Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Damn, I missed my blogiversary

On August 4, 2004, I made my first blog post protesting that I wasn't a rabid Elvis fan despite the fact I called myself Tim-Elvis. Now, a decade and more than a thousand posts later, I am still here. Not that "here" has any significance on the Web. Here could be anywhere and everywhere on the Web.

But I digress (something that hasn't changed in ten years).

I no longer call myself Tim-Elvis. I am simply Time now. And Time goes on, slipping, slipping into the future.

A lot has happened in ten years. But since I try to keep my personal life out of my blog life, not much of it was chronicled in Dizgraceland. Just so you know, though, in ten years I got married, had two children, moved three times and have lived in three different houses. And in ten years I lost my mother and my cat that I had seven years before I started blogging.

In ten years, I'm still in the same job. But I have had three different offices and three different bosses.

In ten years, I've lost 50 pounds which I've more or less kept off give or take a few pounds here and there. I've also ran, walked and hobbled in five 5K runs. In ten years I have yet learned to like exercising even though I do it every day.

In ten years, I've kept all of my hair except for the stuff the barber cuts off. My hair has gone from brown to pretty much gray. I've sported a beard pretty much all of the ten years as well, largely because the few times I've gone clean shaven I've frightened my children.

In ten years I have watched technology expand beyond my comprehension. I went from a desktap to a laptop to a tablet to a smartphone (with a few years wasted playing brickbreaker on evolving Blackberries). I now watch my smart television controlled by my tablet while working on my laptop and periodically checking my smartphone.

I don't own a pair of Google glasses.

In the ten years that I've stuck with Blogger, I've also dabbled with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterist, Instagram, Tumblr, Get Glue, Linkedin, Vine, Youtube, Flickr and Google +.  And I don't feel any more social than I did ten years ago.

In ten years, of the more than a thousand posts I've made, the most popular have been one about a lame book I read about how to be successful on social media by using a few key words; and a post about whether clams are really happy. The ironic part about the social media post was that I was making fun of the guys stupid book and observations and if you judged success by the number of hits I got on the post, he was right. I haven't a clue why people are so interested in why clams are happy.

In ten years, I've encountered many virtual friends through my blog (and a few virtual enemies). In the hayday of my blog (I think I peaked in 2006) I had a whole list of people who commented on a regular basis. Now the comments are few and far between. I attribute this not to my blog's lack of interesting topics (I still blindly believe I'm coughing up pearls), but to the cycle of life in general for most people. It takes a certain amount of energy to follow a blog, and it takes even more energy to comment. So I don't take it personally.

Blog communities mirror real communities. People come and go into your life brought by various whims and circumstances. And for those of you who have stopped by over the last decade, I thank you and wish you well as you navigate real life and the virtual one created in the cloud of the vastly expanding Internet.

And though my ten year blogiversary would have been a great opportunity to announce my retirement from Dizgraceland, I don't have any inclination to stop.

After all, it doesn't cost me (or you) anything but time.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Blogging from the heart

I started a blog post last week on the topic of knowing (i.e. the more people know about something, the less they will like it). And the more I wrote, the less I liked it. Because it didn't have heart. I was writing in a formulaic way without really caring. I was posting just to be posting and creating a "next blog" worthy post. So I deleted it.

This is one reason I don't post every day (other than having a life). It is too easy to fall into the trap of cranking things out just to be cranking them out. I might as well be working. Because if you don't really care about what you are writing, neither will the reader.

Not that I really write to be read. I write to try and figure out life, or at least organize my thoughts about it.

And speaking of trying to figure out life, one of the great challenges I find in being a parent is trying to answer my children's questions about difficult subjects like death, god and Legos. I try desperately to give them honest answers without projecting any stifling believe systems onto them. Because when I was growing up, I was never presented with any options when it came to death, god or Legos (which hadn't really been available when I was a kid).

I was raised a Christian Scientist and was told that we were neither born nor would we die, if (and it was a pretty big if) we had enough faith. I apparently didn't because my parakeets and hamsters kept biting the dust despite my prayers. I stayed a Christian Scientist until I was about 16 and gathered enough courage to tell my mother I didn't really believe any of it. Regardless, it was years before I went to a doctor (if you know nothing about Christian Scientists, one of their main beliefs is that the only medicine you need is prayer...it's a wonder I lived beyond age 10).

So, having been force fed religion as a child, I don't want to force feed my lack of faith to my children. Nor do I want them to waste a great deal of time handling snakes or speaking in tongues. Now that both of my kids are in school, the subject of god comes up more and more as they interact with classmates who go to church.  My son is taking more of a strict atheist stand whereas my daughter seems torn.

And with the recent death of my mother and my cat, my children are perplexed as to what happens to us after we die. The platitudes of "going to a better place" or "being at peace" fall flat without the religious back story of heaven and hell. And despite my total lack of faith in any religion, I struggle with the concept that death is the end. I realize that this is largely due to my age, but I have always tried to hold onto some hope that we could walk through a tunnel into the light of a totally secular afterlife. And I fantasize that it is like staying at an all-inclusive resort where you really don't have to tip and they don't try to sell you a timeshare.

But how can any of us speak with any certainty about what happens after you die? There is only one way to find out and then, unless you believe in psychics, there is no way to tell anyone about it.

It is not so much that I care about losing my physical self when I die. I become less and less enamored with it the older I get. It's my consciousness that I cling to. It's my sense of self. It's the me that I've known since I was old enough to be aware. It's the I that only I truly know. Honestly, I don't want to become one with the universe. I kind of like just feeling unique, even if I'm not. I don't like the idea of being a drop of rain falling into a river or the ocean, even if it does make me part of something bigger.

Kind of a selfish spiritual point of view, I know. But I'm betting I'm not the only one who has felt that way. After all, why did the Egyptians go to such great lengths to preserve their bodies after they died? And why did the Pharohs build the pyramids if it wasn't about this need to be recognized as an individual?

Still they died. And their bodies, if not their memories. hang out in museums no matter where their spirits (if such things exist) ended up.

I do believe this was one of my longest digressions yet. But at least it came from the heart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Next Blog Zone


Call me the eternal optimist, but I thought I'd click on blogger's "next blog" button and find something entertaining and once again all I could find were an endless series of blogs that hadn't been updated since 2010. And most of them began with either an apology for not posting for awhile or a resolution that they were going to commit to posting at least once a week. What added insult to injury to all of this was that some of the dead blogs had hundreds of followers. I have 27 and I've been posting for ten years consistently.

The only up-to-date blog I found seemed to be an ongoing essay on archetypes that held me riveted for at least a paragraph.

This is a perfect example of why the Web needs a good purge. If you give up on your blogging, at least have the decency to pick up after yourself and delete your failure.

Maybe they should require a license before you are allowed to start a blog. First no one under 30 should be allowed to have one.  Anyone under 30 should simply be handed a My Little Pony Diary and sent on their merry way to write in it. Anyone over 30 should then have to take a test to get a license to blog. Questions could include:

1) Can you translate this sentence:
f u cn knw h2 read dis thN u cnt B trusted 2rite a blog. u nd 2B abL 2rite n en.
(If the person can translate it, then they aren't qualified to write a blog because they spend too much time texting and are contributing to the demise of the English language.)
2) Do you plan to use your blog for showcasing your poetry?
(If the answer is yes, than the person would be denied a blog because I really don't like poetry, especially amateur poetry)
3) Do you plan to use your blog to document the day to day life of you, your family, your pets, your plants or your hobbies or your shopping or eating habits?
(If the answer is yes, than the person definitely wouldn't be allowed to blog for obvious reasons).
4) Have you ever included a end of year newsletter in any card you have sent out during the holidays?
(If the answer is yes, a blog license is denied)
5) Do you plan to blog about any religious topic or a cult you are involved in? (If the answer is yes, the applicant is told to go to hell.)
6) Will you use your blog to get back at someone or some thing you believe has wronged you in some way at some time in your pitiful life?
(Say no, or go. Blogging ain't for hating. It's for a reasonable amount of appreciating.)
7) Do you plan to use your blog to sell something?
(See question 4.)
8) Can you actually commit to posting on your blog at least once a month without apologizing about not posting, committing to writing in your blog regularly or reposting some inspirational quote you found on Facebook?
(If the answer is yes, than you get your blog license).
I think this would weed out the riffraff from the blogging world and make the "Next Blog" button a bit more fruitful.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Death of a friend


In August, it would have been 17 years since I adopted my cat Bailey. I first met her in a small pet shop in a strip mall in Shoreline. The local PAWs occasionally would put kittens in the store for adoption. She was this tiny spec of a kitten. They had named her Beta. I changed it to Bailey because she actually seemed to be more of a dark chocolate color than black and reminded me of Bailey's Irish Creme.

I had an older cat at the time named Cuervo. He was an orange tabby who I'd also adopted from PAWs. He took to Bailey quickly and they played together.

Bailey slept upstairs with me in the early years. She had this incredibly loud purr for such a tiny little thing. And she liked to sleep up near my face. In a half asleep state I accidently brushed her away from my face one night and her claws gripped onto my arm to prevent her from falling out of the bed. I woke scratched and bloody.

Cuervo died within a few years of me bringing Bailey home. He died of kidney failure after I found him bleeding out of the nose outside my house. I rushed him to the vet and he died overnight. I buried him in the backyard of my Shoreline house.

Bailey became the lady of the house. She never grew very big. She was always as light as a feather. I would sweep her up and hold her in one hand, then cradle her in my arms like a baby. She always had this serious expression on her face.

She was a hunter. She would bring in mice, moles and one time even a snake. She also defended her territory. One time I watched out the patio door as she chased a large cat through the yard and leaped up to swat his butt as he vaulted over the fence.

She was an outdoor cat for much or her early life. She used a cat door and came and went as she pleased. At night she would sit with me in my easy chair as I watched television. She was my companion for many years as I lived alone.

When I married and combined households, Bailey had to deal with two other cats that never did like her. When we moved Bailey became an indoor cat and spent much of her time shut away in our upstairs bedroom to keep her from being attacked by the other two cats.

The same was true when we moved yet again to our current house.

I am ashamed to say that I stopped giving Bailey much attention after we had children. I fed her and cleaned her litter box, but my focus was on our children.  The cats became more of a irritation than the babies they had been to both my wife and I.

Still at our current house, Bailey never seemed to change. It wasn't until I did the calculation that I realized how old she was getting. She slowed down and slept most of the time, but she still was able to jump up on the bed and run from the other cats as need be.

In the past few months I noticed that her hair was getting matted as if she wasn't grooming any more. I just attributed it to old age. Then I noticed her eating less and less and drinking more and more water. She lost energy and no longer seemed to be able to make it up on the bed.

We took her to the vet thinking it was old age. The blood and urine tests indicated kidney failure.

She was pitifully weak for the last few days while we waited for the results of the lab tests. I sat with her and stroked her matted fur, murmuring apologies.

And on Friday evening, I held her for the last time as the vet euthanized her.  It was the first time I have ever had to have a pet put to sleep and I am wracked with guilt and remorse.  I am ashamed of the emotional neglect I am guilty of.  And the ultimate pain was holding her while her life slipped away, telling myself it was to free her of the pain.

One of the hardest parts of this has been trying to explain death to my children. My daughter particular has taken it hard and has been telling me how much she misses Bailey and asks where she has gone now that she has died. I have no good answer. Not being a religious person, I don't have a strong believe in an afterlife. I'd like to think that she is in a better place. But I fight with the rationalization that humans have created the belief in an afterlife soon after they were faced with the reality that everything dies. Belief in an afterlife helps stave off the sobering reality that we all end.

I did tell my daughter what I told Bailey in her final moments, that she would always be in my heart. And perhaps that is where the better place lies.




Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Immortal posts



All of the blog experts say that you need to post on a fairly regular basis to boost your blog traffic. I have not found this to be particularly true. My blog traffic stays pretty consistent at 80 to 100 page views a day whether I post or not. This is largely due to people surfing for random things and landing on some of my archive posts from 2006. Or it is due to whatever Internet trick spammers are using that directs people to my blog from Russian and Turkish Web pages.

The beauty of this is that I get the false feeling of security that about a 100 people a day read my blog regardless of whether I post or not. Shoot since I've posted well over a 1000 posts in the almost ten years I've been blogging, I could die today and I'd still be getting hits on my blog for decades to come.

For some reason it reminds me of the speed of light (which I learned in 4th grade was 186,000 miles per second). Why does the possibility of my blog posts reaching people years after I'm dead remind me of the speed of light, you ask? Because the light we see from stars at night has had to travel so far (even at 186,000 miles per second) that we don't see it until years after it left its source. We are in fact seeing many stars now that died long ago. But their light is just reaching us.

A stretch, I admit, but fascinating never the less (at least to me). So as long as Google doesn't go belly up and dump all of their blogger.com servers, my posts could very well drift through the Internet forever. So my blog, in a sense, makes me immortal.

This is kind of scary when you think of the volumes of crap floating around in cyberspace that in essence will never go away. I mean, it's not all quality material like I produce. I wonder if at some point the expanding universe of data on the Web will explode or implode like a reverse big bang theory. What will happen to all of the videos of cats on trampolines and foodie posts about Denny's Baja Moons Over My Hammy? Could they mutate into something worse than Facebook or, gasp, Twitter?

Maybe it's time that someone figured out a way to give it all a big flush and send all of the crap on the Web to a treatment center somewhere in the cloud. Then we can all start from scratch. I call this theory, Blog Rasa.

A man has to dream.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reading me my writes

No, it's not a typo. "Reading me my writes" is one of the few play on words that I Googled that someone else already hadn't used. The other one was "the last will and writes," but it seemed a bit to morbid to joke about (though "last writes" is the name of a funeral home software package). I tried "writing a wrong," and "two writes don't make a wrong," but many have used them before.

I couldn't use "mineral writes," either because that is the name of the quarterly newsletter of a company that sells calcium carbonate as a feed supplement (nice to know they have a sense of humor about it.  And "writes of passage" has been used ad nauseam. So has "bill of writes."  "Write handed" has been used. "Write thing to do" is taken as is "pagan writes." Don't even bother with "write stuff" and "write on" (which incidentally was the title I came up with for my 9th grade creative writing book back in 1972).  Even "upwrite," "outright," "write now"  and "write here" have been used. And god help us all, so has "divine write" and "do the write thing."

I thought I'd beat the system with "creative righting" but sure enough someone has used it. And they've used "cursive righting," but I'm not sure they know they were being clever. Same with "righting a letter" (which used on purpose would be a great name for an editing company).

So once again it becomes evident that there is no such thing as a original idea, just variations on a theme. And it illustrates to me the dangers of trying to be smugly clever. Word play is a dangerous game to dabble with and shouldn't be engaged in by "half-writes" (ha, ha, ha, ha...)

Though I stake my claim as the first person to use "reading me my writes" on purpose and not because I'm too ignorant to know the difference between "rights" and "writes." And I'll keep "last will and writes" for my final blog when I'm on my death bed. It's my write (been used).




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

No longer after me lucky charms


I watched Disney's new film Maleficent one and a half times this weekend. The half being that the projector broke down half way through watching it the first time and I had to bring my family back the next day to find out how it ended. Spoiler alert: It had a happy ending, but as in Disney's last few films, it had nothing to do with a prince sweeping in to save the day.

I applaud Disney for finally creating strong female characters who don't need no stinking man to sweep them off their feet and rescue them.  I especially applaud this since I have a daughter and I want her to go to college and have a successful career before getting distracted by any prince (hopefully sometime after I've kicked the bucket).

Though I am a bit concerned about the lack of any good role models for boys in the Disney films. All of the men in Maleficent (with the exception of the crow that Maleficent turns into a man so I don't think he counts) were pretty much portrayed as violent, greedy, selfish liars who treat women poorly. Even Prince Charming is portrayed as a wimp and a lousy kisser (so lousy in fact that his kiss can't awaken Sleeping Beauty and he is berated by some fairies for his lack of technique...I think there is definitely some therapy in his future).

It always seemed a bit creepy anyway that a Prince would stumble on a presumably dead girl (in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) and proceed to kiss them. I think this is against the law in most states (except maybe Arkansas and Kentucky).

But I digress.

The closest thing I ever came to being a Prince was playing the Pauper in a sixth grade production of Prince and the Pauper. Ironically the part of the Prince was played by a girl in my class named Gail Six.

I always resented the fact that Disney Princes were consistently classically handsome, athletic and rich. They would slay dragons and kiss dead Princesses who would wake up and ride off with them to castles to live happily ever after. I was never handsome, athletic nor rich. I did, however, get good grades. But none of the Princesses in Disney ever asked the Princes what their GPA was. In fact, the only Prince I recall that read books was the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. He was ugly albeit and snappy dresser, but turned into a classically handsome, athletic and rich Prince once he and Belle kissed.

I don't think I ever wanted to be a prince anyway. Even Prince didn't want to be Prince anymore as was evidenced when he changed his name to a symbol. It's very stressful to be expected to ride in on a white horse and rescue damsels in distress. In reality, damsels in distress don't want you to "rescue" them anyway. They just want you to listen to them and not try to fix everything. This is a hard lesson to learn. Because I, like many men, grew up hardwired to try and fix problems, usually with duct tape.

I suppose the moral of this blog post is that when you wish upon a star, doesn't matter who you are, you still have to deal with the reality of life. People can't rescue you. You have to create your own happiness.

Oh, and don't kiss dead people thinking they'll wake up. That's just wrong on so many levels.