Lent

Lent1I hope it was a happy Mardi Gras for you,  wherever you are and however (if ever) you celebrated  fat Tuesday,  the last day of Carnival.     Growing up in New Orleans one becomes aware at an early age of the idea of  ‘a time and place’ for different parts of life.   That Carnival is a six week festival of very public partying and revelry that culminates on Mardi Gras,  is somehow balanced by the six weeks of Lent which immediately follow.    I don’t know if really serious Christians still fast for Lent,  but Lent is a season of sacrificing and giving up pleasures.   In our modern world of 24 hour mega stores where pretty much everything can be bought pretty much any time,  it is easy to forget how Lent fit into the leanest days of the year in more agrarian times as the bounty of the harvest runs out and people wait hungrily for the first green shoots of spring.

I’m feeling a lot of gratitude to two big G’s in my life–  Remco Geelen and Michelle Gilstrap.   Both of these wonderful friends put up missions to get folks to invest in me.   While I have not yet made the two scoops of centurian thingy,  my share price is up to 196.97.    I remember when I went over 100 way back when,  it will take days to get within striking distance and then it will happen quite quickly.    But whatever my share price,  the real value is having great friends who take it upon themselves and go out of their way to help you.   I am more grateful to thse folks than I can ever express.

My own resolution for Lent is to give up the Just Three Word thingy.   I did have a lot of fun with it,  but it has begun to grow a bit stale for me.    And even when I manage to do a good job with the three reader-selected words du jour,  those posts are not usually very engaging and don’t often draw a lot of comments and discussion.     What about you?   Are you giving anything up for Lent?   If you are,  do you allow yourself to indulge in what you have given up on Sundays?  (When I was growing up in New Orleans,  most people it seemed to me did not keep to their Lenten deprivations on Sundays.)   Please leave a comment and let us know what you’re giving up for Lent.

Volant Pandect Grandiose

It seems to me that today’s three words are among the most obscure that have been suggested.  Volant, it seems to me is very easily mis-read as violent,  although volant– which means flighty, rare or poetic is a rather peaceful word really.    The word pandect– which is more often used in the plural; pandects are an entire body of rule or law is an even more obscure word.    By comparison,  grandiose  (the search term which brought up today’s futuristic architectural image) seems almost mundane.  (And yet grandiose– which means imposing, impressive and elaborate is in fact an antonym of mundane.)

I am realizing today that in some ways unusual words can be a bit more challenging for these Just 3 Words posts.    Here I dealt with all three words in a single paragraph and I feel as though I have done well by my readers to have simply explained what these unusual words mean.   That I have not in fact actually reflected all about any of the words seems like almost a cheat.   I am,  frankly,   un-interested in constructing some sort of pandect on the proper way to do social media.   (Obviously I don’t believe that there can ever be one right way and that each user must determine for themselves how best to use different new communications tools.)  And volant sounds like the sort of name Chrysler or Cadillac would use for a fast new car.    And I do suspect that if they did,  far fewer folks would ever question or learn where they name came from than translated the Chevy Nova into Spanish.  (It doesn’t go.)

Certainly there have been times in my life when I could have reasonably been accused of being more than little grandiose.    I am thinking at the moment of my senior year in high school when I persuaded my late Aunt Julia– a very talented artist who was years ahead of her time in practicing calligraphy– to hand address both the inner and outer envelopes for the hundred or so invitations I sent out to my high school graduation ceremony.   Looking back I almost kind of feel sorry for my poor parents struggling to contain their oh so grandiose offspring.     I seem to have lost the name and URL of whomever it was suggested today’s words.   I feel badly about that.   I am trying hard as I receive more suggestions to be sure of keeping the contributor’s name with his words.     My sincerest thanks to each and every one of you who has suggested Just 3 Words for me.

Justice Freedom Liberty

In retrospect,   I suppose I should have used these words on the 4th of July. Though I must say that I do feel sone real freedom, typing this post on my tablet, sitting out on my friend’s porch enjoying the unfamiliar heat of a summer afternoon. As my friend and I sit here, me tapping away on my tablet, him on his phone it seems to me we are such creatures of our age, neither of us quite able to set aside our toys, even when there is a real human right here to talk to.

The paragraph above is as far as I got on my friend’s porch this afternoon.   After I typed that last sentence,  my tablet flaked out a bit.    The back light was still on, but the screen was completely black,  except for one random white pixel.    At length we found a safety pin and stuck it in the reset button and the tablet was back to normal,  thankfully.    This was the first time I ever saw it do the one white pixel thing,   but it is far too common to be working on something and then you blink and you are back on the home screen and whatever you were doing is gone with the bits.   My friend thinks that if he roots the device for me,  it will be more stable.    I’m probably going to let him do it at some point,  though I am not quite there yet.

I ended up hurting my huzband rather badly today quite without meaning to.    He asked me to get him some cash out of a cash machine and buy him some diet Pepsi.    I also had two of my own errands to do today.     When I got back from doing my two errands,   I found him asleep.   He looked so cute curled up in his blanket in the middle of our bed.   So my friend wanted me to come over,  and I went and got his cash,  then to the grocery store and bought his diet Pepsi.   And then I went over to my friend’s for awhile.     If I had not stayed long,   it probably would not have mattered.   But Ron woke up around 5 and when I didn’t get back with his money and his Pepsi until after 9pm,  he was really hurt that I prioritized playing with my friend over bringing him what he needed.    You know I have never hurt anyone intentionally even half as bad as I sometimes seem to hurt my spouse accidentally.

Going out to play was definitely a kind of freedom for me today,  but failing to bring back what I was asked to first was I realize now something of an injustice.     And I think I need to try real hard to make my kitty feel loved, wanted and cared for.    Having a day at liberty to go and play with your friends is a wonderful thing.   But I must resolve to make sure I take care of things at home before I go out and play.

And finally today,  my thanks to  the folks at Highest Cash For Cars  for suggesting today’s words.

Binders Chair Clock

I used to be a big fan of binders.   Back when I was in school I strongly preferred them to spiral bound notebooks.   That you can insert, remove and re-arrange the pages was for me a huge draw.   I sometimes used a thick three ring binder,  with tabs separating the different subjects I was studying that year.    Other times I had a separate binder for each course.    As illustrated in the photograph they came in all sorts of fun colors,  and having a different color for each binder made it easy to keep track of which was which.   These days,   binders (and for that matter spiral bound notebooks) seem a quaint anachronism.    Honestly?   I don’t seem to ever anymore write words by hand rather than enter them on a keyboard.

For office workers,   chairs are essential.    I remember back when I worked for Sprynet  (back when that was a company),  management ordered new chairs for the entire office.   Everyone was so thrilled the morning we came in and found all of the rickety, uncomfortable old chairs gone and replaced with sleek, new-fangled chairs of black mesh,  ergonomically designed and adjustable sixteen ways from Sunday.    The other chair that sticks out in my memory is my father’s recliner.   As a small child,  it seemed just huge to me.   I loved to sit in it,  and flick the lever back to bring up the footrest.   With the footrest up it seemed a huge play space, and served in my imagination as a covered wagon, crossing the plains,  as a ship making its way across the seas or even as a rocket, hurling through skies towards discoveries in outer space.    Years later when I had morphed from a small child to  large man,  I looked at it again and could not believe how small the chair actually was.

Some days the clock is my enemy.   Other days it is my friend.    There are times when these three word posts just seem to write themselves,   and I am finished, published and working on promotion long before the 5pm deadline.   (The deadline is five pm in my time zone because that is the hour when it becomes tomorrow on the server where this blog lives.)    Other days,  I am just not motivated to write, and I spend hours staring at the screen,   going over to other tabs,   playing little games and just generally wasting time.   I’ve found that simple nouns like the ones my blog reader  J.R. Wirshing  suggested for today tend to be really easy.    A phrase that actually means something is often the most challenging.   Here is hoping that today finds your summer going well.    I hope that you are keeping cool and having fun.

In The Wasted Half

You know,  I’m not going to just mention it to you if your stated goal states to me that you’re either very ignorant about social media or something of an asshole.    Today I heard someone state they were trying to create a pinterest board of “socially interesting people”.      I thought for the briefest of moments of pointing out that there is a huge difference between say “people interested in social networking”  and  “people I personally find socially interesting”  and that the title chosen for the pinterest board does not make it very clear whom the guy is targeting.   I said nothing, however,  because the guy is not my client and if you are not paying me to show you the way,  I’m not much inclined to point out your obvious flaws free of charge,   lest I slip up and act like an asshole again.  (I fear my good friend is correct when he tells me that sometimes I do come across that way.)

My friends are people who are interesting to me,  either because of the quality of their conversation and/or because we share experiences or interests– such as in certain hobbies, professions,  lines of thought or endeavor, etc.     Then there are acquaintances whom I may share some interests with and who may some day become friends or may some day drop out of my acquaintanceship.    That’s just life.  ,A conversation with a couple of friends about Facebook advertising brought home to me not how targeted the ads on Facebook are  (duh,  I knew that) but how hit or miss that targeting is to an advertiser.   I do sometimes write tips and advice for bloggers and about using social networking to promote a blog.    But honestly,  I am so not in the market for any of the get rich quick schemes targeted at uniformed new bloggers who all paid to advertise to me on Facebook today.     I remember once being very taken by an ad for a cruise line,  advertising a luxury voyage to some exotic destination (which I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford to visit).    I clicked the ad several times and spent hours pouring over info for an exotic trip I was never really in the market for.

I’m reminded again of what Philadelphia department store magnate John Wannamaker famously said about advertising.   “…half of it is wasted.   The only trouble is we don’t know which half.”

The Meta Questions

“It all depends on how you answer the meta questions,”  I explained to my friend.

“What are the meta questions?,” he replied

“That’s one of the first things you have to agree on.”

I have to tell you right up front that Dude is smart.   All of my close friends always are.    If I’m smarter than you and we are friendly,  I may be genuinely attracted to something about you.    More likely,   if you at some point fail two or three smart tests,   I might just re-evaluate the relationship and focus instead on manipulating you into doing something for me.   Or just ignore for awhile if you have nothing I want today.     I fear that I have too much ethics and long range thinking to ever actually con someone out of money or to be greedy.    I did set my huzband up to fall in love with me.   Though I only actually stayed with him because I found that I loved him too.     Just because I may have resorted to manipulating people   (not that I would ever call it that.    Any Southern lawyer worth his salt knows the basics of how to manipulate people.   And honestly,   I’m a lot smarter than many of the lawyers I have met.

I have been for these years learning to socialize without manipulating people.   And I do feel that I learned a great deal in the just over a year that I have been on Empire Avenue.      I tried so hard to always be ethical and honest in all of my dealings with people.   And in my heart I know that I have.   I hope if you have come to know and trust me in the past few years,  that you will continue to visit and read and maybe leave a comment from time to time,   kind of like writing Kilroy Was Here.   Which once might have been a legitimately informative comment.   And today would be a good cultural reference,  perhaps used as a motto.   I know so many words.    I’ve studied 4 years of Latin,   7 years of French and 3 years of Spanish.    I am not fluent in any of those languages.   But I do remember lots of stray words,   particularly words from those languages that can be changed just slightly and used in English.

If a doctor or lawyer doesn’t convince me that he or she is smarter than I am.   I am likely on insisting on knowing all of the details of the diagnosis and treatment plan.   My medical consultant was a registered nurse who work in the ER and the ICU at many hospitals.    I always ask kitty’s opinion,  and I almost always trust his judgments.    Kitty knows more about the human body and how to fix it than I could learn in a life time of reading books.    One of my survival skills is to mostly surround myself with smart people whom I can’t readily manipulate.    Those are my peers.   Those are my friends.

It was a long, long chat,  from about 6 in the morning til about noon or so.     We talked About dozens,  or perhaps hundreds of different topics, issues, ideas and themes.    We always did the back and forth,  responding to and building upon each other’s  statements.   And at the end,  I said,  as I walked out of his house,  “And once again,  what you just said,  all boils down to how you answer the meta questions.   I was a librarian in another life 🙂

Having Fun

 I strongly suspect that I have not actually cycled up yet.   That the good day I had today was more or less just a high point or reprieve in a depression that will continue once I finally go to sleep and wake up again.   I’ve been up for about 28 or 30 hours as I type this.    I actually first went to bed around 9pm last night,  but I couldn’t fall asleep.   And my very thick winter beard  (untrimmed since sometime in the fall) started to itch.    I went to the bathroom,  took a hard look at my face in the mirror and fetched the clippers from the cabinet.

I started at the longest setting, nine,  and clipped my beard away,  going over and over my face while turning the setting a notch closer every now and then.    I used the clipper without the attachment to remove most of my beard,   though I did leave a short mustache and goatee.    I did not in fact actually shave my face,  so there is a layer of stubble on my cheeks and neck.    But I felt ever so much better after my beard trim and shower.    When I came out of the bathroom,   I put on some fresh clothes and rather than try to go back to bed,  logged on to my laptop.     Around 1:30 am,  a good friend who lives just a couple of miles away invited me to come over.     So I spent the night staying up at my friend’s house.      We had a lot of fun hanging out together and I did not come home until after 9am.

I am frankly pleased with myself for getting out of the house.   And thankful that I have such a good friend who lives so nearby.   And whose hours are just as irregular as mine are,  such that I was able to have a great visit and so much fun while most everyone else in this part of the world was asleep.      I really do cherish all of my friends,   both the ones I speak with online and the ones I see face to face.   And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being one of them.

PS–If the bacon chocolate peanut brittle in the background appeals to you,  click here to order some through a non-affiliate link.

Reading Old Paper

While I love my new tablet and have a number of eBooks downloaded and ready to read,  I have found myself re-reading old-fashioned paper books this weekend.   Back in 2009 I received an advanced reading copy of Michael Connelly’s thriller The Scarecrow.    Advanced reading copies were one of the nicer things that big publishing used to do for book sellers and book reviewers.    Released only to the aforementioned specialized readers prior to hard cover publication,  these were trade paper back versions with the same art as the dust jackets of the forth coming book.    I got my very first ARC, of Michael Chabon’s debut novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh way back when I was a book store clerk in New Orleans.   I quite enjoyed that novel and did my best to sell it once it was published.    Sadly,  less than three years after the publication date The Scarecrow is no longer available from Amazon in any print format.

In addition to The Scarecrow,  I have also this weekend been re-reading Gary Jennings’  Spangle– a trilogy of novels about a circus troop in the days following the US Civil War and their travels in Virginia and across Europe and Russia.  I first read these novels many years ago and have held on to the paperbacks,  which I have enjoyed re-reading many, many times.  Good stories,  I have found,  age well and continue to entertain and delight all these years after I first read them.   One good thing about eBooks I am realizing is that they are mine forever,  with no need to keep and save a relatively fragile physical artifact.    Both Smashwords and Amazon allow readers to re-download any eBook they have acquired.   Even when (inevitably) I have to replace my laptop or my tablet,  the books I’ve acquired can be downloaded again onto whatever new devices I may purchase.   In my heart I strongly suspect that I will always continue to cherish and re-read old paper books.   But I have to say I really am genuinely excited about the new world of eBooks.

Slant

Time was,  most every newspaper or magazine had an explicit slant.   No one thought it strange that one paper promoted the point of view of one political party while a competing newspaper promulgated the views of their opponents.   And then it was decided that journalists are really supposed to be neutral.    Except of course I don’t really think they can be.   It seems to me that a reporter’s or a publication’s bias inevitably influences all reporting.   That a journalist claims to be “fair and balanced” is a huge red flag to me.   I would much sooner read a report by a journalist who openly supports my political opponents over one who claimed to have no horse in the race.

Some of the worst journalism that I see,  browsing as I do many different newspapers are a feature called  “fact checker” which purports to drill down to the real truth behind a claim some politician or other has made.    The statement is then rated on a scale of one to four Pinnochios  (referring to a fictional character whose nose grew longer whenever he lied) to help readers judge the “truthieness”  (damn you Jon Stewart) of what was said.   While the syndicate that produces this feature talks a lot about truth and facts,  the fact is the feature is hardly unbiased,  from it’s selection of what political claims to investigate to the manner in which each claim is held to scrutiny.     Yesterday in the Houston Chronicle I even saw a very similar feature that used a gas gauge icon  to evaluate Newt Gingrich’s #250gas  public relations twitter campaign.   They concluded correctly that the bloviator is per usual running on empty,  but their analysis was a mess.

I commented on Facbook yesterday,  quoting Pontius Pilate  (“But what is truth, is truth unchanging law?  We both have truths are mine the same as yours?”) and indeed truth seems to me an ephemeral and deeply personal thing.   There are facts,  as may be proven in a court of law,  but even there they do not presume to find the truth,  they seek only justice which may in fact be more readily quantified and obtained.   It seems to me if some talented people with resources behind them set out to create a new publication that attempted to have a real slant,  a definite point of view and a strong sense of looking for the truth,  there might be a huge market for it among those of use who read a great many newspapers,  but find very little truth in the he-said, she said  “objective reporting”.    Heck,    if someone gave me  that  I might find it worth paying ten bucks a month for.