do in life. If they don't accumulate enough positive points, they go to the bad place. Danson tells his subject that only one person on earth ever came close to figuring out what happens after death and that was a guy who had taken mushrooms and had a vision in the woods. In the third season of the show Danson visits the man who had figured out the afterlife and discovers he is living a miserable experience because his sole purpose is trying to make other creatures happy in order to accumulate enough points to get to the good place once he died.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Killing time


It is amazing the amount of effort (and time) we spend trying to kill or pass time. Granted, you do more of it in your inpatient youth because you can't wait for something to happen. It's not until you realize that you really don't have that much of it that you rethink the logic of trying to kill time.

In the past few months though, I've taken up doing jigsaw puzzles. I do it when I have time to fill. Because I do find myself spending a great deal of my limited time waiting for people. Doing the jigsaw puzzles exercises my brain while it occupies it. And I have to admit it is quite satisfying. But it is a bit disturbing when I finish one and the only thing to do is tear it apart and put it back in the box knowing I'll never redo it.

Life is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.

Ironically, time is actually infinite, just not for people. Time has always been and always will be. But humans see it as linear and limited. In addition to trying to kill or pass it, that also try to save it. Sometimes in a bottle. But in a cosmic sense it surrounds us and doesn't just move forward.

Time just is. In a way, time is very much like the way people imagine a god would be.

Time travel has always intrigued people. I don't think it is possible. Because it would have to assume that time is like a river flowing forward and all you have to do is figure out is how to go against the current. But since most philosophers and physicists believe time isn't linear, there wouldn't be anyplace to go back to. You are just in one continuous now.

So what we do when we kill time is just kill "now" trying to get to "then". But then is just another now.

But still, as flesh and blood creatures, our bodies wear out over time. So it is little wonder we view time as a finite construct that can be measured and parsed out. It isn't time that we are killing, it is us.

This gets into a broader philosophic discussion of why we exist at all. But I'll leave that for another blog post as soon as I figure it out.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

To delete, or not to delete...


I pride myself on generally being able to begin writing with a germ of an idea and expanding it quickly into a cogent (if not necessarily entertaining) blog post without a lot of editing or rewriting. I may not be able to improvise playing music, but I have always seemed to be able to improvise writing on just about any subject.

But after 15 years and 1345 blog posts, I'm starting to notice that sometimes the stuff doesn't flow as easy as it used to. For one, I think I'm running out of things to say. Which is kind of ironic, because the blog post that prompted this one was one I just deleted called Talking about yourself. It was prompted by how I feel about blow hard's who can't talk about anyone but themselves.  This led to a declaration that I don't really like talking, period.

Then I realized that all I generally do is blog about myself. So I deleted the post. Because sometimes even I can't deny how self-centered and boring some of my blog posts are.

This is where feedback (something I truly hate) would be nice. When people used to read my blog and comment, I at least had some indication that I was being entertaining or educational or thought provoking. But no one but spammers leave comments anymore. And the joke is on them. Since no one reads my blog, no one is reading their spam either.

I can take some comfort in that.

Reflecting on things, it is not just my blog that doesn't get comments. In day to day life I don't get much feedback anymore. I don't hear, "Nice haircut" or "You look nice today." I don't hear many "thank you's" or "you did a great job on that," either.

Part of that is the politically correct world we now live in where everyone is afraid to make any personal comment about anyone or anything. And part of it is that dreaded invisibility cloak age puts on me.

I am speaking at a conference at the end of the month. I keep getting marketing e-mails from them asking me to attend the conference and listing some of expert speakers who are going to be there to entice me to attend. Then they list me and show my photograph.

Now that's invisible.

Monday, October 07, 2019

I'm a little bit country...


I've been binge watching Ken Burns latest documentary series, Country Music. The series has eight episodes that incorporate 16-hours of content. It begins with the roots of what we think of as country music and traces its meandering path to present day country.

I watched all 16 hours and as usual, I was amazed at Ken Burns sense of detail and history. The series brought back a lot of memories and created a few more. It's not that I grew up listening to country music. But I grew up in what I think of as a country place. And as I root around in my family tree, my people were all from country places.

I listened to Hank Williams as a little kid. I didn't know it was Hank. I remember in particular listening to his song Jambalaya.  I also listened to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing Sixteen Tons. That was pretty much the extent of the classic country that I knew. I did get exposed to some from watching television. I knew Roger Williams wrote King of the Road while staying in a sleazy motel in Garden City, a shady part of my hometown in Boise.

I also remember watching the Jimmy Dean show and thinking he looked and talked like a male version of my Aunt Irma. All of my many aunts and uncles talked country. It has a unique sound. It's slow and measured with a bit of a twang. It isn't southern, it's country. I think you can be from any state in the union and have a country accent. It's your people, not your place.